Republican John Thune won the 2004 Senate election against Democrat Tom Daschle to become senator of South Dakota.
Born in 1961, John Thune grew up in Murdo, South Dakota. He attended Biola University and then earned an M.B.A. from the University of South Dakota in 1984. More than a decade later, in 1996, Thune won his first bid for public office, becoming his state's representative in the U.S. House of Representatives. He ran for a seat in the Senate in 2002, but he was defeated. Two years later, he ousted South Dakota's longstanding senator, Tom Daschle. He won re-election in 2010.
The second youngest of five children, South Dakota Senator John Thune comes from humble beginnings. He grew up in the small town of Murdo, South Dakota. At Grand Jones High School, Thune ran track and played basketball. After graduating in 1979, he headed west to attend Biola University in California. The college experience had a big impact on the devout Christian. "I valued the biblical foundation I got at Biola. I was able to take classes that strengthened my faith and helped me to better understand what I believe and how to, in a practical way, apply my faith in real-world situations," he later told The Weekly Standard.
After earning a bachelor's degree in 1983, Thune continued his studies at the University of South Dakota, where he pursued a Master of Business Administration degree. He then went to Washington, D.C., where he worked for Senator James Abdnor in 1985. Not long after, he was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to serve in the Small Business Administration.
The dedicated Republican returned to South Dakota in 1989 to become the party's executive director there. Thune moved on to state government, serving as the director of the state railroad. In 1993, he became the executive director of the South Dakota Municipal League.
In 1996, Thune ran his first political campaign. He won South Dakota's only seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. During his time in the House, his votes followed his conservative ideology. He served on both the House Agriculture and Transportation committees. Because of a campaign promise, Thune decided not to seek a fourth term. Instead, he sought another political office.
Thune made a bid for the Senate in 2002, running against Democratic incumbent Tim Johnson. He lost to Johnson by more than 500 votes in an extremely tight race. Taking some time to recoup, he capitalized on his political experience, working as a lobbyist, but was soon recruited by the Republican Party to make another run for the Senate. This time, Thune faced off against Tom Daschle, a longtime Democratic senator and minority leader for the House.
The race drew national attention, as both political parties were battling for control of the Senate at the time. Thune positioned himself as a pro-traditional family values candidate, campaigning against gay marriage. An avid pheasant hunter, he also promoted himself as a champion for the Second Amendment. Thune managed to unseat Daschle by a narrow margin, and took office in 2005.
Since joining the Senate, Thune has served on numerous committees, including the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee; and the Budget Committee. He is an advocate for a limited federal government and has vocally opposed President Obama's health-care plan. In 2008, some speculated that Republican presidential candidate John McCain would pick Thune as a running mate. McCain may have passed over Thune in that election, but rumors about Thune as a possible vice-presidential candidate resurfaced in 2012. Some analysts have also wondered whether the photogenic senator will eventually make his own bid for the White House.
Thune lives in Sioux Falls, South Dakota with his wife Kimberley. The couple has two daughters, Brittany and Larissa.