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Former Democratic state legislator predicts huge re-election victory for Sen. Thune

MITCHELL, S.D.--A longtime Democratic state legislator predicts a landslide victory for Republican U.S. Sen. John Thune this November. During a visit from Thune to former state legislator Mel Olson's Advanced Placement government course at Mitche...

U.S. Sen. John Thune, left, speaks with Mitchell High School teacher and former Democratic state legislator Mel Olson at MHS on Monday. (Matt Gade/Republic)
U.S. Sen. John Thune, left, speaks with Mitchell High School teacher and former Democratic state legislator Mel Olson at MHS on Monday. (Matt Gade/Republic)

MITCHELL, S.D.-A longtime Democratic state legislator predicts a landslide victory for Republican U.S. Sen. John Thune this November.

During a visit from Thune to former state legislator Mel Olson's Advanced Placement government course at Mitchell High School on Monday, Olson predicted Thune would earn 76 percent of the vote in a race against Democratic challenger Jay Williams for a spot in the U.S. Senate.

"I mean, I'm a Democrat, and I can't remember the guy's name that you're running against," Olson joked.

A longtime Democrat, Olson served in the South Dakota Senate for eight years before moving to the state House of Representatives for four years, but he sees Thune, a two-term incumbent as the heavy favorite on the general election ballot.

While Thune is running for a third term in the U.S. Senate in a state where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats 248,168 to 169,363 as of Oct. 4, he isn't taking the campaign lightly.

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"You just don't take it for granted," Thune said on Monday. "So we'll pound the zone pretty hard here over the next 30 days or so and do a little bit of traveling to help other candidates around the country, too, but you just don't take anything for granted."

Other than his 2010 campaign for re-election when he ran unopposed and earned 100 percent of the vote, Thune has never topped more than 75 percent of the vote in three successful campaigns for the U.S. House of Representatives and two elections wins and a loss in U.S. Senate races. In his two Senate campaigns when he faced opposition, Thune never received more than 51 percent of the vote.

But Williams wondered what served as the basis of Olson's prediction, and he offered his fellow Democrat a suggestion.

"Sen. Thune, as the incumbent with millions of out-of-state campaign funds, is surely the favorite," Williams said on Tuesday. "I think Mr. Olson would do better to wait until after the three televised debates between Sen. Thune and me have happened before making his prediction."

Thune and Williams, a Yankton businessman and former U.S. Navy pilot, will first square off at 8 p.m. on Oct. 13 in a forum aired by South Dakota Public Broadcasting. A second forum will be held on Oct. 14 and a third is scheduled to air on Oct. 24.

After watching the debates, Williams said it's up to the voters to determine whether they are happy with the performance of the U.S. Congress or would like to elect a fresh face.

"I believe the voters of South Dakota want to have a real choice in this election, and my campaign is giving them that choice," Williams said.

If that choice is to elect Thune by a 76-24 percent margin, as Olson suggests, Thune would best Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard's sweeping victory over Democratic challenger Susan Wismer in the 2014 gubernatorial race in which Daugaard won the support of 70.47 of South Dakota voters.

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A 76 percent vote in support of Thune would also trounce fellow U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds' margin of victory in 2014. Rounds earned 50.37 percent of the vote in a four-way race to replace longtime Democratic U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson.

Related Topics: JOHN THUNEELECTION 2016
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