(NPN) -- We have been watching a gardening reality show of sorts these past months in 2013 in South Dakota. Charitably, we could call it “Who Wants to Be a Senator/Governor/Representative?”

Or less charitably, “Survivor: Dilettante Island.”

There are five Republican candidates running for retiring Democratic U.S. Senator Tim Johnson’s seat in 2014. Plus one Democrat, minus one Independent, plus a former Republican U.S. Senator who lately is a fan of Democratic President Barack Obama.

A popular sitting Republican governor has an ostensible primary opponent, a Democratic opponent no one outside of the state’s Incident Command System has ever heard of, a Conservative Party candidate whose wife conducts “citizen” grand juries, and an Independent push-up pushing retired law professor.

In the U.S. House, an Army veteran who has spent most of her life and career not in South Dakota is challenging a popular incumbent.

And Jan. 1, 2014 is the first day any of these candidates or erstwhile candidates can take out petitions to actually get on the ballot.

Obviously, a democracy, even a small, mostly one-party one like South Dakota, needs candidates to be a democracy and for people to help run the government and lead the people. Being a candidate in 2014 is no easy task, with the often unbearable intrusions into your private life, the expense, the time away from family and having to answer multiple and often repetitious questions from cheeky and sometimes ill-informed journalists.

So what about this motely crew of candidates? Are some running because they really want to serve or are some running because they have nothing better to do?


If some of these candidates were teenagers, we’d likely accuse them of “attention seeking” behavior. Perhaps not on the order of a Miley Cyrus twerking, but of liking to see their faces on TV, their words in print, their voices on the radio, their every thought considered by journalists and possible volunteers, funders and voters.

Hey, look at me!

If they were our son, daughter or grandchild, we’d probably want to get them some help.

Realizing that being young or inexperienced is not necessarily a bad thing in politics—our own Larry Pressler was a young, inexperienced politician when he defeated an incumbent for the U.S. House in the 1970s. And some would say President Obama, for all his soaring rhetoric, was probably the least “prepared” Presidential candidate in 2008, especially compared to Hillary Clinton and John McCain.

Still, nothing wrong with new blood to keep our American experiment vibrant.

But let me put it you this way: Would you go to a doctor who had never performed the bypass operation you need to save your life? Would you hire an electrician who had never wired a house to re-wire yours? And what if those professionals just liked to talk about doing those things and had never done them—or even really planned to do them.

Experience matters. Seriousness matters. At least it does in most aspects of our lives.

In the coming months, we’ll see which candidates are truly serious and can at least organize themselves to gather the necessary signatures to get on the South Dakota ballot for the June primary or November general election.

Let me draw an analogy: The South Dakota state flower is the pasque, aka the prairie crocus. It is a tough, hardy and beautiful flower that fights its way through the snow and semi-frozen early springtime soil to emerge and delight. The pasque doesn’t announce how tough or beautiful it is, it simply does grows out of the harsh Dakota winter.

About that same time this coming spring of 2014, we’ll see if some of our erstwhile candidates are crocuses - or croakers.