Ex-GOP senator weighs independent bid for Senate in South Dakota

file photo

Former South Dakota Sen. Larry Pressler (R), who represented the state from 1979 to 1997, is considering a bid as an independent for his old seat, according to the Native American Times.

Pressler's decision could shake up a race that increasingly looks like a sure bet for Republicans.

ADVERTISEMENT
He served as a Republican during his time in the Senate and worked on President George W. Bush's transition team in 2001. But Pressler later voted for President Obama in the 2008, and endorsed and campaigned for the president in 2012. He's also come out in favor of same-sex marriage.

Republicans have high hopes for flipping the seat that Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) is vacating with his retirement, as Democrats have failed to draw a top-tier candidate to the race and the state went for GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney with nearly 60 percent of the vote last year.

Democrat Rick Weiland, a former staffer for Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), hasn't yet managed to gain much traction in the state.

And though preferred Republican candidate Mike Rounds, the popular former governor, is facing three primary challengers — physician Annette Bosworth, state Rep. Stace Nelson and Senate Majority Whip Larry Rhoden — Republicans are hopeful that he'll make it through the primary relatively unscathed. No conservative outside groups have yet engaged in the race.

Pressler, with his diverse political background, could eat into both parties' share of the vote. He could draw Democrats away from Weiland and independents and centrists away from a Republican candidate, complicating their chances at taking the seat.

But he hasn't yet decided and doesn't face a completely clear path. He currently lives in Washington, D.C., though he told the Native American Times he would move back to his other home in Sioux Falls "permanently."

He expressed confidence, however, that voters are frustrated enough with Washington that an independent bid might give him an edge.

“As Americans become more and more unhappy with the way things are going in Washington, they tend to blame both parties, and more of them are shifting their political loyalties to the Independent Party," he said.