U.S. Senator John Thune (R-SD) speaks after a Senate Republican luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington on November 10, 2020.
Erin Scott | Reuters
U.S. Senate Republican leader John Thune of South Dakota announced Saturday that he is seeking a fourth term in 2022.
Thune, who turned 61 on Friday, has been considering retirement from the Senate for months. But even as he angered then-President Donald Trump in late 2020 by speaking out against his attempts to overturn the results of the presidential election, he still has a clear path to re-election in the trusty red state of South Dakota. Since then, Thune has at times offered restrained criticism of Trump’s political impersonators, but has largely focused on undermining the Democratic Party’s plans.
“I’ve always promised I’ll do the job, even if it’s difficult, uncomfortable or unpopular,” Thune said in a statement on Twitter. “This work continues, which is why, after careful consideration and prayer, and with the support of my family, I ask that South Dakota have the opportunity to continue serving them in the U.S. Senate.”
Both parties are fighting for control of the divided Senate in 2022.
Thune could be Senator Mitch McConnell’s successor as the leader of the Republican Senate caucus. As Thune considered retirement, powerful Republicans, from McConnell to South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, urged him to seek another six-year term.
Thune won South Dakota with nearly 72 percent of the vote in 2016, but Trump’s suggestion in 2020 that he should face a major challenger has emboldened some Republicans, who believe he has not given the ballot. The former president has shown enough loyalty. A handful of little-known Republicans said they would challenge Thune.
Thune’s choice shows his willingness to challenge Trump, whose influence has often forced other formerly politically secure Republicans out of Congress. Elected Republicans who have previously crossed Trump and have since retired include former Republican senators Jeff Flake of Arizona and Bob Corker of Tennessee.
Two of the 10 current House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump last January also decided to leave after Trump incited supporters to attack the Capitol: Rep. Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio and Adam Adam of Illinois Kim Singh. In addition, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming was removed from her House GOP leadership, and at least two others face key Trump-backed challengers.
If Thune wins the primary, or if Trump fails to find a credible opponent to oppose him, Trump risks being seen as less influential in the party.
Thun, a South Dakota Republican, has $14.8 million in campaign cash, according to recent federal reports.
He served in Congress for 22 years, ushering in a period of Republican domination of state politics. However, he has publicly expressed hesitancy about running for re-election, saying it is a “family decision” he has considered in recent months.
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