- Associated Press - Friday, June 20, 2014

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - In a surprise move, former U.S. Senate candidate Larry Rhoden endorsed Mike Rounds, his former and victorious primary rival, at the South Dakota Republican Party’s convention Friday in Rapid City.

In a news release from the party, Rhoden, a state senator from Union Center, said Rounds is “a responsible conservative and a man of great dignity and integrity that will stand shoulder to shoulder with John Thune in protecting the interests of all South Dakotans.”

Rhoden was expected to back Rounds eventually, but his appearance Friday in Rapid City came as a surprise. Rhoden said Republicans need to be unified.

Rounds, after thanking Rhoden and former candidate Jason Ravnsborg for their support, gave a speech that the Argus Leader reported was an appeal to “take back our country” by giving Republicans control of the U.S. Senate.

The state Republican Party has said it expects record attendance at the convention that opened Thursday.

The party says GOP leaders taking part in the convention include U.S. Sen. John Thune, U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, all the state’s constitutional officers and delegates from 43 counties.

Most candidates already have been chosen in state primaries, but Pierre’s Pat Miller and Shantel Krebs of Sioux Falls will be competing for the secretary of state nomination Saturday.

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