Republican Whip John Thune of South Dakota announced Saturday that he would seek a fourth term in the Senate, following widespread rumors that he would retire from the upper chamber.
Thune is seen as a potential heir to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and his retirement would have set off a power struggle at the top of the GOP conference. Members from all sides of the conference had expressed support for Thune, with Maine Sen. Susan Collins saying in December that she would be “beside [her]self” if the whip retired. Thune was elected to the position in 2018 after Texas Sen. John Cornyn was term-limited out.
“Each time I’ve asked South Dakotans for the opportunity to represent them in Congress, I’ve done so because of a fundamental desire to do whatever I could to make their lives – and our way of life – safer, stronger, and more prosperous. I’ve always promised that I would do the work, even when it was uncomfortable or unpopular,” Thune said in a statement.
— John Thune (@johnthune) January 8, 2022
National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman Rick Scott cheered Thune’s announcement, saying that “South Dakotans are lucky to have a conservative fighter like John Thune working for them in the Senate.” (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Here Are The Key Senate Races NRSC Chairman Rick Scott Says To Watch In 2022)
Without a prominent primary challenger and nearly than $15 million in his campaign war chest, Thune is unlikely to face serious difficulties in winning reelection. Registered Republicans outnumber Democrats by a nearly two to one margin in the state.
Thune had previously come under fire from former President Donald Trump, who promised to back a primary challenger against him over the senator’s refusal to oppose the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. Trump had urged Gov. Kristi Noem to run against Thune, although she declined to do so.
Thune’s announcement leaves only one Senate Republican, Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson, yet to declare whether or not he will seek reelection. WISN News reported Friday that Johnson is likely to announce his reelection bid “in the coming days.” Five Senate Republicans, including leadership member Roy Blunt of Missouri and Appropriations Committee ranking member Richard Shelby of Alabama, have announced their retirements.