Democrat Jay Williams announces U.S. Senate run

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SIOUX FALLS - Senator John Thune won't be alone in the race to the U.S. Senate this year.

Democrat Jay Williams of Yankton announced Friday he's taking on the two-term Republican senator at the polls.

Senator Thune's name recognition will make him a tough opponent to beat.

Besides his six years in the U.S. Senate, he's served 12 years in the House.

It's why Jay Williams admits he's not well known, but he is motivated.

Williams announced his candidacy to a packed house at the VFW in Sioux Falls.

The chairman of the Yankton County Democrats told attendees at a Sioux Falls Democratic Forum why he's the best choice for South Dakota in the U.S. Senate.

Jay Williams said "my experience is not just political experience, I have political expertise. I have a degree in political science, so I understand the political system. I have great experience, not only in the military, but in private business."

KSFY political analyst Vernon Brown said "it's a huge uphill challenge. When you're talking about running against a very popular, smart incumbent senator, who has $11 million in the bank, it's a tough road to plow."

Sen. John Thune said "last time around, I ran without an opponent, which is not the norm, so we expected they'd have somebody in the race. There will be plenty of opportunities over the course of the year, as we get closer to the election to talk about the differences."

"It's never good for an incumbent to not have any sort of a challenge, because pretty soon, it's easy to get myopic and think that you're not able to be defeated," Brown said.

The crowd gave Williams a standing ovation to send him off on the campaign trail to be the next senator from South Dakota.

"I've been around South Dakota for a long time, my family has been too, so I think when people look into me, they'll start to think about me as a good alternative," Williams said.

It's the first time in 12 years that Senator Thune has had to run against an opponent.

"I don't know him, but I expect that they would have a candidate. It's not normal not to have a candidate," Sen. Thune said.

Several voters expressed what they saw or hope to see in Williams.

Retired Teamster Cal Plienes said "I know he probably can't do anything about it now, but when he runs against Senator Thune, Senator Thune hasn't done a whole lot for the labor people here in this state."

Voter Shirley Stephens said "I was very pleased with the way he presented himself, and the experiences that he has had outside of South Dakota, as well has having grown up here."

The road to Washington D.C. might not be easy for a candidate with little name recognition.

"He's also challenged in that he's run twice as I understand it for legislative seats in Yankton and not won. If you can't win on the local level, it's probably really challenging to win on a statewide basis, in a race packed with money from the other side," Brown said.

"I understand what it takes to run a business here, and to employ people. I think I understand the common man better, because I've been with them for all this time," Williams said.

"We need a change in Washington D.C. and maybe we can start in South Dakota," Stephens said.