- Associated Press - Sunday, May 10, 2015

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - Election Day 2014 is six months past, but former South Dakota U.S. Sen. Larry Pressler is still eager to discuss the motivation for his independent Senate bid: the current system is poisoning American politics.

Pressler, who previously served in office as a Republican, sent out a call ahead of President Barack Obama’s visit on Friday for the state to thank him for coming. Pressler also used the opportunity to push for civility in the political discourse and to argue for compromise.

He waged an effective campaign on a shoestring budget in the Senate race but ended up taking third. Pressler, 73, landed back in the news in April when Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gave a blessing to Pressler to confirm him as a member of the faith. Obama shortly after sent Pressler a note congratulating him on his confirmation.

Pressler, who said he keeps faith separate from politics, recently discussed his past, his transition into “joyful anonymity” and his confirmation with The Associated Press.

Q: Can you talk about shutting down the campaign?

A: There’s a lot of regulation in a campaign … and I ended up with a debt which I wrote off personally. … I’m happy that I ran, but it’s hard to recommend young people to run because it’s such a negative, brutal process.

Q: Do you feel like you’ve done enough, or do you feel like you’ve been thwarted from doing more?

A: It’s a happy feeling. I would have liked to have done more if I’d gotten into the Senate another term, but I’ve done my best, and I was defeated, and I can now go into retirement fully feeling that I’ve done everything that I can do, and I think everybody’s got to try to do something. I think we have to be idealistic. … I was opposed by the left, right and center of the Washington establishment because they were so afraid of an independent really getting into the Senate because that might begin to reform politics, really reform.

Q: What is the favorite job that you’ve done?

A: When I’m able to serve others in charity. Eighteen years in the United States Senate, that’s a great gift from God to have had that. I like to do things where I am helping others. … I love my wife and my daughter and my grandchildren. That’s certainly a great pleasure, and I’ll have more time for that in this new chapter, which I expect to last 10 or 20 years, I hope.

Q: Can you talk about formally joining the (Mormon church)?

A: I won’t go there very much except to say that I’m the sort of person, I’ve always been a spiritually driven person. I believe very deeply in God and service to God, and … I see it as a joyous opportunity to serve in certain ways and pray in certain ways, but I don’t think one religion’s any better than another. My basic religious beliefs have not changed. A lot of this has been a long time in coming.


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