South Dakota Sen. John Thune to seek historic fourth term

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota announced Saturday he will run for a fourth term in November, putting a lid on speculation that he might retire. The announcement comes a day after Thune turned 61.

"I'm asking South Dakotans for the opportunity to continue serving them in the U.S. Senate," read a statement posted to Thune's campaign account on Twitter. "South Dakota deserves a strong and effective senator who can deliver the result they expect."

Only Karl Mundt, who served in the Senate from 1948 to 1973, won four terms as a senator in South Dakota. Since Mundt’s retirement, three senators have lost running for a fourth term: George McGovern in 1980, Larry Pressler in 1996 and Tom Daschle in 2004.

The decision also puts Thune on course to become the next leader of the Senate. He’s currently the No. 2 ranking senator behind Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Senator John Thune speaks at a press conference announcing the 5G launch in Sioux Falls on Friday, November 1, at DocuTAP.
Senator John Thune speaks at a press conference announcing the 5G launch in Sioux Falls on Friday, November 1, at DocuTAP.

Thune had been weighing retirement, wanting to spend more time with his family, which includes five grandchildren.

A high school basketball standout from Murdo, Thune cut his teeth in politics working for Sen. Jim Abdnor, who had defeated George McGovern in a 1980 race that ushered in the Reagan revolution. He later served as the state GOP executive director and then headed the South Dakota Municipal League.

He won the state’s House race in 1996, where he served three terms.

In 2002, he challenged Johnson, a race that he lost by just 524 votes.

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His second bid for the Senate came in 2004, pitting him against Sen. Tom Daschle, who was the Democratic leader at the time. He toppled Daschle in the biggest Senate race of the cycle, an election that saw George W. Bush when a second presidential term following his controversial invasion of Iraq, which Daschle had criticized.

By the end of his first term, Thune had already started to climb the leadership ladder among Senate Republicans.

South Dakota Democrats gambled in 2010 by not running a candidate against him, hoping that by leaving that race open, they could win the governor’s race because Republican enthusiasm would be dampened. But it proved to be a miscalculation: Not only did Republicans win the governor’s race by Dennis Daugaard, it allowed Thune to bank the money he would have otherwise spent.

Now, he has $14.8 million in the bank.

That money, plus the fact that Republicans currently have 126,480 more registered voters than Democrats, make him a heavy favorite to break the Mundt curse.

This article originally appeared on Sioux Falls Argus Leader: Sen. John Thune of South Dakota to seek fourth term