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SD's Congressional Voice Gets Bigger

January 30, 2012, 7:12 AM by Austin Hoffman

SD's Congressional Voice Gets Bigger
SIOUX FALLS, SD - South Dakota may be a small state but its voice in Washington is getting bigger. Senator John Thune recently rose up in the Republican ranks.

Last week, Senator Thune took the position of Conference Chairman while at the Senate Republicans retreat at Mount Vernon.

While it means more work for Senator Thune, he says it will also help put South Dakota's local concerns on the national table.

"We always welcome the opportunity to see what we can do regarding these leadership positions and advance South Dakota's interest," Sen. Thune said. 

Thune says it will be an interesting year in Washington with people drawing thick party lines because of the election.  But there's still a lot of work to get done. With his new role, he would like to help move that agenda along.

"I'm hopeful and optimistic that we will be able to get some things accomplished.  But it’s going to require a lot of people pushing.  And I'm going to do everything I can to make it clear, to not only my colleagues on Republican side, but also the Democrats that were open and ready for business. We want to get things done," Sen. Thune said.

Part of his new responsibility is getting the word out as to what the Senate Republicans want to accomplish. It's also an opportunity to put South Dakota's issues at the forefront.

"I think anytime you can get a chance to put yourself and your state in a position where you have a seat at the table and you have a voice in the decisions that are being made, that does advance the interest of your state. So, we're going to do what we can with it," Sen. Thune said.

Leadership positions have shown to be the chopping block for some of the state's past congressmen. Thune says it's all about staying connected with who you represent.

"You always have to keep your eye on what's the best interest in the state of South Dakota and that's a priority for me and why I work really hard to be out here a lot and very connected to the state.  And that’s something I'll continue to do. And I think if you do that, in most cases, you're going to be very well in tune with  the voters in your state," Sen. Thune said.

It's been around 70 years since South Dakota has had a Republican senator in a leadership role comparable to Thune's. Chan Gurney of Yankton sat as conference vice-chair, the fifth highest Senate Republican.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
A misspelling was corrected in this story. The word 'Republican' was also added to the first sentence in the last paragraph.

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