10. Jason Gant: Secretary of State is one of the more prominent offices in South Dakota politics, and Jason Gant has shown a strong vision embracing technology to take the SOS office to the next level. Gant, a former 3-term state senator from Sioux Falls defeated a former deputy secretary of state and a former speaker of the House to win the nomination before easily defeating BJ Nesselhuf in the general election.
9. Brian Gosch: Rising to the rank of Speaker Pro Tempore last session, Gosch has shown a great ability for leadership in the State House of Representatives. He is very active in the Rapid City Community. Gosch was originally appointed to the legislature by former Governor Rounds in 2007.
8. Todd Schlekeway: The state senator from district 11 has a very bright future in South Dakota and is often the subject of political rumors for statewide office, but the recent buzz suggests he could more likely be a serious contender for Mayor of Sioux Falls. Schlekeway served in the State House of Representatives before running for State Senate in 2010. Schlekeway brings a tone of civility to an all-too-often coarse political climate.
7. Jon Lauck: Senator Thune?s senior political advisor, Lauck has deep knowledge of political strategy that often makes the difference between winning and losing. He has played an important role in the biggest federal elections in SD in recent years. Lauck is also an accomplished author: Daschle vs. Thune and Prairie Republic.
6. Dusty Johnson: Few can energize a crowd like Dusty Johnson. He rose to prominence in SD GOP circles by defeating Jim Burg in the 2004 PUC race, winning reelection in 2010 with over 70% of the vote and then stepping down when asked to serve as chief of staff to Governor Dennis Daugaard.
5. Ryan Nelson: Nelson serves as Senator John Thune?s Chief of Staff/State Director. He is one of Senator Thune’s closest advisers. Nelson worked with Lauck and they get credit for lining up the stars to encourage a Noem candidacy and helping ensure her success in the 2010 election cycle. It’s also hard argue against Nelson considering his boss is one of only 3 Republican Senators to go unchallenged in the US since direct elections were established in 1913.
4. Russ Olson: No one dominated a contested Senate election more in 2010 than Olson, garnering over 80% of the vote in District 8. He also became Senate Majority leader this past session and is viewed by many as having a very bright political future ahead of him. Olson used to have to deal with blogger Cory Heidelberger as one of his constituents. That alone makes Olson deserving of his ranking.
3. Jason Glodt: If you are going to win elections you need good people. Glodt has become the workhorse for the party over the last decade. He has been the one constant in every election. Whether it?s been John Thune, Mike Rounds, SD GOP Senate, Dennis Daugaard or Kristi Noem on the ballot, Glodt is leading the front lines. We predict he will be worth his weight in gold again in the 2014 senate race.
2. Marty Jackley: Jackley became a rising star in the South Dakota GOP after he was selected as US Attorney for South Dakota under President Bush. He followed that with an appointment to Attorney General of South Dakota by Governor Rounds when Larry Long stepped down to become a circuit court judge. Jackley then went on to receive the endorsements of 65 of 66 SD states attorneys and handily won his own term in 2010.
1. Kristi Noem: Noem shot to the top of our list after last year’s upset win against Chris Nelson in the GOP primary and her upset victory against Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin in last falls Congressional race. She quickly made her mark in the House of Representatives by winning a leadership position among her fellow freshmen.