Brendan Johnson backers say he won’t run, praise Weiland (Updated)

Rick Weiland said one reason he was running for Senate was because he was had spoken with U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson — and come away convinced Tim Johnson’s son wouldn’t run for Senate, as he had been widely rumored to be considering.

"Brendan and I have had some pretty serious conversations about this," Weiland told us. "He’s focused on his job. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t feel that Brendan (wasn’t) going to get into this race."

Meanwhile Ryan Casey, the public face of the “Draft Brendan Johnson for U.S. Senate” campaign, said something very similar.

I actually spoke with Brendan yesterday,” Casey said. “He informed me that he was going to continue to focus on his responsibilities as U.S. Attorney. I’m pretty certain at this point that Brendan won’t enter the race for U.S. Senate.”

He then tweeted out praise for Rick Weiland: 

Casey also sent out an email blast to the “Draft Brendan” email list, urging former Brendan Johnson supporters to support Weiland instead.

And this from Mike Chapman, a former Tim Johnson aide:

Chapman currently heads Heartland America, a Super PAC that a had been one of the prime suspects for what Tim Johnson will do with his $1.2 million war chest — as a Super PAC, it can accept unlimited donations from federal candidates.

And Chapman had certainly shown extreme interest in the South Dakota Senate race. On Twitter, he’s promoted Brendan Johnson’s possible Senate candidacy extensively — and retweeted all sorts of stories critical of Stephanie Herseth Sandlin.

Now he and Casey are promoting Rick Weiland as a “great candidate for U.S. Senate”? It’s unclear exactly how close their ties are to the Johnson camp, but one interpretation is that Brendan Johnson won’t be running and that his allies are backing Weiland — who already has support from Tom Daschle.

Also worth remembering: one of the Democrats the “Draft Brendan” movement had announced as a backer was Kevin Weiland — Rick’s brother.

If Herseth Sandlin runs as well we could be in for a doozy of a Democratic primary — exactly what Democrats had hoped to avoid, even if Weiland-Herseth Sandlin wouldn’t be quite as big as a Brendan Johnson-Herseth Sandlin matchup.