Pressler eyes Senate run as independent
South Dakota voters might have a familiar name on the 2014 ballot for U.S. Senate – Larry Pressler.
The former senator served from 1979 to 1997 as a Republican but said he would run this time as an independent, if he runs at all. He lost a re-election bid to Democrat Tim Johnson in 1996, and Johnson now plans to retire, which means if Pressler enters the race he'll be running for his own former Senate seat.
“It probably won't happen,” he said before explaining that he's exploring a race. “I'm trying to talk to about 100 South Dakotans about this. I would limit myself to one term so I could be a senator who didn't have to raise any money or do anything other than be a senator.”
Pressler, 71, noted there are two independent senators now – Angus King, of Maine, and Bernie Sanders, of Vermont. He said he would not announce which party he might caucus with until after the election.
Pressler said he is still registered as a Republican and considers himself “a moderate conservative.” He endorsed President Obama, a Democrat, in 2012 and in March declared his support for same-sex marriage, comparing the gay rights movement to the country's move toward racial equality in the 1960s.
Pressler cited the “crisis in Washington” as a primary motivation for considering a campaign.
“Everybody is writing books about how terrible affairs are between Democrats and Republicans in Congress. They are correct, but nobody's doing anything about it,” Pressler said. “I have a desire for public service, to be idealistic, to run an idealistic campaign. I have a desire to do something about the current state of affairs in Congress.”
Improving air service to South Dakota is one issue Pressler said he would run on.
“Almost to the day I left the Senate, the flight across South Dakota was canceled,” he said. “Passengers flying from Denver to Rapid City and from Chicago to Sioux Falls are treated badly. Flights are combined, the fares are high.”
Pressler said that he worked to help the airlines with international routes and asked them to keep up air service to his home state. “I kept the pressure on,” he said.
Pressler has a current resume on his website, www.senatorlarrypressler.com. He is on the board of directors for South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation and has joined the Congressional Fiscal Leadership Council for the Campaign to Fix the Debt, led by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson of the Simpson-Bowles commission.
He said he plans a visit to eastern South Dakota at the end of the coming week.
He and his wife, Harriet, live in Washington, D.C., and own a house in Sioux Falls. Pressler said he continues to be involved in a family farming operation and small business in his hometown of Humboldt. He visits Huron regularly as part of his work with the Farmers Union.
Pressler would need to gather 3,171 signatures by the April 29 deadline to appear on the ballot. Candidates can begin circulating petitions Jan. 1.
If he runs, he will join these declared Senate candidates: Democrat Rick Weiland, Libertarian Kurt Evans, and Republicans Mike Rounds, Stace Nelson, Larry Rhoden and Annette Bosworth.