Potential retirement of GOP Sen. John Thune has Dems eyeing seat

Speculation began to swirl last month that Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD) is contemplating retirement, and such an outcome, if it were to materialize, could give Democrats a chance to make an electoral breakthrough in what is historically a reliably Republican state, as the Washington Examiner notes.

According to Fox News, Thune – the second-highest ranking GOP member in the Senate – has told people back home that this year may be the last he serves in Congress and that he may not be interested in pursuing election to another term.

The Argus Leader quoted Sioux Falls businessman and friend of Thune’s last month saying that the senator is indeed unsure about seeking reelection and is taking family issues into consideration as he weighs the pros and cons, with the lawmaker having told a reporter from the Black Hills Pioneer last month that his wife, Kimberly, would prefer he not run.

Should Thune indeed choose to sit the next election out, the Examiner opines, Democrats in the state would certainly relish the chance to retake his seat, perhaps putting forth a candidacy from former Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, who possesses a solid history of winning statewide elections.

One high-profile person in particular who hopes Thune will indeed seek to remain in the upper chamber is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), according to The Hill.

When asked by conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt recently about whether he thought Thune would retire, McConnell declared, “I certainly hope he won’t. John Thune is an outstanding senator. He’s done a great job as whip. … It would be a real setback from the country and our party if he retires.”

As The Hill pointed out, South Dakota is a GOP stronghold at present, and while former President Donald Trump previously urged the state’s governor, Kristi Noem, to mount a primary challenge to Thune, she declined, and the sitting senator stands a strong chance of success should he decide to run once more.

Thune’s Senate career began in 2005, and he was then elected to another term in 2016, garnering an impressive 71% of the vote, according to Fox News, having also served in the House of Representatives between 1997 and 2003.

Though Democrats may indeed be salivating at the headline-grabbing prospect of a Thune retirement, their ability to capture his seat in an election year widely predicted to result in a Republican wave seems highly questionable at best.