John R. Thune (born January 7, 1961) is the junior U.S. Senator from the state of South Dakota.
Born in Pierre, South Dakota and raised in Murdo, South Dakota, Thune graduated from the Christian evangelical Biola University in 1983, and received an MBA from the University of South Dakota in 1984.
A member of the Republican Party, Thune worked as a legislative assistant for U.S. Senator James Abdnor. Under President Reagan, Thune worked at the Small Business Administration. From 1991 until 1993, Thune was the Railroad Director of South Dakota under an appointment by Governor George S. Mickelson.
In 1996, Thune was elected to South Dakota's seat in the United States House of Representatives; he won reelection in 1998 and in 2000 was reelected with over 70f the vote. Thune supported term limits and promised to serve no more than three terms in the House, a promise he kept. In 2002, he challenged Senator Tim Johnson, but lost to Johnson by 524 votes or 0.15ŕUltimately, Thune decided not to pursue a recount. Instead, Thune ran for the Senate again two years later against Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle. On November 2, 2004, Thune narrowly defeated Daschle by 4,508 votes, winning 51f the vote.
Soon after arriving in the Senate, Thune was faced with the challenge of keeping Ellsworth Air Force Base in Rapid City, South Dakota open after the Department of Defense announced plans to close the base as part of its 2005 round of base closures. The Pentagon announced that it planned to move all of Ellsworth's B-1 bombers to Dyess Air Force Base in Texas. Ellsworth Air Force Base is one of South Dakota's largest employers, and a critical component of the state's economic well-being, making it necessary for the state's political leaders to fight for its continued existence. Sen. Thune, along with Sen. Tim Johnson (D), lobbyied Washington, specifically the Defense Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission, to keep Ellsworth open. In their lobbying efforts, they argued that it made little sense to consolidate all of the nation's B-1s in a single location due to the risk of a single attack or tornado taking out the fleet. Also, it was discovered that the Pentagon may have overlooked a lawsuit that possibly prevented B-1 pilots at Dyess from engaging in adequate training. Ultimately, the BRAC Commission voted 8-1 to reverse the Pentagon's recommendationto close Ellsworth.