South Dakota Sen. John Thune dispatched his two top suitors on Tuesday with relative ease.
Faced with his first main challenge since taking office in 1996, Thune won with 73% of the vote at 10:50 p.m. Bruce Whalen, had 20% while Mark Mowry had 7%
“I want to thank South Dakota Republicans for supporting my candidacy for the Senate, and I look forward to continuing to put South Dakota’s interests on the national agenda and stopping the radical crusade of left of President Biden,” Thune said in a statement.
During his campaign, Whalen, a registered tribal member, said the state of South Dakota was becoming dependent on government grants the same way Indian reservations are. He reiterated this Tuesday.
“Whalen’s candidacy was ultimately a South Dakota referendum,” he said in a statement. “The state has chosen Thune and other status quo candidates to continue the march toward its ratification as a giant Indian reservation. Stockholm Syndrome is strong with this state. The rescue continues.”
A message for Mowry was not immediately returned.
The victory paves the way for Thune to seek a fourth term in November, where he will face Democrat Brian Bengs.
Election results:South Dakota Primary
Running for a fourth term in the Senate in South Dakota has more often than not ended a political career rather than prolonging it. Voters in the state elected Karl Mundt to only a fourth term in the Senate. Meanwhile, voters rejected attempts by George McGovern, Larry Pressler and Tom Daschle to win a fourth term.
Whalen and Mowry attempted to tap into populist Republican angst over national issues. Whalen, 60, and Mowry, 65, claimed former President Donald Trump was the victim of fraud in the 2020 presidential election. They criticized Thune for saying no widespread fraud had been discovered during the elections.
This was not Whalen’s first foray into politics. A citizen of the Oglala Sioux tribe, he had aided Thune during his 2004 campaign against Daschle by campaigning in Indian Country for Thune. Two years earlier, Coin had lost his Senate bid to incumbent Tim Johnson by just 524, and his 2004 campaign was aimed at improving his margins in Indian Country.
Whalen ran for Congress against incumbent Stephanie Herseth Sandlin in 2006, but walked out with less than 30% of the vote. He failed to run for office as a candidate for lieutenant governor in 2018.
Mowry, of Spearfish, had no previous political experience in the state. The result of the 2020 presidential election infuriated him so much that he attended the January 6, 2020 demonstration in Washington, DC, which saw protesters riot on Capitol Hill. He said he had no part in the riot.
Both men faced Thune’s daunting campaign account, which has more than $16 million in cash.
Thune, 61, was able to keep most of that intact for the general election. Like all elected Republicans, he faced the prospect of angry GOP voters who were unhappy with the political establishment.
As the number two Republican in the Senate, Thune might have been more vulnerable than most, but national polls have indicated he still has high approval ratings in the state. He sought to sidestep some of the anti-establishment backlash by noting that Democrats control government in Washington, blaming them for rising gas prices and a southern border seeing record levels of immigration.
“Right now,” he said in an announcement, “they’re in charge. That’s going to change. When it does, we’ll be ready.”