- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 7, 2002

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson was re-elected by just 527 votes, beating a Republican congressman in a race that became, in effect, a battle between Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and President Bush.
In results tallied yesterday, Mr. Johnson received 167,481 votes, or 50 percent, to 166,954 votes, or 49 percent, for Rep. John Thune.
"Every vote was counted, every vote was counted correctly," Mr. Johnson told supporters at a rally yesterday morning. "The system works, and I think we can be proud of that."
Mr. Thune has the right to ask for a recount, because the margin was less than the one-quarter of 1 percent threshold specified under the law.
The Republican candidate said he will await the results of next week's official vote count before deciding whether to pursue a recount. He said if the numbers do not change and there is no evidence of irregularities, he will not contest the results.
"I've got to believe in South Dakota things are done pretty much by the book and done right, but you never know," Mr. Thune said.
The election marked the end of a yearlong battle that started when the president recruited Mr. Thune, a three-term House member, to challenge Mr. Johnson, a first-term senator.
Mr. Bush visited South Dakota four times this year, twice in the campaign's last week, to try to boost Mr. Thune's chances. The other heavyweight was Mr. Daschle, South Dakota's senior senator, who campaigned vigorously for Mr. Johnson over the past few months.
Negative television ads started more than a year before Election Day and flooded the airwaves for most of the campaign.
The two candidates are among the most popular politicians in state history.
Mr. Thune, 41, had been set to run for governor before the president persuaded him to challenge Mr. Johnson as part of the Republican drive to regain control of the Senate.

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