The 2018 Legislative session will mark the final legislative session for a handful of legislators who have managed to hold on until the bitter end of their last term, precluding them from running for the same legislative seat again.
And in at least one case, a couple of retirements sets up one of the most hotly contested legislative districts in the state for 2018 right in my backyard.
Here’s the list of who is no longer eligible for their office after 2018, according to the Legislative Research Council:
In the Senate, 2 Republicans and 2 Democrats are done. Jason Frerichs of District 1 is done. Deb Peters of District 10 is termed. Billie Sutton is done, which is likely why he’s rolling the dice for Governor, and Larry Tidemann in my home district (D7) in Brookings has reached the finish line.
In the House, Kris Conzet of District 32 is termed out, Minority Leader Spencer Hawley of Brookings is done in District 7, Tona Rozum of Mitchell (D20), Republican James Schaefer in 26B, as is Burt Tulson in District 2.
How are these vacancies going to affect the landscape? My predictions and thoughts:
Frerichs being termed in District 1 Senate results in no net gain or loss for Republicans, so it’s not worth wasting much breath. Frerichs is still young, so likely he will perform a seat swap with distroct mates McCleery or Susan Wismer. Likely McCleerey, since Wismer is a House whip at this point, and recently returned to her house seat after losing to Daugaard in the last Gubernatorial race.
Deb Peters in D10 Senate is more interesting. At one time, that legislative District was a bit more competitive, bringing us Paula Hawks, and this last election brought us Michael Saba who seemed to be a better quality of candidate than Democrats usually provide. However, Saba handily fell to Steinhauer and Mike Clark.
Senator Deb Peters, who was just elected president of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), is one of the state’s best on-the ground campaigners in addition to being one of the legislature’s point people on the budget. If she decides she wants a house seat, it very well may be hers. I’d put the odds at 50-50% that she’ll switch with Steinhauer or Clark, and run for the House.
Billie Sutton is in for Governor already from District 21, meaning the likely scenario will be the legislature’s resident somewhat conservative Democrat, Julie Bartling, will be running for Senate again. Qualm is House Majority Leader, so he’s not going to swap and challenge the seat.
However, I have heard of an interesting prospect that may run for the open seat (stay tuned for more on that later down the line).
And then we’re down to Brookings, which is going to be a wild ride next election. This has always been a faithful seat for the GOP, but this double term limit sets it up for a serious contest.
Senator Larry Tidemann – who is well liked in this more moderate college town – has held the seat definitively. But, all good things must come to an end, as he has been termed out. After having retired from SDSU, and having served in both the House and the Senate, Tidemann is probably going to call his service to the citizens of South Dakota complete in the Legislature.
In the House in D7, Democrat Minority Leader Spence Hawley is termed out. Again, for Dem’s, he’s been a fairly safe seat in this moderate college town. Unless Hawley is sick of being in the legislature, there’s a 95% chance he’s going to run for Senate. And frankly, he could be a challenge for Republicans if he decides to do so.
Who might run? Former Mayor Tim Reed who was just elected to the House seems more inclined to remain in the House for the time being, as opposed to hopping chambers right away. It remains to be seen if Republican Doug Post, who challenged Tidemann for the Republican Nomination for State Senate in 2016 and lost, can compete in what will be a difficult marquee race in a swing district.
The best chance for Republicans would be if the popular former State Rep. Scott Munsterman considers the race. He could handily beat Hawley out for the seat, in a contest which both parties would probably shift resources towards to swing the open seat their way.
Looking at the House seats, in D32, Conzet probably won’t challenge Alan Solano, who has proven to be a reliable conservative voice, and good campaigner in the State Senate, and may sit out a term or so should she decide to continue her political career, leaving an open seat.
Mitchell will have an open seat with Rozum’s departure.. and there’s always rumors about Carson possibly deciding to pass… maybe setting up a pair of open seats.
With Schaefer termed out in 26B, I’m hearing rumors of a person or two looking at it already. Although, I also hear rumors of Heinert (in D26 Senate) taking a new job, so that district could end up being a free for all.
And in District 2, with reliable Republican Burt Tulson calling it a day, that leaves an open seat in the House, with no prospects for the Senate opening up with Senator Brock Greenfield in Leadership.
Looking at that legislative makeup for District 2 – If you weren’t aware, Brock’s mom Lana Greenfield is in the House in that District – I might have to start a new committee – Draft Don Greenfield for House! (Don’s a great guy, I’d love to see him there too!)