Thune remains aggressive as election day approaches Senate candidate visits Vermillion to rally loca

Thune remains aggressive as election day approaches Senate candidate visits Vermillion to rally local voters Rep. John Thune addresses an audience of Clay County political supporters Sunday at the Vermillion Eagle's Club. "We're going to work as hard as we can in the remaining days of this campaign, and we hope you will, too," he said. by David Lias Rep. John Thune visited the hometown of his rival, Tim Johnson, Sunday to rally the local GOP in the waning days of a U.S. Senate race that still remains neck and neck.

"It's been a long campaign; we started this, believe it or not, 13 months ago, and it's been a project that we've all been involved with," he said at the Eagle's Club. "My wife and two daughters have traveled the state. We've visited 61 different communities and traveled over 70,000 miles."

Thune's words indicate his campaign has no plans to ease its activities as election day approaches.

He asked Clay County Republicans to adopt that same aggressive approach as Nov. 5 nears.

"To me there's nothing better than to get out, actually look people in the eye, shake their hands, talk to them about what is important to them, and share my principles about why I want to be United States senator from South Dakota," Thune said.

He emphasized that the 2002 Senate race likely will be one of the most important political races in not only the history of South Dakota, but also of the nation.

"This election sets the tone and the direction for our country for the next decade and beyond," Thune said. "It will affect some of the fundamental, core value issues that face this country culturally.

"We really are at a crossroads," he said. "We have an opportunity here in South Dakota to make a change not only for the future of our state but for the future of this country � change that is consistent with our values."

It's time, he said, for new members to join the U.S. Senate and work toward making the body more effective.

"I think there are a lot of things today that are not being done in the United States Senate," Thune said, "because of politics. Frankly, there are judicial nominations that haven't been moved in the United States Senate because somebody's ideology wasn't right, or they didn't meet the litmus test of the Senate on abortion. Some good judges have been turned down, and that's unfortunate, because they are very qualified, able people."

Thune said he's also disappointed with the Senate's poor handling of the federal budget.

"This is the first time in 28 years, since 1974, that the United States Senate hasn't gotten a budget passed, and it's complicated the work of the entire Congress," he said. "The reason we have to go back to Washington after the election and hold a lame duck session is the inaction of the Senate on the budget."

Politics has gotten in the way of progress in the Senate, Thune said. Legislation on such topics as prescription drug price reform, homeland security, permanent repeal of the death tax, the marriage penalty, drought relief and a ban on partial birth abortion, he said, have all stalled in the Senate.

"I believe that South Dakota is best served by somebody who can work not just with the Democrats but also with the Republicans and the White House, reach out across party lines, and solve problems," he said. "That's what's missing right now in Washington, DC."

Thune told the audience that he didn't care if they were Republicans, Democrats or Independents.

"If you share our values and our principles, we want you on our team," Thune said. "We're going to work awfully hard to see that we have a senator that represents South Dakota's values every single day in Washington. That, fundamentally, what this election is all about."

The South Dakota Senate race is getting national and global attention, he said.

"People around the world see the significance of this election," Thune said.

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