|United States Senator
from South Dakota
January 3, 2005
Serving with Tim Johnson
|Preceded by||Tom Daschle|
|28th Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference|
January 26, 2012
|Preceded by||Lamar Alexander|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Dakota's At-Large district
January 3, 1997 – January 3, 2003
|Preceded by||Tim Johnson|
|Succeeded by||Bill Janklow|
|Born||John Randolph Thune
January 7, 1961
Murdo, South Dakota
|Spouse(s)||Kimberley Thune (née Weems)|
|Children||Brittany and Larissa|
|Residence||Sioux Falls, South Dakota|
|Alma mater||Biola University
University of South Dakota
John Randolph Thune (born January 7, 1961) is the junior United States Senator from South Dakota and a member of the Republican Party. He previously served as a United States Representative for South Dakota's at-large congressional district. He will become South Dakota's Senior senator with the retirement of Tim Johnson.
- 1 Early life, education, and early political career
- 2 U.S. House of Representatives (1997-2003)
- 3 U.S. Senate (2005-Present)
- 4 Speculation for higher office
- 5 Electoral history
- 6 Personal life
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
Early life, education, and early political career
Thune was born in the small town of Murdo, South Dakota, the son of Yvonne Patricia (maiden name Bodine), and Harold Richard Thune. Thune's paternal grandfather, Nicholas Thune, was an immigrant from Norway who partnered with his brother Matt to start Thune Hardware stores in Mitchell and Murdo, South Dakota. His maternal grandfather is from the province of Ontario in Canada, and Thune's mother was born in Saskatchewan. Thune was a star athlete in high school, and was active in basketball, track, and football and also played college basketball at Biola University. Thune remains athletically active and frequently competes in running events. A 2012 feature by "Runner's World Magazine" noted that Thune has "been the fastest man in Congress since 2009."
After graduating from Biola University in California in 1983 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business, Thune received the degree of Master of Business Administration from the University of South Dakota in 1984.
Thune worked as a legislative aide for U.S. Senator James Abdnor from 1985 to 1987. In 1980, Abdnor had made political history by defeating U.S. Senator George McGovern, perhaps the most iconic figure in American liberalism. Abdnor was the son of a Lebanese immigrant peddler who settled in Lyman County, South Dakota and ran a main street general store which was similar to the hardware store run by the Thune family on the main street of Murdo in neighboring Jones County.
In 1989, Thune move to Pierre, South Dakota, where he served as executive director of the Republican Party for two years. Thune was appointed Railroad Director of South Dakota by Governor George S. Mickelson, serving from 1991 to 1993. From 1993 to 1996, he was executive director of the South Dakota Municipal League.
U.S. House of Representatives (1997-2003)
In 1996, Thune decided to make his first foray into elective politics. That year, Thune entered the race for South Dakota's lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Almanac of American Politics explained that Thune "entered the 1996 race as very much an underdog." Thune's primary opponent was sitting Lt. Governor Carole Hillard of Rapid City, who benefited from the support of the long-term South Dakota governor Bill Janklow. A poll released in May 1996 showed Hillard ahead of Thune 69%-15%. By relying on strong personal skills and the help of his old network of Abdnor friends, Thune won the primary, defeating Hillard 59%-41%. In the general election, Thune defeated Democrat Rick Weiland, a long-serving aide to U.S. Senator Tom Daschle, 58%-37%. Thune won his subsequent races for U.S. House by wide margins. He won re-election in 1998 with 75% of the vote and in 2000 with 73% of the vote. In 2002, after briefly considering a run for governor of South Dakota, Thune set his sights on a run for the U.S. Senate.
U.S. Senate (2005-Present)
Instead of running for governor after the end of Governor Bill Janklow's fourth term, Thune challenged incumbent Democrat U.S. Senator Tim Johnson in 2002. Thune lost his bid by only 524 votes (0.15%). One study concluded: “While the margin of victory [for Johnson] was a mere 524 votes, getting into that winning position required a number of important factors, including Native American turnout, the ability of Johnson and his allies to more effectively use the ground war to get their message out, Thune’s ineffectiveness on the air and lack of experience in winning competitive elections, low voter turnout in key Republican counties, the drought, and finally the presence of Kurt Evans. Evans, a Libertarian candidate who withdrew from the race, endorsed Thune, but remained on the ballot and ciphered away more votes from Thune than Johnson. Evans received only 3,070 votes, but that ended up being six times greater than the margin of victory.” Despite the contested nature of the race, Thune did not challenge the results.
Following his 2002 loss to Tim Johnson, Thune challenged Tom Daschle, the United States Senate Minority Leader and leader of the Senate Democrats, in the 2004 elections. In early 2003, Daschle unexpectedly decided not to run for President. CNN reported that the "announcement surprised even some of his closest aides, one of whom told CNN plans were being made for Daschle to announce his candidacy Saturday in his hometown of Aberdeen, South Dakota."
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 Senator 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."
When the race began in early 2004, Daschle led by 7% in January and February. By May, his lead fell to just 2% 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% to 49% among likely voters.
On November 2, 2004, Thune defeated Daschle by 4,508 votes, winning 51% of the vote. Daschle's loss was the first ousting of an incumbent Floor Leader since 1952, when Arizona Senator Ernest McFarland lost his seat to Barry Goldwater. The New York Times reported that the loss made “Mr. Daschle the first Senate party leader in more than five decades to be voted out of office. The race had been closely watched by both parties, with White House officials calling the senator an obstructionist for opposing the president on the war in Iraq, tax cuts and judicial nominees. Senator Daschle had fought hard, raising $16 million during the campaign as of mid-October, which he spent largely on television advertisements. Mr. Thune had raised $10 million by the same time.” South Dakota native Tom Brokaw commented that Thune "ran a very strong campaign" to win the 2004 race. University of South Dakota political scientist Bill Richardson said "motivated John Thune supporters went to the polls in large numbers, part of a massive South Dakota turnout. Unofficial results show nearly 80 percent of registered voters cast ballots."
Thune faced no Democratic or other opposition for his Senate seat in 2010 and thus won re-election with 100% of the vote. Scott Heidepriem, the South Dakota Senate Minority Leader and a Democratic candidate for Governor of South Dakota, said, "We just concluded that John Thune is an extremely popular senator who is going to win another term in the Senate." One political observer of South Dakota politics noted in 2010 that it was "the first time in the state’s modern history in which a major party has failed to field a Senate candidate."
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 developing alternative sources of energy such as 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 also became a strong advocate of conservative causes such as gun rights. Thune's emergence as a conservative voice in the US Senate led to a lengthy profile in conservative magazine The Weekly Standard. The American Conservative Union gave Senator Thune a rating of 100 in 2006, and again in 2010; as of 2010, Thune's lifetime ACU rating was 88.97.
On December 6, 2006, Thune was chosen by Senate Republican Whip Trent Lott to be the GOP's Chief Deputy Whip. After briefly serving as Republican Conference Vice-Chairman, Thune became chairman of the Republican Policy Committee in June 2009, which is the fourth-ranking position in the Senate. He was then elected Republican Conference Chairman in 2011, taking office in January 2012. The Conference Chairman is the third-ranking position in the US Senate. In late 2011, the Mitchell Daily Republic reported that "Thune’s elevation to the No. 3 spot makes him the highest-ranking Republican senator in South Dakota history. Thune has served as chairman of the Republican Policy Committee from 2009 until the present time and was vice chairman of the Republican Conference from 2008 to 2009 and the Republican chief deputy whip from 2006 to 2008."
Thune was praised in a 2010 profile by the Weekly Standard as an exceptional politician who was, unlike many of his colleagues, able to communicate traditional conservatism, making him a popular alternative to the Tea Party.
On March 6, 2014, Thune introduced the Reliable Home Heating Act (S. 2086; 113th Congress). The bill would require the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to exempt motor carriers that transport home heating oil from numerous federal safety regulations if the Governor of a state declares a state of emergency caused by a shortage of residential heating fuel. The bill also would require the Energy Information Administration (EIA) to notify states if certain petroleum reserves fall below historical averages. Thune said that he was "hopeful that this legislation will eliminate red tape for governors to better meet the needs of their residents and businesses during what can be very dangerous conditions."
- Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry
- Committee on Finance
- Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation (Ranking Member)
- Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security
- Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet
- Subcommittee on Competitiveness, Innovation, and Export Promotion
- Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance
- Subcommittee on Science and Space
- Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security
- Committee on Budget
Source: John Thune
Speculation for higher office
Prior to the selection of Sarah Palin, Thune was mentioned as a possible vice presidential pick for Republican Presumptive Nominee John McCain in the 2008 presidential election. Thune publicly played down the speculation. According to one source, McCain was looking for a "game changer" and did not believe that Thune would have a "game-changing" effect on the campaign.
Significant speculation arose regarding a potential 2012 presidential bid by Thune. Thune was encouraged to run by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who called him "a consensus builder." One Wall Street Journal article stated that Thune possesses "name ID in the parts of the first caucus state of Iowa that get neighboring South Dakota media, a $6.9 million bank account he could use for a presidential run, and a national fundraising list of 100,000 names from his race against [former Senator Tom] Daschle." DNC Executive Director Jennifer O'Malley Dillon publicly stated that "among a field of generally flawed (in one way or another) Republican presidential candidates, there is one who genuinely scares her. 'This is personal[,] but John Thune is somebody that I have nightmares about,' she said. 'I've worked for Tim Johnson and Tom Daschle and he is just a guy you can't ever count out.'" According to multiple commentators, a Thune candidacy could be helped by his personal appearance (he "looks like a president"). On February 22, 2011, however, Thune announced he would not run in the presidential election in 2012.
|Year||Democratic||Votes||Pct||Republican||Votes||Pct||3rd Party||Party||Votes||Pct||3rd Party||Party||Votes||Pct|
|1996||Rick Weiland||119,547||37%||John R. Thune||186,393||58%||Stacey L. 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%|
|2002||Tim Johnson||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%|
|2010||John R. Thune||227,947||100%|
Thune's father, Harold, was a fighter pilot during World War II who flew the F6F-5 Hellcat. KELO News reported that "Thune flew numerous missions for the Navy from an aircraft carrier. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross for shooting down four enemy planes in the Hellcat." Harold Thune flew his missions off the USS Intrepid.
- "John Thune ancestry". Freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
- "2012 Presidential Candidates Parents and Grandparents comparison". 2012.presidential-candidates.org. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
- "John Randolph Thune". rootsweb.com. Retrieved 2008-02-29.
- Brooks, David (2009-11-13). "Meet John Thune". The New York Times.
- "Biola, Family Among Influences for Alumnus Senator « The Chimes | Biola University". Chimes.biola.edu. February 21, 2008. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
- McCue, Matt (October 15, 2012). "2012 Election Year Special | Runner's World". Runnersworld.com. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
- "After Biola". Biola University. Retrieved 2008-04-07.
- The Washington Post http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/members/T000250
|url=missing title (help).
- "E. James "Jim" Abdnor Obituary: View E. Abdnor's Obituary by Rapid City Journal". Legacy.com. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
- Employment History, Center for Responsive Politics
- "1998 Almanac - South Dakota - Rep. John Thune (R)". .nationaljournal.com. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
- "SD At-Large - R Primary Race - Jun 04, 1996". Our Campaigns. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
- "SD At-Large Race - Nov 05, 1996". Our Campaigns. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
- "SD At-Large Race - Nov 03, 1998". Our Campaigns. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
- "SD At-Large Race - Nov 07, 2000". Our Campaigns. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
- Ambinder, Marc J. "Thune Concedes in South Dakota - ABC News". Abcnews.go.com. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
- "Thune Won't Contest Loss in Senate Race". Los Angeles Times. November 14, 2002. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
- Jonathan Karl CNN Washington (January 7, 2003). "CNN.com - Daschle decides not to run for president - Jan. 7, 2003". Articles.cnn.com. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
- Madden, Mike (November 2004). "Daschle, Thune running close in costly race.". USA Today. Retrieved 2008-04-07.[dead link]
- Eisele, Albert (November 16, 2007). "The South Dakota showdown.". The Hill.com. Archived from the original on December 9, 2007. Retrieved 2008-04-07.
- "Daschle Loses S.D. Seat to Thune.". FoxNews.com. Associated Press. November 3, 2004. Retrieved 2008-04-07.
- "South Dakota". The New York Times. November 4, 2004.
- "South Dakota Politics: Brokaw". Southdakotapolitics.blogs.com. November 24, 2004. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
- "MPR: Daschle goes down to defeat in South Dakota". News.minnesota.publicradio.org. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
- "Strolling back to the Senate? No opposition for Thune". Rapidcityjournal.com. April 2, 2010. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
- Brokaw, Chet (April 1, 2010). "S.D. Dems Skip Senate Race Against GOP’s Thune". Yankton Press & Dakotan. Retrieved April 7, 2010.
- "2010 Race of the Day: Taking Back South Dakota - Brian Walsh - Page 1". Townhall.com. July 13, 2010. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
- "Thune: I Will Bring Back A National Concealed Carry Bill". Human Events. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
- 2006 U. S. Congress Ratings
- Scheck, Tom (2006-12-06) Lott picks Coleman as Deputy Minority Whip, Minnesota Public Radio
- Hayes, Stephen (4 October 2010). "Dakota Dreaming". Weekly Standard. Retrieved 16 August 2014.
- Cox, Ramsey (21 May 2014). "Senate passes aiding transport of home heating fuels". The Hill. Retrieved 23 May 2014.
- "S. 2086 - CBO". Congressional Budget Office. Retrieved 23 May 2014.
- Brown, Mark (7 March 2014). "Thune to Address Propane and Heating Fuel Shortages". KELO. Retrieved 23 May 2014.
- "– Thune says he won't be McCain's running mate – August 25, 2008". Chron.com. 2008-08-25. Retrieved 2010-06-13.
- Game Change book
- Jason Linkins (October 4, 2010). "John Thune Begins Potential 2012 Bid By Skirting TARP Vote". Huffington Post. Retrieved October 25, 2010.
- Michael O'Brien (October 23, 2010). "Thune mocks Obama rhetoric, campaign push instead of focus on job creation". The Hill. Retrieved October 25, 2010.
- "Daschle-dashing Thune in 2012 mix - Jonathan Martin". Politico.Com. Retrieved 2010-06-13.
- "The GOP's Fresh 2012 Faces". The Daily Beast. 2010-05-13. Retrieved 2010-06-13.
- Allen, Mike (September 25, 2010). "John Thune plans to run in 2012". Politico. Retrieved 30 September 2010.
- Beutler, Brian (2011-01-26) Thune Rejects Obama's Call For Infrastructure Investment, Talking Points Memo
- Costa, Robert (2011-01-28) Graham ‘Real High’ on Thune, Says ’12 Contender Has ‘Unlimited Potential’, National Review
- Fund, John (2010-07-30). "A Presidential Dark Horse With Bright Ideas". The Wall Street Journal.
- Stein, Sam (2010-07-23). "John Thune Worries DNC Executive The Most Among 2012 Prospects". Huffington Post.
- Merchant, Nomaan (2011-02-22) Thune declines to run for president for 2012, Associated Press
- "Most Popular E-mail Newsletter". USA Today. June 10, 2012.
- "Election Statistics". Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives. Retrieved 2007-08-08.
- Milbank, Dana (2005-02-20) George Wins Time-Travel Race in a Blur, Washington Post
- Lauck, Jon K. Daschle Vs. Thune: Anatomy of a High Plains Senate Race University of Oklahoma Press (September 30, 2007). ISBN 0-8061-3850-5. ISBN 978-0-8061-3850-3
- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Profile at Project Vote Smart
- Financial information (federal office) at the Federal Election Commission
- Legislation sponsored at The Library of Congress
- Representative-Elect John Thune (R-SD) profile from CNN, 1996