Larry Rhoden: ‘I am in’ for U.S. Senate

A state legislative leader is about to challenge Mike Rounds for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination.

Larry Rhoden, a Republican state senator and former majority leader of the state House of Representatives, said he’s planning to run and will formally announce his plans for the race on Wednesday.

"Through my legislative service, I’ve demonstrated my ability to lead and my willingness to take a hard stand and do what’s right instead of what’s politically motivated or politically sound," Rhoden said. "We need people with strong character and integrity, that are willing to make tough decisions to go to D.C. and show the strength of character to present change."

Rhoden has been publicly considering a U.S. Senate campaign for some time. A rancher from a rural part of western South Dakota, he’s served in the Legislature since 2001 and is currently the majority whip in the state senate.

He’ll be the first official Republican challenger to Rounds, the former governor who entered the race late last year.

When asked for comment, Rounds’ campaign released a similar statement to what they’ve issued for every report of a potential challenger: “We will be prepared to take on all comers.”

Rounds has raised more than $1 million for his campaign so far and says he’s going to raise $9 million by November 2014.

That financial threat was on Rhoden’s mind as he considered whether to run.

"When we hear talk about raising millions and millions of dollars for this campaign, that doesn’t scare me," he said.

Rhoden said he weighed the challenges of the race against what he felt he could offer as a candidate.

"There’s a number of things that go into play as far as the feasibility of it (and) the practicality of it," Rhoden said. "More importantly, just what’s at stake in this race and what I could provide that maybe others couldn’t."

As a West River resident from a rural county, Rhoden isn’t well-known in the eastern part of the state where many voters live. He said he’ll spend much of his time working to negate that weakness.

"Obviously I’ve got an issue with name ID all across the state," he said. "I intend on spending a great deal of time east of the river visiting with folks and going from town to town, getting my name out and getting my message out."

Another Republican, Sioux Falls physician Annette Bosworth, is publicly considering a U.S. Senate run. She’s been touring the state to gauge interest in her candidacy.

Several other Republicans have expressed interest in the race, including state representative Stace Nelson and former  lawmakers Mark Venner and Bill Napoli.

The only Democrat in the race is Rick Weiland, a businessman and former aide to Sen. Tom Daschle.