Dec 28 2013





With Democratic Senator Tim Johnson retiring, South Dakota was the possibility of a strong pickup for the Republicans in their attempt to take back the United States Senate. That goal just became more difficult when former South Dakota Republican Senator Larry Pressler announced that he would be running as an 'independent' in the 2014 race.

The Argus Leader reports:

Is South Dakota ready for a comeback from Larry Pressler?

Turned out of the Senate after three terms by Tim Johnson in 1996, Pressler will run for the same seat 18 years later.

“Today, I am announcing that I am running for the United States Senate, and I intend to win,” Pressler said.

But Pressler, 71, a lifelong Republican who was in the GOP for his entire time in Congress, won’t be in that party’s crowded primary. Instead, he’d run as an independent, giving voters next November a third choice between presumed Democratic nominee Rick Weiland and the Republicans’ top candidate.

“I want to ... end the poisonous bipartisan deadlock in Washington,” Pressler said this week.

Long a moderate Republican, Pressler broke with his own party in the past several years. He endorsed Barack Obama for president in 2008 and 2012. Today, he says he’s a “deficit hawk” who wants to balance the budget in part by cutting back on foreign military spending. That includes canceling unneeded weapons projects and closing some overseas bases.

“Congress is building all kinds of weapons that the Pentagon says we don’t need anymore,” Pressler said.

He considers himself “moderately conservative.” Pressler said he’d have voted against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but he thinks that it can’t just be repealed now that it’s in place.

“We can’t just be against Obamacare and not be for something else,” Pressler said. “We have to fix it up now.”

South Dakota never has elected an independent to the Senate, and Pressler knows he’s a long shot. But he said his experience as a campaigner and senator give him a shot at winning a three-way race.

“I think there’s an increased level of people wanting an alternative to the Republican-Democrat thing,” Pressler said.

Lloyd Ringrose, a Sioux Falls Republican who came to Pressler’s announcement, said he liked Pressler in the 1990s and voted for him. But when told Pressler had endorsed Obama, Ringrose was shocked.

“I’m afraid Mr. Pressler just lost my vote, but I’ll hear what he has to say,” Ringrose said before the speech.