Thune takes Senate seat; occupies the fourth historical period

SIOUX FALLS, SD – Republican U.S. Sen. John Thune defeated Democrat Brian Bangs and Libertarian Tamara Lesnar. The Associated Press (AP) announced the race after polls closed in the western part of the state.

Thune is only the second South Dakotan in state history to be elected to a fourth term in the United States Senate. Carl Mundt, a Republican from Humboldt, served the state from 1948 to 1973.

Bengs, a native of Aberdeen, ran as a former independent. Bengs pointed to Senator Thune’s more than 20 years in Washington as the reason for not voting for him.

However, Thune has drawn on his experience in Washington as a positive and has scaled back his campaign with his family, citing some of his early campaigns for national office, arguing that experience is needed to keep pace with national Democrats.

“We’ve got to have someone out there that can punch with the big dogs, and that’s what I do every day,” Thune said during the tournament’s only debate.

The victory also keeps Thune in line for the next majority leader of the United States Senate, depending on the results of a number of Senate races across the country. Currently, Thune is the second-highest-ranking Republican in the Senate as minority whip. If Thune is able to gain control of the post, he would be the first person from South Dakota to do so since Tom Daschle in 2003, when Thune would be upset two years later.

The victory also extends the GOP’s streak of holding all three South Dakota congressional offices. A Democrat has not held one of these positions since 2011.

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