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Tom Daschle

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Tom Daschle

Thomas Andrew Daschle (born December 9, 1947), known as Tom Daschle, was a U.S. Senator from South Dakota and the Senate Minority Leader. A Democrat, he was narrowly defeated on November 2, 2004 by the Republican candidate, John Thune, in his bid for re-election.

Daschle was born in Aberdeen, South Dakota, where he grew up in a working family as the eldest of four brothers. He became the first person in his family to graduate from college when he earned a political science degree from South Dakota State University in 1969. While attending South Dakota State University, Daschle became a brother of Alpha Phi Omega.

After serving three years as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Air Force Strategic Air Command, he spent five years as an aide to South Dakota Senator James Abourezk.

Daschle is married to lobbyist and former FAA official Linda Hall Daschle; he has three children from his first marriage: Kelly, Nathan and Lindsay. He is Roman Catholic.

In 1978, Daschle was elected to the United States House of Representatives, where he served four terms and quickly became a part of the Democratic leadership.

In 1986, Daschle was elected to the Senate in a close victory over incumbent Republican James Abdnor. In his first year, he was appointed to the powerful Senate Finance Committee, an unusual honor for a freshman. In 1988, then-Senate Democratic Leader George Mitchell named Daschle the first-ever co-chair of the Democratic Policy Committee, making him the first South Dakotan ever to hold a Senate leadership position.

To enhance his state's economy, Daschle also became the first U.S. Senator to be a full-time economic development director, a staff position he maintains today. He was also one of the first members of the U.S. Congress to establish a toll-free telephone line that connects South Dakotans to his Washington, DC office.

In 1992 and 1998, South Dakotans re-elected Daschle to the Senate by overwhelming margins. In 1994, he was chosen by his colleagues to succeed the retiring Senator George Mitchell as Democratic Leader. In the history of the Senate, only Lyndon Johnson had served fewer years before being elected to lead his party. In addition to the Leader's post, Daschle also serves as a member of the Agriculture Committee. In past Congresses, he has served on the Veterans, Indian Affairs, Finance and Ethics Committees. From January 3, 2001 to January 20, 2001, Daschle became Senate Majority Leader for the first time, as the Senate was evenly divided with 50 members from each major party, and as long as Al Gore was Vice President, this gave the Democrats the majority in that chamber. Upon the swearing in of the George W. Bush Administration on January 20, 2001, Dick Cheney became Vice President and the Democrats returned to being in the minority and Daschle reverted to being Senate Minority Leader.

However, when Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont announced in May 2001 that he was leaving the Republican caucus to become an independent and would caucus with the Democrats, this returned control of the body to the Democrats and Daschle again became Majority Leader.

In October 2001 Daschle's office received a letter containing anthrax, becoming a target of the 2001 anthrax attacks.

Democratic losses in the November 2002 elections returned them to the minority in the Senate in January 2003 and Daschle reverted to being Minority Leader once again.

In the November 2004 Congressional elections, Daschle lost his seat to Republican challenger and former U.S. Representative John Thune in a bitterly contested battle. Thune did better in the polls, more so after the televised debates. This resulted in the first ousting of a majority or minority leader since 1952 when Arizona Senator Ernest McFarland lost his seat to Barry Goldwater. Daschle's Senate term expired on January 3, 2005. He has not made intentions clear as to whether or not he will run again for office; however, he has signed on as an advisor to lobbying firm Alston & Bird.

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Preceded by:
Larry Pressler
United States Representative from South Dakota
1979–1987
Succeeded by:
Tim Johnson
Preceded by:
James Abdnor
United States Senator from South Dakota
1987–2005
Succeeded by:
John Thune
Preceded by:
Robert Dole
Senate Minority Leader
1994–January 3, 2001
Succeeded by:
Trent Lott
Preceded by:
Trent Lott
Senate Majority Leader
January 3, 2001–January 20, 2001
Succeeded by:
Trent Lott
Preceded by:
Trent Lott
Senate Minority Leader
January 20, 2001–June 6, 2001
Succeeded by:
Trent Lott
Preceded by:
Trent Lott
Senate Majority Leader
June 6, 2001–2003
Succeeded by:
Bill Frist
Preceded by:
Trent Lott
Senate Minority Leader
2003–2005
Succeeded by:
Harry Reid

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