One of the top Republican senators, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), announced Saturday he’s running for reelection after saying he wasn’t sure if he would.
“I’ve always promised that I would do the work, even when it was hard, uncomfortable or unpopular,” Thune said in a statement. “That work continues, which is why after careful consideration and prayer, and with the support of my family, I’m asking South Dakotans for the opportunity to continue serving them in the U.S. Senate.”
Thune, 61, is the Senate minority whip, making him the second-in-command of the Republican conference in the upper chamber and positioned to take the top post if Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), 79, steps aside at some point.
Thune had been weighing retirement, but received public encouragement from McConnell to run for a fourth term.
“It would be a real setback for the country and for our party if he retires, and I certainly hope he won’t,” McConnell said on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show last month.
Thune said he feels he’s been a “strong and effective senator” and believes he is “uniquely positioned” to deliver results for South Dakotans.
“South Dakota is the best state in the nation in which to live, work, and raise a family, and I’ve been continually humbled by the support and trust its people have afforded me over the years,” he said.
Thune lost his first try for the Senate, losing by about 500 votes to Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.). He prevailed two years later, in 2004, in a challenge against Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.).
Thune ran unopposed in 2010 and won a third term in 2016 with nearly 72 percent of the vote.
South Dakota has shifted to a strong Republican state in recent years. The GOP controls both U.S. Senate seats as well as the governor’s mansion and both chambers of the state legislature.
The 2022 race has four formal contestants so far: Republicans Mark Mowry, Patrick Schubert Sr., and Bruce Whalen, and Democrat Brian Bengs.
The Senate is currently split 50–50, with Democrats controlling the chamber through the tiebreaking vote Vice President Kamala Harris can cast as president of the body.
Republicans are defending 20 Senate seats in the 2022 midterms; Democrats are defending 14. Republicans lost several seats, and the Senate majority, in 2020, but hope to flip both the House of Representatives and the Senate as President Joe Biden’s approval rating has dropped over time since he entered office in January.
“I think we’re going to have a great cycle,” McConnell told Hewitt. “I think we’re going to have the wind at our backs, and a good chance of getting the majority back.”