The 2017 State Senate. Caucus elections on Saturday.

Because I’m a visual person, I thought it would be a worthwhile exercise to map out a seating chart for the incoming State Senate just to show how the 2017 incarnation of the South Dakota State Senate is going to look:


It’s a timely topic, as in 2 days time on Saturday the Republican members of the State Senate are heading to Pierre to hold Caucus elections to determine who will be leading the group.

Who do I hear is running?   At the moment, I’m hearing those who could be making a bid for Majority Leader include incoming Senator Jim Bolin, who spent some time going door to door and helping other Senate candidates in the past few weeks before the election. His major handicap would be that this is his first term as a Senate.

Senator Blake Curd is also pegged as looking at the Majority Leader Position. He’s been around he Senate for quite a while, so is familiar with the process and the players. His downside is that as a surgeon and his work at the Sioux Falls Specialty Hospital, his plate isn’t exactly empty. He’s tremendously busy.

Senator Alan Solano is also said to be looking at the Majority Leader Position. After being appointed by the Governor, he’s won election on his own right a couple of times now, so he’s also familiar with the workings of the Senate. Alan is as conservative as any in the Senate – just ask the NRA or SDRTL who both rank him highly. But for some reason, the hard right has targeted him, and tried to take him out in a primary as not being conservative enough.

There’s also talk of Senator Ernie Otten throwing his hat in the ring, but I’ve only heard that from one source.

Who is in the chase for Assistant Majority Leader? Senator Ryan Maher is the lone person I’ve confirmed as seeking the office at the moment. This is important, because under caucus rules, you don’t drop down if you lose. You run for one office, and one office only.

Incoming Senator Lance Russell is also mentioned as running in an e-mail being sent out of Rapid City by some unknown group (Update – I’m told it’s Citizens for Liberty) trying to convince legislators to vote for their choices. I spoke with Lance today, and I don’t think that’s going to happen.

President Pro Tempore sounds as if it’s going to be a choice of Senator Gary Cammack versus Senator Brock Greenfield. This could be close

While Cammack has the job right now, the Senate has become far more conservative. In addition, Brock has been in the Legislature a great number of years, and has shown a great deal of interest in running for the position, including going out campaigning for some of the races. This may be Brock’s year, and if so, it’s going to be a big year.

I’m hearing that at this late hour, Senators Phil Jensen and Bob Ewing both are looking at running for Majority Whip positions – and considering there’s 29 Senators, there’s probably room for both of them, and more!

Getting back to the e-mail that’s going out to Senators trying to campaign and sway their votes in the closed caucus election process. This went out at 3am this morning…

From: Bobbe Helmerick
Date: November 10, 2016 at 3:38:44 AM CST
Subject: Senate Leadership Election

Dear Senator Elect:

Please reject the corrupt practice of quid pro quo when choosing leaders in the South Dakota Senate.  South Dakotans have had enough of corruption and the appearance of impropriety in our state government – it’s time to stop it.  

As a first step toward that goal, I ask you to support Brock Greenfield for the position of President Pro Tempore, Ryan Maher for Majority Leader, and Lance Russell for Assistant Majority Leader. 

Brock has promised to equitably distribute committee chairmanships among Senators willing and able to take those positions rather than concentrate power in the hands of a few.  He has promised to use the knowledge and experience of each Senator as a guide to determine suitable committee assignments, and to give fair and timely hearing for all bills in appropriate committees.  He has put this promise in writing.    

Ryan has demonstrated solid leadership during his legislative career.  Under his guidance as chairman of the Executive Board, an independent audit of the LRC was conducted.  As a result, many needed reforms and infrastructure improvements that benefit both houses were accomplished.  

Lance has served for eight years in the House.  He is known for his wise approach to difficult issues.  He has earned the respect of his colleagues who depend on his thoughtful deliberation and helpful demeanor.  His judicious approach to leadership makes him a perfect choice for this leadership team.  

Please help to restore the people’s trust in their state government and cast your vote for these worthy candidates:  Brock Greenfield, Ryan Maher, and Lance Russell!

R.D. Helmerick

The letter gets a lot of things wrong, such as Maher running for Majority Leader, a race which he has directly told me he’s not running in. Which is why I’m not sure on Lance Russell running.

So, who is Bobbe Helmerick, and why is he trying to influence these elections? If you don’t know who Bobbe Helmerick is (I know I didn’t) google him, and you will find him here at the SDWC:

Dear [redacted],

Dennis Daugaard is not the only candidate for SD Governor.

Lora Hubbel, another Republican, is challenging him.


Bobbe Helmerick
Hubbel Campaign scheduler

Read that here.

So, the person pushing a caucus dream slate was the Hubbel Campaign Scheduler?   Given the paranoid tone of the e-mail, I’m not shocked.  (Update – I’m now hearing this is all being coordinated by Citizens for Liberty in Rapid City)

I wouldn’t hold it against any of those Senators mentioned in the e-mail, because they’re all good guys, and I consider all of them friends.

10 Replies to “The 2017 State Senate. Caucus elections on Saturday.”

  1. Wild Speculation

    Republican Breakdown:

    11 for Cammack:
    White, Partridge, Youngberg, Solano, Cammack, Cronin, Rusch, Soholt, Tidemann, Peters and Haverly will go with Cammack in my opinion

    14 for Greenfield:
    Wiik, Tapio, Russell, Jensen, Monroe, Nelson, Stalzer, Klumb, Langer, Bolin, Maher, Haggar, Ewing, and Greenfield will vote for Greenfield

    4 Toss ups:
    Otten, Curd, Kolbeck, Novstrup will be tossups.

    18 votes are needed to win on the floor.

    6 Democrats can vote from the floor: Frerichs, Sutton, Nesiba, Killer, Kennedy and Heinert

    I’ve heard that Appropriations and Education committee chairmanships are up for grabs if Greenfield wins and the several that Cammack Chairs. Peters and Soholt have worked hard against Greenfield and his supporters want a shake up of committees if he wins. Bolin would likely be on education and Novstrup would run appropriations.

    Let’s not forget that Democrats also get to vote on President in session so Greenfield could win the caucus and lose on the floor. I don’t necessarily think the Republicans would vote against Greenfield on the floor but it could happen.

    18 votes are needed to win. If Greenfield got all of the toss ups he would have 18. If not he’s stuck below and that means the Democrats could make a deal.

    Majority Leader: Bolin or Curd are both good. I’m surprised they would run against each other.

    Assistant: I like White and I like Maher. It’s hard for me to see why White would lose if he is running.

    1. Anonymous

      The pro life pro family values advocates that want greenfield will insist that Peters and Soholt go down.

      Someone will need to unify the party in Pierre and Daugaard hasn’t tried and neither has the current leadership other than Mickelson.

      Very interesting to watch how this plays out.

  2. Richard Hilgemann

    I will be encouraging senators to vote for Brock as well. I don’t agree with that other groups assertion about prior practices being “corrupt” in any way. I just think he’s the best guy for the job.

  3. Troy Jones

    Brock, Ryan, and Lance have to be cringing as they can feel people on the fence having second thoughts. As unfair as it is, too often people are influenced (consciously or unconsciously) by the most “out there” supporters. Further, too often unsolicited support can be worse than silence.

    1. Anonymous

      I agree Troy…..I’d like to see Brock be the President Pro Temp…but why did this group doa flyer int eh first place….more harm than help…