The Slatest

GOP Sens. Thune, Johnson Will Seek Reelection After Toying With Retirement

Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and John Thune (R-SD) speak to the media after a weekly policy meeting at the Capitol on March 20, 2012 in Washington, D.C.
Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and John Thune (R-SD) speak to the media after a weekly policy meeting at the Capitol on March 20, 2012 in Washington, D.C. T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images

Two Republicans who had publicly said they were considering retiring announced over the weekend that they will be trying to stay in office. First, Senate Minority Whip John Thune announced Saturday he will run for reelection. Then on Sunday, Sen. Ron Johnson said he will do the same.

Thune, the second-ranking Senate Republican, announced his plans to pursue a fourth term after an intense lobbying push by his colleagues. “I’ve always promised that I would do the work, even when it was hard, uncomfortable or unpopular,” the senator from South Dakota said. “That work continues, which is why after careful consideration and prayer, and with the support of my family, I’m asking South Dakotans for the opportunity to continue serving them in the U.S. Senate.”

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Thune had said he was weighing family issues when trying to decide whether he would run again. And he also privately told colleagues he was unhappy with the direction of his party and the continuing influence of former President Donald Trump on the GOP. Thune is now seen as a potential contender to succeed Sen. Mitch McConnell as the top Republican in the chamber. McConnell had been particularly intense in his lobbying of Thune to get him to seek another term. Trump has publicly spoken up against Thune, calling him “Mitch’s boy” and predicting that he would be “primaried in 2022, political career over!!!”

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Then on Sunday, it was the turn of Sen. Johnson from Wisconsin to end the questions surrounding his potential bid for reelection. “I believe America is in peril,” he wrote in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece announcing his decision to seek a third term. “Much as I’d like to ease into a quiet retirement, I don’t feel I should. Countless people have encouraged me to run, saying they rely on me to be their voice, to speak plain and obvious truths other elected leaders shirk from expressing—truths the elite in government, mainstream media and Big Tech don’t want you to hear.”

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As opposed to Thune, Johnson is a huge ally of Trump. The former president has been encouraging the Wisconsin senator to seek reelection and has offered his “total endorsement.” In 2016, Johnson had pledged not to seek a third term, but last year made clear he was considering changing his mind. Now he has officially gone back on that pledge after he also received lots of pressure from Republicans who said his retirement would make it more likely the party would lose a seat that could decide who controls the Senate next year. But Johnson’s reelection is hardly a sure thing as he will participate in what is expected to be among the tightest Senate races in the country.

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