Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the Senate minority whip widely seen as a possible successor to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), announced Saturday that he plans to run for re-election in 2022.
McConnell was elected to his seventh Senate term in 2020. By the time that term comes to an end, he will be 84 years old. Thune turned 61 Friday.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Thune "drew the wrath of Donald Trump for pushing back on the former president's false claims that the election had been stolen from him," expressed concerns about Trump's continued hold on the Republican Party, and had considered retiring. The New York Times reported that his decision to seek a fourth term comes after "an aggressive lobbying campaign by colleagues prompted him to put aside concerns about the future of his party and pursue" re-election.
"South Dakota deserves a strong and effective senator who can deliver the results they expect," Thune tweeted. "I am uniquely positioned to get that job done."
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R), a vocal supporter of Trump whom Trump encouraged to primary Thune in 2022, has declined to run. So far, three other Republicans are seeking the nomination, each attempting to position himself as the pro-Trump candidate.
Rancher Mark Mowry's campaign website describes Mowry as an "'America First' candidate" seeking the "removal of John Thune." Software executive Patrick Schubert's campaign runs a Facebook page called "Retire the RINO SD." Oglala Sioux tribal administrator Bruce Whalen says he was driven to seek the nomination when "Thune, on behalf of [former] Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whipped votes against an audit of the election results."
Thune won his first Senate term in 2004 by a slim margin over then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D). In 2010, Thune was unopposed in both the primary and general elections, and in 2016, he defeated his Democratic opponent by more than 40 points.
Five other Republican senators — Richard Burr (N.C.), Pat Toomey (Penn.), Rob Portman (Ohio), Richard Shelby (Ala.), and Roy Blunt (Mo.) — have already announced that they intend to retire in 2022. Only one Democrat, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, has said the same.