- Associated Press - Friday, February 6, 2015

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - Democrats are losing a fight against Republican efforts to change the state’s so-called “Daschle law” that bars a presidential candidate from seeking another office on the same South Dakota ballot.

The House State Affairs Committee on Friday voted 9-2 for a proposal that would strip away the prohibition, and Democrats say it’s fitting to name the modern-day repeal after Republican U.S. Sen. John Thune.

Thune, whose name intermittently appears on lists of potential 2016 presidential candidates, has tamped down expectations that he’s running - but he’s repeatedly said he’s leaving his options open.

The original GOP-backed measure that passed in 2002 faced criticism from Democrats for targeting then-U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who was considered a possible Democratic presidential candidate in 2004. When Rep. Matt McCaulley defended his measure in 2002, he denied he was targeting Daschle - and he invoked a familiar name.

“I know the link (to Daschle) is inescapable, but it could apply to others in similar positions,” McCaulley said at the time. “Congressman (John) Thune is also sometimes talked about as a future presidential possibility.”

Flash forward more than a decade, and Democrats watching Republican attempts to scrub the law argue there’s a double standard.

“It’s just chock full of hypocrisy,” said Steve Jarding, a former South Dakota Democratic Party leader and a Daschle ally. “Now that they control all the offices, they change it so that maybe John Thune could run for president and Senate at the same time.”

Thune’s office declined to comment.

The arrogance of a party whose electoral success makes them fear nothing has brought South Dakota to this point, said Jarding, who is also a longtime national Democratic strategist.

House Majority Leader Brian Gosch said the 2002 law is “bad policy.” Speaking about his proposal, Gosch said South Dakota shouldn’t hamstring its already limited political influence. If a South Dakotan such as U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem has the opportunity to give the state a greater voice in the federal government, the law shouldn’t stand in the way, he said.

“(Thune’s) chance of being president or vice president, I think is really small and actually unlikely,” Gosch said. “This isn’t designed (for) him so much as what might happen down the road.”

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