Registrations might explain part of Sioux Falls mayor race

As Paul Ten Haken prepares to officially take office as mayor of Sioux Falls on May 15, the run-off’s ramifications still rumble.

The South Dakota Republican Party openly backed Ten Haken in the run-off. His run-off opponent, Jolene Loetscher, openly spoke at the South Dakota Democratic Party’s McGovern weekend.

So much for a non-partisan municipal election.

Here is one part of the explanation for the Republicans’ victory.

The May 1 voter-registration numbers for Minnehaha County showed 45,215 Republicans; 35,508 Democrats; and 29,992 independents.

Eight years ago, after then-Democrat Mike Huether was elected mayor of South Dakota’s largest city, general-election registrations were 44,451 Republicans; 41,679 Democrats; and 19,142 independents.

In other words, Minnehaha County gained nearly 1,000 Republicans; Democrats lost about 6,000; and independents climbed by more than 10,000.

Sioux Falls meanwhile continued to see population grow in Lincoln County to the south. Lincoln County registrations as of May 1 were 17,403 Republicans; 8,590 Democrats; and 8,954 independents.

Eight years ago, Lincoln County registrations for the general election were for 13,943 Republicans; 8,427 Democrats; and 5,106 independents.

So Lincoln County during eight years of Huether gained more than 3,000 Republicans and some 3,800 independents, while Democrats added about 200.

Huether, by the way, switched his registration while mayor to an independent.

Paul Ten Haken joins Gary Hanson and Dave Munson as Republicans elected mayor since the city government switched to home rule. Three of the four winners of the open seat have been Republicans since then.

A fast finish for regents

In an amazing feat, the state Board of Regents completed a long agenda Wednesday afternoon during the meeting at the University of South Dakota.

The regents will still meet with legislators from the Vermillion area for breakfast Thursday, then convene at 9 a.m. solely to adjourn.

SDRS might soon enter the Internet era

The South Dakota Retirement System trustees are one of the remaining boards connected to state government that don’t routinely provide Internet coverage of their meetings. That might change in 2019, according to Rob Wylie, the system’s executive director.

Three of the quarterly meetings have been at The View, a restaurant complex east of Pierre on SD 34. (The fourth meeting each year is in Sioux Falls at the State Investment Office.) The View is closing, and that coincides with the end of its business arrangement with SDRS.

“It is a timely question as our contract with the View is ending this December. We are currently looking for a new location for our meetings and we will make that one of the criteria in our search,” Wylie said.

There is a mixture of elected trustees who represent their respective state, county, municipal and school-board governments, as well as governor-appointed trustees, including Lt. Gov. Matt Michels. Chairman is state Supreme Court Justice Steven Zinter.

The Daugaard administration has made transparency a priority, with the governor at times asking Cabinet members about their efforts.

Mike Rush gets ready to move on

Mike Rush received a nice resolution and a long round of applause Tuesday afternoon from the South Dakota Board of Regents and state Board of Education Standards. He is leaving after three years as regents executive director.

“I have nothing to say,” he joked. Then he added, “Thank you.”

After his departure was announced last month, Rush had said on April 12, “The regents decided and I concurred that it would be beneficial to have new leadership for the regental system.

He added, “I am leaving with nothing but the highest respect for the regents and the system of higher education in South Dakota.”

Rush’s resignation takes effect May 29. He came to South Dakota for the job. He had retired from a somewhat similar post in the Idaho public system.

The regents haven’t disclosed their plans for replacing him.

Kirkegaard chips away at tribal visits

One of the pledges state Education Secretary Don Kirkegaard made when he started the job this year was visiting each of the nine tribal reservations within South Dakota.

Kirkegaard, who previously was superintendent for the Meade school district, said Tuesday he plans to visit a public school groundbreaking Friday on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. He said the visit will be the ninth on his list.

He is working to strengthen relationships with tribal and federal Indian schools.

Tough times for Heitkamp and Tester

South Dakota doesn’t have a US Senate election this year. But North Dakota, Montana and Minnesota do, with Democratic incumbents facing battles.

A new report from Morning Consult suggests Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., might face trouble and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., is on the bubble.

The Morning Consult polling indicates:

In North Dakota, the top issue among registered voters is the economy (26 percent) followed by security (22 percent), health care (16) and seniors (13). Women (6), education (6), energy (4) and other (6) comprise the remainder;

While in Montana, tops is economic (29 percent), followed by health care (17), seniors (15) and security (15). The rest are other (9), education (6), women (3) and energy (5).

The surveying also found:

North Dakota’s Heitkamp was at 44 percent approval and 42 percent disapproval, with 35 percent saying she deserves re-election and 49 percent saying it’s time for a new person;

Montana’s Tester was at 54 percent approval and 34 percent disapproval, with 43 percent saying he deserves re-election and 43 percent saying it’s time for a new person.

The 21-page summary is here.

Sutton releases “Restoring Trust and Integrity” plan

State Senate Democratic leader Billie Sutton of Burke holds a teleconference later this morning to answer questions from news reporters about his new initiative, titled “Restoring Trust and Integrity Plan.”

You can read it here. Sutton is the Democratic candidate for governor. He faces the winner of the June 5 Republican primary election between U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem and state Attorney General Marty Jackley.

Survey asks “well” or “chaotically”

Results of public opinion surveys sometimes turn on the wording of the question. Morning Consult / Politico reports this morning about a gradual change in results to this one: “Do you think President Donald Trump’s administration is running well or chaotically?”

When Morning Consult asked it in a March 1-5 survey, the results were 39 percent “well” and 54 percent “chaotically.”

The survey March 15-19 found 36 percent “well” and 58 percent “chaotically.”

The latest survey, conducted April 26-May 1 among 1,991 registered voters, showed 32 percent “well” and 62 percent “chaotically.”

Driver-testing closed April 27-28

All South Dakota state driver exam stations will be closed for two days later this week for annual employee training, according to an announcement Monday from the state Department of Public Safety.

Director Jane Schrank said the stations would be closed Friday and Saturday. The only station usually open on Saturdays is in Sioux Falls.

“Unless it is a holiday or inclement weather, like we had earlier this month, we rarely close the driver exam stations,” Schrank said. “But training for employees is also important. We wanted to get this word out now so people can visit the exam station at another time.”

Schrank said drivers have 180 days prior to the expiration date of their licenses to renew. For information about online renewal or documents needed for a license renewal, or locations of exam stations, click http://dps.sd.gov/licensing/driver_licensing/.