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John Randolph Thune (born January 7, 1961) is the Republican junior U.S. Senator from the state of South Dakotamarker.

Born and raised in South Dakota, Thune attended college at Biola Universitymarker in Californiamarker before returning to his home state to obtain a graduate degree at the University of South Dakota. He worked as a legislative aide to U.S. Senator James Abdnor and served in the Reagan Administration in the Small Business Administration, before winning election to the House of Representatives in 1996. After three terms in the House, he unsuccessfully challenged Democrat Tim Johnson in the U.S. Senate race in 2002, losing by a mere 524 votes (0.15%). Thune was elected to the Senate two years later, defeating the incumbent Democrat and serving Senate Minority Leader, Tom Daschle.

Early life and family

John Randolph Thune was born in Murdo, South Dakotamarker to Yvonne Patricia Bodine and Harold Richard Thune. Thune's paternal grandfather was an immigrant from Norwaymarker who partnered with his brother to start Thune Hardware stores in Mitchell and Murdo, South Dakota. He was raised in the small-town of Murdo, South Dakotamarker. An evangelical Christian, Thune graduated with a B.A. degree in Business from Biola Universitymarker, an Evangelical Christian college near Los Angelesmarker in 1983. Thune received an MBA from the University of South Dakota in 1984. He married the former Kimberley Weems of Doland, South Dakota, in 1984; both are committed Evangelical Christians. They have two daughters, Brittany and Larissa.

Political career

A member of the Republican Party, Thune worked as a legislative assistant for U.S. Senator James Abdnor. Under President Reagan, Thune worked at the Small Business Administration.

Thune was appointed Railroad Director of South Dakota by Governor George S. Mickelson and served from 1991-1993. Between 1993 and 1996, he worked as a member of the South Dakota Municipal League.

House of Representatives

In 1996, Thune was elected to South Dakota's at-large seat in the United States House of Representatives; he won reelection in 1998 and in 2000 was reelected with over 70% of the vote. Thune supported term limits and promised to serve no more than three terms in the House.

Keeping his pledge, Thune instead ran for the United States Senate, challenging Senator Tim Johnson in 2002, and losing by 524 votes (0.15%).

Between 2002-2004 Thune worked as a lobbyist for the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad.

2004 Senate race

In 2004, he again ran for the Senate, this time challenging incumbent Tom Daschle, at the time the United States Senate Minority Leader and leader of the Senate Democrats.

The race was the most expensive Senate race in 2004, with $30 million spent, and the most expensive in South Dakota history. It was widely followed in the national media. Thune along with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, President of the United States George W. Bush, and Vice President Dick Cheney painted Daschle as the "chief obstructionist" of Bush's agenda: "Thune was able to criticize “Daschle for serving incompatible masters,” and portray him, as Frist did when he came to South Dakota to campaign for Thune, as a partisan obstructionist and political heir to liberal icon and former Sen. George McGovern of South Dakota.

Daschle's critics charged the Democrat with using filibusters to block confirmation of several of Bush's nominees to the federal judiciary, and being out of step with the views of South Dakota voters on other political and social issues: "The GOP had targeted Daschle, the Senate minority leader, claiming he had been the chief obstruction to President Bush on such issues as tax cuts, judicial nominees and the war in Iraq." Thune emphasized social issues such as abortion and same sex marriage, and flag burning to highlight the differences between his views and Daschle's, stating, "Two-thirds of the people in South Dakota are in favor of protecting marriage through a Federal Marriage Amendment. You know, two-thirds of the people in South Dakota, probably higher than that, are in favor of an amendment to protect the American flag. You know, the Second Amendment, gun owners' rights, abortion those are not wedge issues in South Dakota."

In addition, Thune drove home his strong support for the war: in a nationally televised debate on NBC's Meet the Press, Thune accused Daschle of "emboldening the enemy" by stating President Bush had "failed miserably" to avoid the Iraq war.

When the race began in early 2004, Daschle led by 7 points in January and February. By May, his lead fell to just 2 points and into the summer polls showed an effective tie. Throughout September, Daschle led Thune by margins of 2-5%; from October until the November 2 election, most polls showed Thune and Daschle tied 49-49 among likely voters.

On November 2, 2004, Thune defeated Daschle by 4,508 votes, winning 51% of the vote and became a well-known Republican figure in the U.S. Senate. Daschle's loss was the first ousting of a serving Senate Majority or Minority Leader since 1952, when Arizona Senator Ernest McFarland lost his seat to Barry Goldwater.

Senate career

Thune was chosen to be the GOP's Chief Deputy Whip.

Soon after arriving in the Senate, Thune wrote language into a transportation bill expanding the pot of federal loan money for small railroads, enabling his former client to apply for $2.5 billion in government financing for its project.

As a U.S. Senator, Thune also took a leading role in formulating energy policy. He pushed for the final passage of a comprehensive energy bill, which finally overcame a series of Democratic filibusters and passed the Senate in 2005. Thune helped pass another energy bill in late 2007. Thune is a particular advocate of ethanol and wind energy, which are linked to South Dakota's high levels of corn production and its windy prairies. Thune's hometown of Murdo is considered one of the windiest towns in the nation.

Thune, along with South Dakota's senior Senator Tim Johnson, was also faced with the challenge of keeping Ellsworth Air Force Basemarker in Box Elder, South Dakotamarker (near Rapid Citymarker) open after the Department of Defense announced plans to close the base as part of its 2005 round of base closures. The Pentagonmarker announced that it planned to move all of Ellsworth's B-1 bombers to Dyess Air Force Basemarker in Texasmarker. Ellsworth Air Force Base is one of South Dakota's largest employers, and a critical component of the state's economic well-being, making it necessary for the state's political leaders to fight for its continued existence. Senator Thune, along with Senator Tim Johnson (D), lobbied Washington, specifically the Defense Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission, to keep Ellsworth open. In their lobbying efforts, they argued that it made little sense to consolidate all of the nation's B-1s in a single location due to the risk of a single attack or tornado taking out the fleet. Also, it was discovered that the Pentagon may have overlooked a lawsuit that possibly prevented B-1 pilots at Dyess from engaging in adequate training. While the fate of Dyess was still in the air, Thune declared that he had strong doubts about issues such as John Bolton's nomination as United Nations ambassador, "I've said all along that I'm going to play whatever cards I have to get the best possible outcome I can for my base," he is reported as saying. Ultimately, the BRAC Commission voted 8-1 to reverse the Pentagon's recommendation to close Ellsworth.

Thune also sponsored an amendment (No. 1618) to a troop support bill (S. 1390) in the Senate in July, 2009 that would have created a federal law allowing concealed carry weapons owners to enjoy interstate reciprocity of this right. Despite the support of prominent blue dog Democrats in the senate, the bill was defeated narrowly (58-40).

"South Dakota is one of many states with reasonable measures in place allowing citizens to protect themselves with concealed weapons," said Thune. "Law-abiding South Dakotans should be able to exercise the right to bear arms in states with similar regulations on concealed firearms. My legislation enables citizens to protect themselves while respecting individual state firearms laws."

Currently, some states with concealed carry laws grant reciprocity to permit-holders from other select states. Senator Thune's bill attempts to strike the appropriate balance between individual and states' rights by allowing an individual to carry a concealed firearm across state lines if they either have a valid permit or if, under their state of residence, they are entitled to do so.

Under the Thune Amendment, individuals who travel to other states would be required to follow the laws of the host state, including laws concerning specific types of locations in which firearms may or may not be carried.

The Thune Amendment was cosponsored by Senators John Barasso (R-WY), Mark Begich (D-AK), Robert Bennett (R-UT), Tom Coburn (R-OK), John Cornyn (R-TX), John Ensign (R-NV), Michael Enzi (R-WY), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Judd Gregg (R-NH), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Pat Roberts (R-KS), and David Vitter (R-LA).

Committee assignments

United States Senator - John Thune: Committee Assignments

Political views

The American Conservative Union gave Senator Thune a rating of "100" in 2006.

Thune has described his religious faith as the most important aspect of his political career: "Having a Christian worldview shapes my decision-making with respect to all aspects of my life. I always respect people in public life who are principled, and those principles have to be connected to something. And my faith is what serves as the anchor and directs my actions." In June 2006, Thune reaffirmed his strong support to amend the United States Constitution to ban same-sex marriage: "The Federal Marriage Amendment debate simply is an opportunity for us to affirm our support for marriage...It is an important debate to have in this country."

In a 2005 interview with Christianity Today, Thune supported invading Iraq, expressing a hope that this would result in greater religious freedom: "Liberating Iraqmarker from decades of tyranny and dictatorship, bringing about political freedom, will create an atmosphere of where religious freedom will come to Iraq. And that opens the door, obviously, for the Christian faith there as well."

Before the selection of Sarah Palin, Thune was mentioned as a possible Vice Presidential pick for Republican Presumptive Nominee John McCain in some circles due to his strong Conservative policies. Thune publicly played down the speculation.

He has been mentioned as a possible prospect for a presidential run in 2012.

Electoral history

: Results 1996–2000
Year Democrat Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct
1996 119,547 37% 186,393 58% Nelson Independent 10,397 3% Kurt Evans Independent 6,866 2%
1998 Jeff Moser 64,433 25% John R. Thune 194,157 75%
2000 Curt Hohn 78,321 25% John R. Thune 231,083 73% Brian Lerohl Libertarian 5,357 2%

Senate elections in South Dakota]]: Results 2002–2004
Year Democrat Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct
2002 167,481 50% John R. Thune 166,949 49% Kurt Evans Libertarian 3,071 1%
2004 Tom Daschle 193,340 49% John R. Thune 197,848 51%

References

  1. Lobbyist Turns Senator but Twists Same Arms - New York Times
  2. Threat to Base Sends Senator on Maneuvers - New York Times
  3. 2006 U. S. Congress Ratings
  4. Q & A: John Thune | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction
  5. CNN.com - Senate blocks same-sex marriage ban - Jun 7, 2006
  6. - Thune says he won't be McCain's running mate - August 25, 2008
  7. [1]


Further reading

  • Lauck, Jon K. Daschle Vs. Thune: Anatomy of a High Plains Senate Race University of Oklahoma Press (September 30, 2007). ISBN 0806138505. ISBN 978-0806138503


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