Triggered by Senator Alan Solano’s job-related resignation, with a legislative appointment for a vacancy in District 32 still pending in the run up to the 2021 budget address on Tuesday, Governor Kristi Noem picked up indications from two 2 more legislators that they will not be returning.
State Senator Stace Nelson sent out a press release last week declaring he is ‘retiring from politics’ effective December 10th. And just yesterday, State Senator Lynne DiSanto notified the Governor’s office, and announced on Facebook that she’s resigning effective January 1.
These can be added to the number of vacancies Governor Noem has appointed legislators for so far:
- Dayle Hammock to represent District 31 in the House of Representatives, replacing Chuck Turbiville who was elected posthumously.
- Rhonda Milstead to Dist 9 State Senate to replace Sen. Deb Peters.
- Rep. John Lake to District 23 State Senate to replace Sen. Justin Cronin; triggering the need to appoint James “JD” Wangsness to District 23 House.
Now with at least three more appointments pending, Kristi will hit 7 appointments in her first year, after the previous Governor appointed a total of 18 during his entire term of office.
These appointments belong to Governor Noem as the state’s chief executive, and to her alone, as the South Dakota Constitution is fairly explicit in vesting the power of appointment in these instances exclusively with the Governor, noting:
South Dakota State Constitution, Article III § 10: Filling legislative vacancies. The Governor shall make appointments to fill such vacancies as may occur in either house of the Legislature.
South Dakota State Constitution, Article IV § 3: (in part) Whenever a vacancy occurs in any office and no provision is made by the Constitution or laws for filling such vacancy, the Governor shall have the power to fill such vacancy by appointment.
This gives the Governor a large responsibility as well as a unique opportunity to reshape government and state policy as she deems prudent.
But, it’s not as easy a process as you might think.
Given the number of resignations that have been made because of the demands of the job as well as for employment related reasons, the challenge is likely to be more of a case of the ability to secure a diverse group of civic-minded people who can step away from home and their employment for three months a year, and take the pay cut that many business owners and salaried workers exchange for the privilege of serving.
Politically, there’s also the consideration of filling the spots with people capable of running a campaign for the office.
Many years back when I worked for the Republican party, researching the Janklow and mid-Mickelson years to the date I had put pencil to paper, I’d sampled how well new appointees did in their campaigns after appointment. At that time, as many as 50% did not survive their first election. I believe that number has improved significantly over time, but it’s still cause for concern when a Governor chooses who to appoint.
We’ll know more in the coming weeks as the Governor fills vacancies. And we’ll see if any more legislators drop out in the coming months before the election.