Senate's No. 2 Republican Decides Against Retiring

John Thune is in line for McConnell's leadership job
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 8, 2022 2:45 PM CST
In Line for McConnell's Job, Thune to Run Again
Republican Sen. John Thune speaks on Capitol Hill last month.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

Republican leaders have been trying to talk Sen. John Thune, who'd been considering retirement for months, into seeking reelection. The minority whip is a good bet to succeed Sen. Mitch McConnell as the party's Senate leader, Politico reports; McConnell turns 80 in February. They got their wish Saturday, when the South Dakotan announced he'll run for a fourth term. Thune has been at odds with former President Donald Trump, partly over Trump's false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him, per the Hill. GOP leaders pressed Thune to not retire because of the possibility that Trump would back a challenger in the Republican primary.

"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 US Senate." The state has elected just one senator to four terms—Karl Mundt, who left office in 1973. Sens. George McGovern, Larry Pressler, and Tom Daschle all lost their races for a fourth term, per the Argus Leader.

McConnell lobbied Thune as hard as anyone, though he wants to hold onto the leadership post at least into 2023, per the New York Times. That would make McConnell the Senate's longest-serving party leader ever. Thune wouldn't necessarily be a shoo-in as successor; Sens. John Cornyn and John Barrasso also have shown interest in the job. No serious primary challenger has entered the primary yet, after South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem publicly turned down Trump's urging to challenge Thune, who has nearly $15 million cash in his campaign fund. (More Senate Republicans stories.)

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