OPINION — No, The Curse of Karl did not claim another victim. Not yet, anyway,

Sen. John Thune will run for a fourth term, he announced Saturday morning as speculation on his political future heated up. Thune had told reporters several times in the last year he wasn’t sure about seeking re-election, including during a discussion with me at a Sioux Falls bookstore last month.

That led to a run of news stories, from South Dakota media to national outlets, including The New York Times, which linked to my Dec. 6 story in The Black Hills Pioneer.

When KELO ran a story Friday night that came across like a political obituary, I figured Thune would have to respond Saturday. I thought the fact that he hadn’t had his staff deny the reports or confirm he was running meant that he might seriously be ready to call it a career.

In December, he told me his wife Kimberley wanted him to quit.

“She is done with it,” Thune said. He also seemed weary and unsure about another six years in the Senate.

But he said he wouldn’t make up his mind until the end of the year. The holidays passed, as did his 61st birthday on Friday. Then, he revealed his plans.

Shortly before noon Saturday, someone tipped off KELO and the Argus that he was running, and soon Politico had a story and quote from our senior senator: He was in.

“I’ve always promised that I would do the work, even when it was hard, uncomfortable or unpopular,” Thune said on Twitter. “That work continues, which is why after careful consideration and prayer, and with the support of my family, I’m asking South Dakotans for the opportunity to continue serving them in the U.S. Senate.”

KELO and the Argus also repeated the news. South Dakota reporters were on high alert last weekend.

The South Dakota Democratic Party does have a candidate to oppose him, as SDDP Chair Randy Seiler reminded us in a press release. It’s Brian Bengs, an Aberdeen lawyer and former Northern State University professor who served in both the Navy and Air Force. He was an independent, but has registered as a Democrat in order to run under the party banner.

“After weeks of saying he’s not sure he wants to represent South Dakota for another term in the Senate, John Thune announced his intent to run for reelection today,” Seiler said. “South Dakotans deserve a U.S. senator who actually wants the job and will deliver on important issues like health care, education, and good-paying jobs, and that’s why it is so important to elect a Democrat.”

Seiler asked Democrats to “get involved right now by signing Bengs’ petition to make the ballot.”

He faces not an uphill climb, but a steep mountain. Bengs is virtually unknown with no political record. He has had little time to raise either his public profile or much money, while Thune, after more than a quarter century in public life, has statewide name recognition and more than $14.8 million in his campaign treasury.

He can raise millions more if needed. If Thune wants media attention, he can have it with a snap of his fingers.

Curse? Thune has little reason to fear that fictional tale. Sure, Sens. George McGovern, Larry Pressler and Tom Daschle were defeated in their bids for a fourth term, but those were different times in a different state.

Republicans hold a huge edge — more than 126,000 — in voter registration. Their party holds every statewide office and has supermajorities in both the state Senate and House of Representatives.

The last time a Democrat won a statewide race was Sen. Tim Johnson, who defeated Thune in 2002, when he won his third term in 2008, and Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, when she won for the fourth and last time.

After a narrow win over Daschle in 2004, which ended Daschle’s 26-year congressional career, Thune was unopposed for a second Senate term in 2010, and faced token opposition from Democrat Jay Williams in 2016. Can a Democrat throw a scare into him this year? It seems highly, highly unlikely.

Should Thune worry about a primary? He has three declared challengers: Mark Mowry, Patrick Schubert Sr. and Bruce Whalen, the Republican nominee for Congress in 2006. None of them appear to be serious contenders.

Former President Trump urged Gov. Kristi Noem to challenge Thune, but Noem immediately said she would not. She is focused on winning a second term as governor, but it would have been interesting to see what might have happened had Thune gone the other way with his decision.

Trump has a grudge against Thune, who refuses to buy into The Big Lie that the 2020 election was rigged. He may well try to interfere in the 2022 South Dakota Republican Primary, but it’s hard to see that derailing Thune’s march to a fourth term.

The only person who likely could have stopped Thune from winning was Thune himself. He thought long and hard about it, and agonized over the decision.

But he’s in, and the odds are, he will become the second four-term senator in state history. It seems like only a curse can stop that from happening.

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