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Rhoden enters fray for U.S. Senate seat in South Dakota

MITCHELL, S.D. - State Sen. Larry Rhoden will challenge former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democratic Sen.

MITCHELL, S.D. - State Sen. Larry Rhoden will challenge former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson, who isn't seeking re-election.

Rhoden's candidacy was widely reported Tuesday, but the 54-year-old rancher and state legislator from Union Center, east of Sturgis, made it official Wednesday at events in Sioux Falls and Rapid City.

"I don't shy away from it, I am the underdog in this race," he said Wednesday in an interview.

Rhoden has been a state legislator since 2001, starting in the House, where he was majority leader for four years. He was elected to the Senate in 2008, where his is now majority whip.

Rhoden said the national debt, which is currently about $16.7 trillion, is a key issue that Congress needs to deal with as soon as possible.

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Rounds' campaign manager, Rob Skjonsberg, said Wednesday in an email that the Rounds campaign has always expected a primary. Skjonsberg said Rounds considers Rhoden a friend based on the time the two spent working together in state government.

"They worked together on many important issues and we often counted on his support," Skjonsberg said. "Larry is a good man and we expect to still be friends once the primary is over."

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