It’s worth noting that some folks whose politics are based on what they describe as conservative Christian principles are allowing the public to infer that their work led to the high number of Republican primaries for seats in the South Dakota Legislature. Upon further review, those claims are much like beach sand in some cases, while solid as concrete in others. For now, we’ll look at some of the Republican primaries for Senate:
District 2 — Incumbent senator Art Fryslie of Willow Lake is being challenged for the Republican nomination by Norbert Barrie of Turton. Art tends to be quiet but there are few in the Legislature more conservative than he is. Norbert helped form the Grow Spink County organization that was started a decade ago. This race seems to result most from the new shape and geography of the district, rather than any test of degree of conservativism.
District 4 — Incumbent senator Tim Begalka of Clear Lake is being challenged for the Republican nomination by House Speaker Val Rausch of Big Stone City. This race is happening foremost because Rausch is term-limited in the House. Rausch is one of the House Republican leaders that Rep. Stace Nelson, R-Fulton, and his supporters have been criticizing, after Rausch and House Republican leader David Lust of Rapid City handed down sanctions against Nelson. It’s the Gordon Howie/Bob Ellis wing that’s standing up for Nelson, and Rausch clearly wasn’t recruited by them to run against Begalka, who’s at least as conservative as Rausch if not more so.
District 6 — Ernie Otten Jr. of Tea is active in Lincoln County Republican efforts. He’s big on the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. He’s one of two candidates running for the Republican Senate nominaton. The other is Rep. Gene Abdallah of Sioux Falls. Most of the time Abdallah is pretty conservative, but he has taken some stands that wrinkled Republicans’ brows, such as standing up to gun-rights activists over issues such as weaker concealed-pistol laws, and aligning with Democrat Scott Heidepriem (a law partner of his son, Scott Abdallah) on the attempt to create a path to bring a major casino to Sioux Falls.
District 9 — Incumbent Deb Peters of Hartford is challenged for the Republican Senate nomination by Rep. Lora Hubbel of Sioux Falls. Hubbel might be the most outspoken opponent of Obamacare in the Legislature. She pays a lot of attention to the ways that technology can be used to monitor and track private citizens. She’s shown in her two years in the House that she wasn’t familiar with a lot of state government’s activities. Peters, through her years on the appropriations committee and the government operations and audit committee, has gained a reputation for taking a fine-toothed comb to state government’s finances and spending practices. Peters blurs the line between standard conservative and urban libertarian with her work on gender rights issues and her campaign’s financial support from Equality South Dakota. Hubbel meanwhile was part of the leadership group for IM 10 four years ago, which was an attempt greatly transform South Dakota’s campaign finance and conflict of interest laws; Hubbel and another primary candidate, Steve Sibson of Mitchell, would’t disclose the source of the money that flowed into South Dakota to support the ballot initiative (which lost).
District 12 — Scott Bartlett of Sioux Falls used to be a top figure in the Constitution Party in South Dakota. Now he’s running as a Republican in hope of defeating incumbent Mark Johnston for the Republican Senate nomination. Johnston was career National Guard before he became the first press secretary for Gov. Mike Rounds and before he left state government to work for Sanford health system in Sioux Falls.
District 14 — Incumbent Joni Cutler of Sioux Falls, a Republican, decided against seeking re-election, as Deb Soholt of Sioux Falls, a prominent nurse in the Avera health system, decided to run for the nomination. Soholt is one of two candidates. The other is David B. Rose of Sioux Falls, who was a candidate for the House of Representatives in 2010. Rose finished 52 votes behind Republican Shawn Tornow and 173 votes behind Democrat Marc Feinstein for the two House seats. That he’s running again, after coming that close, isn’t a surprise.
District 20 — Steve Sibson of Mitchell, whose blog rails against fascism (Republicans) as much or more than it takes on liberalism (Democrats), is choosing to run this time as a Republican and challenging incumbent Mike Vehle of Mitchell for the Senate nomination. As Republicans go in the Legislature, Vehle is a shade more liberal at times than most, but his command of numbers and logic earns respect for him in the Senate. One is Chamber of Commerce, the other is Tea Party.
District 24 — The bottom line is that anti-abortion activists don’t trust Rep. Tad Perry of Fort Pierre, who’s running for the Republican nomination to the Senate seat that term-limited Republican Bob Gray of Pierre must surrender. Former Rep. Jeff Monroe of Pierre is running for the nomination too. There’s no Democrat filed.
District 30 — In 2010 rancher and retiree George Ferebee of Hill City lost by 19 votes to banker Bruce Rampelberg of Rapid City for the Republican nomination to succeed Gordon Howie in the Senate seat. This is a rematch of what was last time required a recount.
District 31 — Incumbent Tom Nelson, the mayor of Lead, faces a tough challenge from Lawrence County Commission member Bob Ewing of Spearfish for the Republican Senate nomination. These kind of high-profile battles don’t happen without reason. We’ll find out those reasons in April and May as the Ewing campaign makes its push. There’s no Democrat filed, so June 5 probably will provide the voters’ final answer about whether all of Lawrence County has been ably represented.
District 33 — Incumbent Elizabeth Kraus of Rapid City is retiring from the Senate, and Rep. Phil Jensen of Rapid City is competing against former Rep. Mike Buckingham of Rapid City for the Republican nomination to succeed her. The 2010 victory by Kraus over former legislator J.P. Duniphan of Rapid City in a Republican primary, by 1,721 to 598, showed the strong appetite of many voters for the more socially conservative candidate. Buckingham served from 2003 through 2008 in the House, while Jensen has served from 2009 through present. Buckingham hasn’t been in a legislative primary before (at least not that we can find), while Jensen came within 20 votes of finishing first in a four-way primary for two Republican House nominations in 2008. The same local conservative powers that helped propel Kraus could do the same for Jensen in this district.
District 34 — Incumbent Craig Tieszen of Rapid City faces a challenge for the Republican Senate nomination from Stacey Wollman of Rapid City who runs a pregnancy help center. She’s been featured by Gordon Howie and Bob Ellis, has been active in efforts to outlaw legalized abortion in South Dakota and, some time ago, was an on-air personality for Christian-format radio stations KSLT and KLMP in the Black Hills. Tieszen, who’s been in office since 2009, hasn’t had a Senate primary prior to this one. Tieszen voted against House Bill 1254 this year; the legislation is an attempt to clean up some points in the anti-abortion required-counseling law that was passed last year. Pregnancy centers such as the one managed by Wollman are where the law attempts to steer women for counseling when they are seeking abortions; the law is being challenged in federal court.
Tieszen also voted against the 2011 required-counseling legislation, House Bill 1217, sponsored by Rep. Roger Hunt, R-Brandon. Other Republican senators who voted against it and either have primaries or aren’t running again include Cutler, Johnston, Nelson, Peters, Tieszen, Vehle and Sen. Jeff Haverly, R-Rapid City, who decided against seeking re-election.