James Abdnor, the former U.S. senator from South Dakota best known for ousting former Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern from the Senate, died Wednesday of natural causes. He was 89.
Abdnor, a native of Kennebec, S.D., was a son of Lebanese immigrants and served only one term in the Senate after he lost his re-election to another notable South Dakotan, former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle.
Abdnor, a farmer, was proud of his upbringing.
I'm a farmer, Abdnor said in 1986, according to the Associated Press. I've dug more field dirt out of my ears than anyone in Congress. I treasure that heritage.
Abdnor died Wednesday of natural causes and had been in hospice care since May 6, according to the AP.
Abdnor sat on the Appropriations Committee, a vital position for the Plains state.
You'd be surprised how these agencies like to talk to people that handle money that might affect them, he said in a 1993 AP interview. When you're a small state like South Dakota, it's the only committee as far as I'm concerned when you only have two or three people representing you.
James Abdnor's political career began in 1969 when he became the 30th lieutenant governor of South Dakota.
After two years in that role, Abdnor was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served from 1973 to 1981.
In 1980, he won election to the U.S. Senate, defeating the 1972 Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. George McGovern. Daschle in turn ousted Abdnor in 1986.
Daschle's successor, U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), told the AP after his election that he looked up to Abdnor as a mentor.
Jim Abdnor was one of the most decent people to ever serve South Dakota in public life and was a great inspiration to me toward public service, Thune said shortly before he was sworn into office in 2005.
President Ronald Reagan tapped Abdnor to be head of the U.S. Small Business Administration, a role in which he served from 1987 to 1989.