At a Glance
- Career History: U.S. Representative (1996 to 2002); Executive Director of the South Dakota Municipal League (1993 to 1996); State Railroad Director (1991 to 1993)
- Birthday: Jan. 7, 1961
- Hometown: Pierre, South Dakota
- Alma Mater: Biola University, B.A., 1983; M.B.A from the University of South Dakota, 1984
- Spouse: Kimberley Weems
- Religion: Baptist
- Committees: Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry ; Armed Services ; Commerce, Science and Transportation ; Small Business ; Budget ; Finance
- DC Office: United States Senate SR-493, 202-224-2321
Path to Power
Thune's grandfather arrived at Ellis Island from Norway speaking only two English words, according to Thune: "apple pie" and "coffee." Since Nicolai Gjelsvik was thought too hard to pronounce, he became Nick Thune and moved to South Dakota to build a railroad and ultimately open a hardware store.
The fourth of five children, Thune was born Jan. 7, 1961, in Pierre, S.D. He grew up in a religious household in Murdo, a tiny town on the road to Mount Rushmore. In 1983, he earned a B.A. at Biola University, an evangelical Christian school in California, and in 1984 he got his MBA at the University of South Dakota.
Thune voted with the majority of Republicans 96 percent of the time in the 111th Congress.In 2002, he welcomed popular President George W. Bush to South Dakota to campaign on his behalf. As the president's approval rating dropped, so did Thune's public declarations of support. He opposed Bush's appointment of John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations and voted against the Central American Free Trade Agreement which the White House favored.
In a vote that's likely to haunt him politically if he runs for president in 2012, Thune voted for the $700 billion bailout Wall Street bailout package in fall 2008.
Thune endorsed Sen. John McCain early in 2007, before the early 2008 presidential primaries. Though Thune is seen as more socially conservative than McCain, he said he liked McCain's consistent stance against abortion rights and his assurance that he would appoint to the U.S. Supreme Court "guys like [Chief Justice John] Roberts and [Justice Samuel] Alito," both George W. Bush appointees.
Coming from a state with only a three-person delegation, Thune has found it necessary to work with the state's senior senator, Tim Johnson. He was a big booster of freshman Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), who knocked off the state's at-large incumbent, Rep. Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin (D-S.D.), in 2010.