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Ageless Pressler Eyes Historical Rarity in South Dakota

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If elected in 2014, the former U.S. Senator would lay claim to both the youngest and oldest candidate ever elected to the chamber from South Dakota

larrypressler10.jpgAfter more than a decade and a half out of office, South Dakota Republican Larry Pressler stunned political observers this week when he announced he was considering a run for the U.S. Senate in 2014 as an independent.

Pressler served 18 years in the nation's upper legislative chamber from 1979 to 1997 before being defeated in his bid for a fourth term by Democrat Tim Johnson in 1996.

Johnson would also go on to win three terms, but in March of this year announced he would not run for a fourth in 2014.

And now, Pressler has unexpectedly inserted himself into a race previously expected to be won by GOP frontrunner Mike Rounds - who would face Democrat and former Tom Daschle staffer Rick Weiland provided Rounds emerges from the Republican primary against three candidates campaigning to the right of the former governor.

Libertarian Kurt Evans is also seeking ballot access in the increasingly buzzworthy race.

An October Public Policy Polling survey found Evans polling at 11 percent and seemingly cutting into Rounds' advantage in a three-way matchup with Weiland.

Pressler stated that by campaigning as an independent he would not be burdened by the entrenched party positions that have created 'deadlock' on Capitol Hill in recent years.

Pressler said there was a 60/40 chance he would run and would make a decision by January.

Should Pressler run and pull off one of the most unlikeliest of returns to D.C. next November, he would hold a unique distinction in South Dakota political history - owning the titles of both the youngest and oldest candidate ever elected to the U.S. Senate from the Mount Rushmore State.

Pressler currently holds the record as the youngest U.S. Senator elected from South Dakota, when he won his first term 35 years ago in 1978.

On that day, Pressler was 36 years, 7 months, 9 days old - besting a record that had stood in the state for 88 years.

In 1890, Populist James Kyle was elected to the chamber for the first of his two terms at the age of 36 years, 8 months, 11 days, or one month and two days older than Pressler.

In only two other South Dakota U.S. Senate elections did candidates in their 30s launch victorious campaigns: Democrats George McGovern in 1962 (39 years, 11 months, 18 days) and Tom Daschle in 1986 (38 years, 10 months, 26 days).

And now Pressler is eying a mark on the other side of the spectrum.

If Pressler wins back his old Senate seat in 2014, he would be 72 years, 7 months, and 6 days old - nearly five years older than the state's current record and nearly twice the age at which he was elected in 1978.

The oldest South Dakotan ever to be elected to the chamber was Democrat William Bulow in 1936 - winning his second of two terms at the age of 67 years, 9 months, 21 days.

(Democrat Herbert Hitchcock was appointed to the Senate in December 1936 at the age of 69 years, 4 months, 7 days).

Bulow was slightly older than Republican Thomas Sterling when the GOPer won his second term in 1918 at the age of 67 years, 8 months, 15 days.

Only one South Dakotan during the last 50 years has won a U.S. Senate seat above the age of 60: Tim Johnson in 2008 at 61 years, 10 months, 7 days.

Combining the pre- and post-direct election eras, South Dakota has elected U.S. Senatorial candidates:

· In their 30s four times: 1890, 1962, 1978, 1986

· In their 40s 18 times: 1889, 1894, 1896, 1900, 1902, 1924, 1938 (special), 1938, 1944, 1948, 1968, 1972, 1984, 1990, 1992, 1996, 2004, 2010

· In their 50s 13 times: 1889, 1906, 1908, 1914, 1920, 1926, 1950, 1954, 1956, 1974, 1980, 1998, 2002

· In their 60s nine times: 1912, 1918, 1930, 1932, 1936, 1942, 1960, 1966, 2008

Since statehood, the average age of the South Dakota candidates elected to the U.S. Senate is 51 years.

Pressler served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army including two tours of combat duty in Vietnam.

Prior to his first U.S. Senate victory he served two terms in the U.S. House from 1975 to 1979.

After his tenure in the chamber came to an end, Pressler has worked as an attorney, taught at various higher educational institutions, and served on several boards.

Oldest U.S. Senators Elected from South Dakota Since Statehood

Rank
Year
Senator
Party
Years
Months
Days
1
1936
William Bulow
Democrat
67
9
21
2
1918
Thomas Sterling
Republican
67
8
15
3
1966
Karl Mundt
Republican
66
5
5
4
1932
Peter Norbeck
Republican
62
2
12
5
2008
Tim Johnson
Democrat
61
10
7
6
1930
William Bulow
Democrat
61
9
22
7
1912
Thomas Sterling
Republican
61
8
15
8
1960
Karl Mundt
Republican
60
5
5
9
1942
Harlan Bushfield
Republican
60
2
28
10
1956
Francis Case
Republican
59
10
28
11
1980
James Abdnor
Republican
57
8
22
12
1914
Edwin Johnson
Democrat
57
8
8
13
1889
Gideon Moody
Republican
56
11
15
14
1926
Peter Norbeck
Republican
56
2
6
15
2002
Tim Johnson
Democrat
55
10
8
16
1906
Robert Gamble
Republican
55
8
30
17
1954
Karl Mundt
Republican
54
4
30
18
1950
Francis Case
Republican
53
10
29
19
1974
George McGovern
Democrat
51
11
17
20
1998
Tom Daschle
Democrat
50
10
25
21
1908
Coe Crawford
Republican
50
9
20
22
1920
Peter Norbeck
Republican
50
2
6
23
1996
Tim Johnson
Democrat
49
10
8
24
2010
John Thune
Republican
49
9
26
25
1900
Robert Gamble
Republican
49
8
30
26
1990
Larry Pressler
Republican
48
7
8
27
1944
Chan Gurney
Republican
48
5
17
28
1948
Karl Mundt
Republican
48
4
30
29
1938 (s)
Gladys Pyle
Republican
48
1
4
30
1924
William McMaster
Republican
47
5
25
31
1894
Richard Pettigrew
Silver Republican
46
3
14
32
1968
George McGovern
Democrat
45
11
17
33
1992
Tom Daschle
Democrat
44
10
25
34
2004
John Thune
Republican
43
9
26
35
1896
James Kyle
Populist
42
8
10
36
1984
Larry Pressler
Republican
42
7
8
37
1938
Chan Gurney
Republican
42
5
18
38
1972
James Abourezk
Democrat
41
8
14
39
1902
Alfred Kittredge
Republican
41
7
7
40
1889
Richard Pettigrew
Republican
41
2
8
41
1962
George McGovern
Democrat
39
11
18
42
1986
Tom Daschle
Democrat
38
10
26
43
1890
James Kyle
Populist
36
8
11
44
1978
Larry Pressler
Republican
36
7
9
Table compiled by Smart Politics.

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