The hunt for South Dakota’s Next Governor. Who will we be choosing in 2018?

Dovetailing off of my earlier post on Secretary of State Shantel Krebs talking like she’s running for Governor, it bring up a question of who all we’ll actually see in the field running for the office.

I thought I’d put this up to see if we can fill in the blanks from the Crystal Ball based on precedent, the current landscape, and throwing darts into the wind.


There is absolutely no doubt that Attorney General Marty Jackley and incoming House Speaker Mark Mickelson are firmly in the race. And except for the fact that Congresswoman Noem has to dispatch sacrificial lamb Paula Hawks, I’d say that she would be a sure thing.

But instead, we need to wait for December or so for confirmation.

From there, it gets a lot murkier. Lt Governor Matt Michels does his job quietly, but being at the podium this past weekend at the GOP convention, Matt showed us that we should not forget about him as time goes by.

Michels might be less likely than Noem to run, but as a familiar face to politicos and donors, he’s got a lot more game than many people might think, with extensive connections to this state’s healthcare and legal industries.  In other words, he has resources people might not credit him for. And he’s an exceedingly approachable and friendly guy.

As noted earlier today, Secretary of State Shantel Krebs giving speeches on the budget, and challenging other agencies on the same, as well as talking about our tax structure are topics far broader than the confines of her office. You don’t give speeches on those things, unless you want people to talk about it.

And given the level of comments and attention my post is getting, people are talking.

From there, we start throwing darts.

Given the reality of South Dakota politics, I suspect we can anticipate we will see a Tea Party Candidate running on the Republican ticket in the vein of Gordon Howie, Lora Hubbel, or Stace Nelson, if Nelson catches another case of legislator-itis. It might not be any of them, but there will be a close alignment.

They’ll be out there proclaiming they’re the true Republican in the race, but will probably lack the money or organization to make a significant dent. The Tea Partiers enjoy some level of support from the base of the party, as they say the right things, but they have yet to be able to produce a candidate with charisma, or to translate that into hard dollars for advertising – two important factors that actually help in winning a race.

If they don’t feel a native son like Marty Jackley represents them sufficiently, someone may arise from West River Farmers & Ranchers to talk about agriculture and grasslands issues. We saw that with Larry Rhoden in the past US Senate Race, and Ken Knuppe in the last open Governor’s contest. Don’t be shocked to see someone roll the dice and enter the GOP race for Governor wearing a cowboy hat. I think it could happen.

And then we have what I call “Random Legislator.” That person who has been elected to represent their constituents in Pierre who just can’t get the concept of being Governor out of their head, is looking at the landscape, and doesn’t feel they can wait for another race with no incumbent to open up in 2026.  That’s a long, long time off. They might feel the best time is to roll the dice now (in 2018), and they have both the dream and the drive.

Being “Random legislator” isn’t always a bad thing. Ask former Governor and current US Senator Mike Rounds how it worked for him. They key there is for this person to have some money, experience in statewide efforts, and some sort of statewide network. Mike had helped races long before he was elected to anything, and had an energized staff.  I’d argue, while he wasn’t a legislator yet, Scott Munsterman also fit this archetype.

On the Democrat side, there are two. Literally. That’s all they have on their bench. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin and Mike Huether.

Huether is already running for all practical purposes. He wants it so bad, he can taste it.

I argue Herseth Sandlin might not be 100% confidence that she’s running, as she’s quietly below the radar for now. I can’t help but think she might be looking at her stock portfolio and $500k plus salary at Raven and asking herself “why do I want to take a massive pay cut, move to Pierre, and get my butt kicked by a Republican Legislature who attacks me at every turn?”

Common sense might keep her out.

So readers – What do you think I omitted, or what do you disagree with? Sound off in the comments!

59 Replies to “The hunt for South Dakota’s Next Governor. Who will we be choosing in 2018?”

  1. Pat Powers Post author

    I’m sure we probably need to add “random independent goofball” to the list. There’s sure to be one.

  2. Anonymous

    Excellent overview.

    Only addition: If Herseth doesn’t run, there is a chance that another Democrat challenges Huether. Mayor Mike is not tied in with Democratic legislators and the party faithful may see him as too moderate. Just as Bernie Hunhoff recruited Susan Wismer to challenge Joe Lowe, you could see someone like Billie Sutton, Jason Frerichs, or even Paula Hawks challenge Mayor Mike.

        1. Anonymous

          Or how about Joe Lowe running again…denied in 2012, he could at least argue that the party made a mistake…

  3. MC

    Pat, I have to say you’re mighty brave putting all this out there. Four years ago who would have thought we would have Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton?

    somehow I don’t think we are done yet.

    Two years is a long ways off a lot can change

    1. Pat Powers Post author

      Oh, I agree. But armchair quarterbacking is a professional sport in South Dakota politics, and everyone wants to put their 2 cents in.

  4. Red

    Everything I hear from my political friends is that they really like Noem being in Congress, but they don’t want her to leave that seat open and run for governor.

  5. Former SF Voter

    Shantel Krebs reminds me a lot of Bill Janklow. What you see is what you get and it’s not scripted party talking points.

    Please insert Lee Schoenbeck as the random legislator. He is a great guy and always formidable. He is the smartest political mind I’ve met.

    Kristi is the wild card here.

    When Rounds won he had $150k and Barnett had $1.7 million and Kirby $2.5 million. SD voters are smart and know what they want. Money is important but so is being the right candidate at the right time with the right message and qualifications. All the money in the world did not help Jeb Bush. Money doesn’t matter if the voters don’t like you.

    1. Charlie Hoffman

      Schoenbeck is just damn honest and incredibly intelligent and loyal. Something horribly lacking in politics today.

    2. Anonymous

      South Dakota hasn’t had a credible female candidate for governor in almost 90 years. Now we have two. What a great opportunity for SD.

      I’d like to know what the female primary voters think of Kristi, Shantel, Marty, Matt and Mark.

      1. Anonymous

        Credible in that they could actually win, or credible because they’d be a good governor? I agree with the former but not with the latter. Stephie would vote for Hillary in the general, and that shows total support of Socialism and anti-American values, so she would be a crappy governor. I don’t care about her family name-it means nothing to me.

    1. Liberty Dick

      I was going to say the same thing… He was arguably the biggest loser this around lately. Even the Democrat he donated to lost.

  6. Anonymous

    Noem 75% in? Then it’s a done deal. The race is decided.

    I’ve not seen any indication from her in 6 months to a year.

  7. Anonymous

    I would like to have a governor who doesn’t get all soft and squishy later in his tenure, like Daugaard. I want somebody who has solid conservative principals that won’t fall to the wayside when he or she has been in for a few years.

  8. Anonymous

    I like Jackley, but there’s a lot of moderates in this group. Didn’t Krebs take campaign money from [redacted] group when she was a legislator some years back?

    (Guys, if you’re going to throw stuff out that’s borderline scurrilous, post a link. I’m not going to hunt it down. -P)

  9. Anonymous

    I think Shantel Krebs is quickly becoming the darling of those who want to challenge the status quo in Pierre. Good place to be for votes not necessarily for kudos from the establishment or big checks from elite donors.

    Shantel has masterfully set herself up for a run at something big.

    1. Anonymous

      This is hilarious. The Krebs’ have either been in the legislature or the governors office for the last 14years.
      Shantell will not get to run as an outsider. She’s far from it.

      If Pierre is ‘corrupt’……well by golly…..that 14 year tenure may get some attention.

  10. Lee Schoenbeck

    I have it on good authority that Schoenbeck isnt running for anything, except his cabin in the Black Hills

  11. Lee Schoenbeck

    PS I see somebody disparaging my support of the prolife Democrat in the Cathedral district. When you see what a nut you got instead, you’ll all wish you had been going door to door for my friend that lost. I wish I was kidding.

  12. Thru my eyes

    Lee Schoenbeck threw in the towel when he went all liberal. Highest tax raise in State history, he can take anointed one with him to the Hills.

    We need a person who has the ability to say no and to stand up for what is right. Jackley, Krebs, Noem, Michaels (if he can get the 180 lb Duagaard off his back) ??? It’s great to have awesome choices.

      1. Anonymous

        I doubt Marty would want someone like Shantel anywhere near him. He’s a straight shooter. When you talk to Shantel, you always have to check your back for a knife.

        1. Anonymous

          Sounds like sour grapes.

          His straight shooting just doesn’t get anywhere. Mickelson had to propose the conflict legislation. Krebs had to get rid of the SOS problems. A different Marty in the auditor Generals office had to uncover gear up. I thought the AG was the top cop? Why does he always take so long and the back seat? Oh yes and Matt Michels had to create the butt kissing board of internal controls that doesn’t post audio of the meetings online so those that have to work can listen in the evening.

          Nothing from the AG.

          1. Anonymous

            We need an attorney general who has a proven record of fighting crime and corruption. Russell fought corruption and has paid a political price for doing so. He is the first republican to call for Melody Schopp’s resignation. The problem is he is too conservative to be nominated by the South Dakota GOP convention.

            1. Anonymous

              You may want to ask around to those who have been to a convention. The party die hards LOVE Russell and will turn out for him. Excellent choice for AG.

          2. Anon.

            Pat Miller smoothed out a lot in the Gant administration. A lot of the bumps where behind the current SOS.

        2. Anonymous

          Shantel is a climber that would step on Marty on her way up and never look back. We don’t need that in South Dakota. Marty needs someone he can trust and Krebs isn’t it.

  13. Troy Jones

    Mark Mickelson is entitled to nothing and he knows it. His dad didn’t win a hard-fought primary for any reason than he worked harder than anyone else and convinced people he had the best vision for South Dakota at that time. Mark’s challenge and opportunity is the same. His only advantage that comes from his family experience is he observed first-hand what it takes to win. He must think he is up to it and I think anyone who under-estimates Mark is going to be surprised.

    The comments about Lee Schoenbeck being a liberal are hilarious. Except a hyperbolic reaction to him believing we have an obligation to pay market rate salaries for our K-12 teachers, Lee has a career of being an EFFECTIVE legislator for conservative social and fiscal priorities. Instead of ranting, he moved the ball as effectively as anyone in the last 20 years.

    1. Anonymous

      Effective at taxing and spending. Those are usually liberal qualities. He is best in retirement. The Watertown district repudiated his politics just a couple of weeks ago.

      1. jimmy james

        Yup. RINO’s everywhere. Schoenbeck must be one too??

        But not Trump… who became a Republican the day before yesterday.

          1. jimmy james

            There are 50 States, 435 Congressional districts and thousands of legislative districts. Some folks seem to think that an elected representative is not a real Republican if they do not personally agree with them 100% of the time.

            Each of those districts have their own needs and desires. They may or may not exactly match up with yours but the job of their elected officials is to represent them… not you.

            1. Anonymous

              Or if they agree with the democrats most of the time, like Schoenbeck and his defense of illegal immigration, taxing and spending. I seem to remember he was against the death penalty, too. Just another RINO.

    2. Anonymous


      My honest opinion is that no one is underestimating Mark Mickelson but I do believe a lot of people are overestimating his ability to get elected. He’s smart. He’s nice enough. He’s got a lot of big checks coming his way.

      If you have seen him speak you will know what I’m talking about. He is underwhelming as a candidate. His ideas are very moderate. He is lethargic. I’m glad he is running. He has BIG ideas – many of them I disagree with. But if his last name wasn’t Mickelson he would not have the kind of backing with $$$ he does. Most would scratch their heads.

      Marty doesn’t have the vision that Mark has. He really needs to come up with something. He doesn’t have the charisma that Kristi Noem, Shantel Krebs and Matt Michels have. He’s honest and hardworking. He needs to know what he wants to do and it can’t be I’m going to do what’s always been done it can’t be all about being a cop.

      In that Kelo story about Krebs I heard more passion, more vision and more ideas that motivate me than what I have heard from either of these two so far. I know they have some great ideas so I’ll stay tuned but right now they are the two candidates running and I’m not fired up about either.

      Equally with Michels. He gets it and has so much vision and leadership that just oozes off of him. He would be so great and inspiring as a candidate. Maybe I just want to be wowed and inspired in 2018.

      1. Krebs 2018

        Krebs has a vision and passion for the future of SD and it starts with ability to root out corruption. That’s all she needs to run on.

  14. Anonymous

    I hope Michels runs. I really think that he would be a true public servant. Even if he didn’t win he would bring so much good to the process and the debate. For the good of SD he needs to be in this race.

  15. Troy Jones

    Anonymous 10:08:

    I’ve been around politics so long to know this far out sometimes it is the tortoise who wins. In 1986, nobody gave George Mickelson a chance against Lt. Governor Hansen, former Congressman Roberts, and Secretary of State Kundert. I remember being at the Codington County GOP Lincoln Day dinner in ’85 and frankly I was embarrassed because compared to Roberts and Kundert, Mickelson laid an egg. Afterwards it was clear the consensus was Roberts and Kundert did best but both Senator Abdnor and old pro Coddington County politico Liz Green said they thought Mickelson laid a foundation upon which he could expand his support whereas Kundert and Roberts just solidified what they had.

    My point: A lot can happen over the next two years. Sometimes you notice and can identify the shifting sands and sometimes it just creeps up on you.

    1. Anonymous

      George had more charisma. He was like SD’s version of JFK. Mark is visionary.

      Was Kundert considered a legitimate candidate? Did she honestly have a chance or was she past her prime and giving it one last go?

  16. Lt Krebs

    If Mark Mickelson took Shantel as as Lt. Marty wouldn’t stand a chance. Her accomplishments and his name would crush Ag Jackley in Sioux Falls and west river.

    1. Anonymous

      I agree. Both Mickelson and Jackley are foolish if they overlook Krebs for LG. She has a lot of statewide support. She’s smart, energetic and attractive. And she’s got a stronger record of accomplishment and turnaround than either.

      Who was the last person to challenge an incumbent in their own party on a statewide level? Janklow in 1986?