Monthly Archives: March 2012

Looking at some Republican primaries for state Senate…

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.




Regent leadership re-elected

The slate of officers for the South Dakota Board of Regents will remain in place for a second year: Kathryn Johnson of Hill City as president, Dean Krogman of Brookings as vice president and Randy Schaefer of Madison as secretary. The decision was made at the board’s meeting last week in Aberdeen. The regents govern the state universities and the two special schools.

Goodbye 18

Our unofficial count shows 18 current legislators — seven senators and 11 representatives — who aren’t seeking a return to the Legislature in the 2012 elections as of this week’s filing deadline to participate in the June 5 primary elections.

Term limits account for some of those decisions. In the Senate, Democrat Jim Hundstad of Bath and Republicans Bob Gray of Pierre and Tom Hansen of Huron chose to retire rather than seek seats in the House of Representatives. The term-limits story was different for House members, however. Republicans Jamie Boomgarden of Chancellor, Thomas Brunner of Nisland, Roger Hunt of Brandon and Chuck Turbiville of Deadwood took retirement. But Republican Val Rausch and Democrat Steve Street are running for Senate, both in District 4, with Rausch challenging Republican Sen. Tim Begalka of Clear Lake in a primary. Democrat Paul Dennert of Columbia bought a home in Aberdeen so that he could switch districts and challenge Republican Sen. Al Novstrup of Aberdeen in District 3.

Those voluntarily walking away without the barrier of term limits are doing so for a variety of reasons. Four are Republican senators: Joni Cutler of Sioux Falls, Jeff Haverly of Rapid City, Elizabeth Kraus of Rapid City and Eldon Nygaard of Vermillion. In the House there are Democrats Elaine Elliott of Aberdeen, Ed Iron Cloud III of Porcupine and David Sigdestad of Pierpont; and Republicans Brian Liss of Sioux Falls, Nick Moser of Yankton, Ed Van Gerpen of Avon and Kim Vanneman of Ideal.

The age of reason

South Dakota law sets a process for mandatory retirement of state Supreme Court justices and state circuit judges after they reach 70 years of age. Interestingly, we have at least three retired circuit judges now seeking election to other public offices this year. Max Gors, 67, is running as a Republican for Hughes County state’s attorney. Larry Lovrien, 60, is running as a Republican for Brown County state’s attorney. Timothy Johns, 63, is running as a Republican for the state House of Representatives. As for the ages of our five current Supreme Court justices, the senior-most is John Konenkamp, 67. The others, by order of appointment to the high court: Chief Justice David Gilbertson is 62, Steve Zinter 61, Glen Severson 63 and Lori Wilbur 59. By the way, the legislation that Senate Republican leader Russ Olson of Wentworth introduced, which would have extended the mandatory retirement age by allowing judges and justices to serve out the remainders of their terms after age 70, was amended and then defeated during the 2012 session.

So who still has a free ride to Legislature?

Candidates continued Wednesday to qualify for the June 5 primary election ballots, as their petitions arrived by registered mail sent prior to the March 27 5 p.m. deadline. Senate Democratic leader Jason Frerichs of Wilmot and Senate Republican leader Russ Olson of Wentworth still don’t have challengers. Neither does Democratic Sen. Angie Buhl of Sioux Falls, Republican Sen. Corey Brown of Gettysburg, Democratic Sen. Jim Bradford of Pine Ridge, Republican Sen. Ryan Maher of Isabel, Republican Sen. Larry Rhoden of Union Center, Republican Sen. Stan Adelstein of Rapid City, or Rep. Mark Kirkeby of Rapid City, who’s running for an open Senate seat in District 35. That’s a total of nine uncontested Senate seats, six held by Republicans and three by Democrats. That means the battle for Senate majority will be for the other 26 seats. Overall, Republicans currently have a 30-5 majority in the Senate this term.

The question now seems to be not whether Republicans will keep a Senate majority but whether it will continue to be as large. That’s because the Democrats also don’t have candidates for Senate in a handful of other districts where there are Republican primaries. Those are:

District 24, where Rep. Tad Perry of Fort Pierre and former Rep. Jeff Monroe of Pierre are running;

District 30, where Sen. Bruce Rampelberg of Rapid City is challenged by George Ferebee of Hill City;

District 31, where Sen. Tom Nelson of Lead is challenged by Lawrence County Commission member Bob Ewing of Spearfish;

District 33, where Republican Sen. Elizabeth Kraus of Rapid City is retiring, and Rep. Phil Jensen of Rapid City and former Rep. Mike Buckingham are competing on the GOP side to succeed her; and

District 34, where Republican Sen. Craig Tieszen of Rapid City faces a primary challenge from Stacey Wollman of Rapid City.

There are seven more districts where Republicans have Senate primaries and the winners will face a Democrat in November. One is District 14, where Republican Sen. Joni Cutler of Sioux Falls officially declared this week she won’t seek re-election. Cutler instead spoke highly of the candidacy of Deb Soholt of Sioux Falls, who’s in a Republican primary with David Rose of Sioux Falls; the winner of their June 5 primary would next face Democrat Travis Dahle of Sioux Falls.

On the House side, the situation automatically is more complex because in all but a handful of districts there are two seats up for at-large election. There also are several single-member House subdistricts that are designed, pursuant to federal law, to provide a better chance  for American Indian people to be elected or to elect their preferred candidate, for voting-rights purposes.

Up in the Democratic stronghold of District 1 the Republicans haven’t fielded any candidates to run against Democratic incumbents, Rep. Susan Wismer of Britton and Rep. Dennis Feickert of Aberdeen. Democrats meanwhile send forth only one candidate, former legislator Dorothy Kellogg of Watertown, who is 91, against the two Republican incumbents from Watertown in District 5, Rep. Melissa Magstadt, 42, and Rep. Roger Solum, 57. Republicans don’t have any House candidates in District 15, where three Sioux Falls-area Democrats have a primary for those two seats. Republicans have just one candidate for House in District 17, while Democrats have two, down in the Vermillion-Hurley-Viborg area, where there aren’t any incumbents running for House. Democrats meanwhile only have a single official candidate in District 19, while four Republicans are in a primary, including one former Democrat and two Republican legislators, Rep. Stace Nelson of Fulton and Sen. Jim Putnam of Armour. Democrats came up with one challenger to District 20’s Republican incumbents, Rep. Lance Carson of Mitchell and Rep. Tona Rozum of Mitchell. Republican incumbents in District 23, Rep. Justin Cronin of Gettysburg and Rep. Charles Hoffman of Eureka, are unopposed by Democrats. There are no Democrats filed in District 24, but there are three Republicans — incumbent Rep. Mark Venner of Pierre, former Rep. Tim Rounds of Pierre and Mary Duvall of Pierre — still running, after Terry Leibel of Pierre dropped out in the wake of Rounds getting into the race Tuesday. Democrats have just one House candidate in District 25 and none in western districts 29, 30, and 31. The oddest situation might be District 27, where Democratic incumbent Kevin Killer of Pine Ridge is running, as is Republican Elizabeth May of Kyle, in a heavily Democratic-registration area; perhaps petitions are still coming through the registered mails. Democrats are also fielding just one House candidate in each of Rapid City-area districts 32, 33 and 34.

Republicans have Senate primaries in 12 districts and House primaries (where at least three Republicans are running) in 15 districts. Democrats don’t have any Senate primaries and have three House primaries, including one in a single-member subdistrict.

The list of candidates could change somewhat in the months ahead, because independents face a June 5 filing deadline.


The right man for the job

Having spent some hours yesterday afternoon and evening in the federal courtroom of U.S. District Judge Roberto Lange, the same impression came to mind as did after watching him through a tribal-corruption trial last year. He is a natural. He knows his law, he’s patient, he’s got personality, he clearly does his home work and he has a mind that connects with his mouth in the best ways. His father is former legislator Gerald Lange, D-Madison, whose 84th birthday was Feb. 19, and who spent 18 years in the state House and Senate. Here’s a coincidence: Bob Lange is one of two current U.S. district judges in South Dakota whose fathers were Democratic legislators. The other is Judge Karen Schreier, whose father, Harold Schreier of Flandreau, served five terms in the Senate from 1971 through 1980. He passed away in 1987. She’s married to lobbyist and lawyer Tim Dougherty, whose father was the late great Bill Dougherty, the former lieutenant governor and lobbyist. And here’s another coincidence. South Dakota’s senior U.S. District judge, Lawrence Piersol, now 71, was a legislator for two terms in the early 1970s, including two years as the Democrats’ majority leader in 1973-74. And, continuing down that path, U.S. District Judge (and old friend) Charles Kornmann was a long-time lobbyist at the Legislature and was a Democratic organizer in his younger days. If you want to understand one of the political legacies of the years that Tom Daschle and Tim Johnson have been in the U.S. Senate and there were Democrats in the Oval Office of the White House, look no further than those four.

We’ll get a full rundown on legislative races later today

Running three directions at times Tuesday left little to no time for posting here. We’ll provide some analysis of legislative races later this morning. And did we mention the single-seat House subdistrict 26A now has FOUR Democrats running in its primary? Check back later for much more.

And 26A gets more intriguing

There are now three Democrats (and no Republican) running for the single seat in state House sub-district 26A. Latest to enter is Trent Poignee Sr. of Mission. He joins Troy Heinert of Mission and Whitney Meek of Mellette (that’s the address on the secretary of state’s web site, but Mellette is up around Redfield) on the Democrats’ June 5 primary ballot.

Yes, it’s Julie Bartling

Former legislator Julie Bartling of Burke, who didn’t seek re-election to the Senate in 2010 because she was the Democrats’ candidate for state auditor, is trying to get back into the state House where she began her time as a lawmaker. Bartling joined the field today in District 21, where the three other candidates for the two House seats so far are Democrat Gary Coleman of Dante and Republicans Lee Qualm of Platte and Rep. Dave Scott of Geddes. Scott was appointed to the seat by Gov. Dennis Daugaard last fall in the shuffle after Sen. Cooper Garnos of Presho resigned, Rep. Kent Juhnke of Vivian was appointed to the Senate seat and the Juhnke vacancy was filled by Scott.

Sen. Putnam seeks return to House

Sen. Jim Putnam of Armour did as expected and filed his candidacy papers to run for the state House of Representatives. The acceptance of his paperwork today means District 19 now has three Republicans seeking the party’s two slots on the November ballot, although it’s been widely reported elsewhere one of the three, Kyle Schoenfish of Scotland, was a highly active Democrat in the very recent past. Putnam, Schoenfish and Rep. Stace Nelson of Fulton are the three candidates in the June 5 Republican primary. The lone candidate filed as a Democrat so far is Alan Fenner of Menno.