South Dakota Governor Says She Isn’t Trying to Unseat Senate Majority Whip

December 23, 2020 Updated: December 23, 2020

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem revealed that she has no interest in challenging Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) for his job and pledged on Tuesday to run for another term as governor in 2022.

“[Thune] is a friend of mine, and I will not be challenging him,” the Republican governor wrote on Twitter Tuesday night. “I’m honored to be Governor of South Dakota and will ask the people to give me an opportunity to continue serving them as Governor in 2022.”

A former congresswoman from South Dakota, Noem expended her national profile in recent years as a vocal ally of Trump. She was featured at the Republican National Convention, and joined the president at this year’s Fourth of July event at Mt. Rushmore.

Noem announced her intention a little more than an hour after President Donald Trump called Thune a Republican-In-Name-Only, or “RINO,” while also taking a jab at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

“Republicans in the Senate so quickly forget. Right now they would be down 8 seats without my backing them in the last Election,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “RINO John Thune, ‘Mitch’s boy,’ should just let it play out. South Dakota doesn’t like weakness. He will be primaried in 2022, political career over!!!”

Trump didn’t explain why he was angry at Thune, but it is likely because of Thune’s recent appearance on CNN, where he ridiculed a group of House Republican who strategized with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence on ways to overturn electoral votes in January.

“I think the thing they got to remember is it’s not going anywhere. I mean, in the Senate, it would go down like a shot dog,” Thune, the No.2 Senate Republican, told CNN speaking about the House Republicans’ latest effort. “I just don’t think it makes a lot of sense to put everybody through this when you know what the ultimate outcome is going to be.”

McConnell has also told senators not to join Trump and Pence’s efforts to invalidate the electoral votes, warning that the fight could result in a “terrible vote” that could undermine the Republican campaign ahead of Georgia’s Senate runoffs.

Georgia’s two Senate seats were sent into runoffs after none of this year’s candidates reached the 50 percent of the vote needed to win. The Republican incumbents, Loeffler and Perdue, will face off again with their Democrat challengers, Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, respectively, on Jan. 5.

When the new Congress is sworn in on Jan. 3, the Republicans will hold a 50–48 seat advantage in the Senate. Democrats will then need to win both of Georgia’s runoffs to deny a Republican majority.