Intra-caucus politics set to get more interesting for GOP in wake of caucus elections (Part 2 – The House)

Yesterday, after the new Senate leadership team was elected, I started a multi-part series on some of the intra-party battles that are coming to a head with the selection of the new team of legislative leadership.

in Part 1, I had touched slightly on the aftermath of fratricidal food-fight among Rapid City/Black Hills Republicans, and how it had spilled over into a problem that the Senate will have to deal with after State Senator Julie Frye Mueller teamed up with the independent candidate in D35 to defeat one of her Senate colleagues… after the Senate GOP caucus had supported her in her own race.

As bad as that is..Part 2 is a bit worse. Because now it’s the House’s turn to deal with the headaches.

We have the House members who were involved in the postcard where four sitting Republicans endorsed independent Brian Gentry over the Republican Jessica Castleberry in the General Election District 35 Senate Race. And that portion of the tale gets even wilder.

District 35 State Representatives Tina Mulally & Tony Randolph, and D33 State Senator (now State Rep. Elect) Phil Jensen were also in on the postcard attacking their fellow Republican candidate in the general election. Literally, they are the first two on the card endorsing the non-Republican. And here’s where their attacks on their fellow GOP Legislator get even more eyebrow raising.

The South Dakota Federation of Republican Women is a wonderful group which has been around for more decades than can be counted, and the auxiliary’s mission has always been to help get Republicans elected. 

Why do I bring this up? Tina Mulally is the outgoing State Treasurer for the Statewide Republican Women’s organization, and current member of the group’s state executive board as a “member at large”  Except Tina Mulally doesn’t appear to have gotten that memo about supporting Republicans.

Especially when Tina endorsed independent candidate Brian Gentry in the D35 State Senate race over State Senator & fellow Republican woman Jessica Castleberry.


And let’s not forget State Rep. Tony Randolph’s crossing of party lines to support the independent in the race.

Why do we want to remember this going into this weekend’s GOP House Caucus elections?

Because as I understand it, I’m told that after supporting the independent candidate in the election less than a month ago, Tina and Tony are asking to be rewarded for their loyalty and fidelity to the GOP.  The word is that Rep. Randolph is one of the roughly dozen running as a candidate for GOP House Whip. And I’m also told that Rep. Mulally is making noise that she wants to be a legislative committee vice-chair.

We’ll see how that comes out for them.

And then there’s State Rep-elect Phil Jensen.

Phil has done and said a lot of crazy things in his political career (Trust me. Just do a google search on his name and race-based discrimination, and his story on how South Americans allegedly have different skull structures and skin tones from Mexicans), but he’s been on a bit of a tear in the last month or so.

First, we have his appearance on the card attacking one of his fellow Republican Senate colleagues in the general election, which is bad enough.

Odds are that even coming out of the Senate over to the House, GOP leadership was going to have to address it.

But Phil being Phil, OF COURSE he had to go and do something else to throw gasoline on his standing with the incoming class of State Representatives, and burn his reputation down to the ground among his colleagues.

So, here’s the story that I’m hearing that’s been all the buzz among legislators over the course of the last week, which I’ve heard from a number of people by this point.

As the tale has been related to me, I’m told Phil was in attendance at a lunch group in Rapid City, and started relating (I’ve heard either reading a transcript he made or playing a actual recording) of the happenings in the Senate Caucus from this last year.  I’m told he was immediately upbraided by the house members in attendance, with them telling him that it was unethical to record the caucus proceedings, especially without the permission or knowledge of those speaking and in attendance.

If this is what happened, I can’t imagine the legislators who witnessed it are going to advocate that Phil Jensen be a part of House caucus. I mean, would you want to sit next to him and speak honestly about legislative strategy if you knew Phil was going to tape it and use it to his own ends?

At the very least, one of headaches that House Leadership is going to have to deal with is what to do about Tina, Tony & Phil, the sidewinders in their midst.

8 thoughts on “Intra-caucus politics set to get more interesting for GOP in wake of caucus elections (Part 2 – The House)”

  1. Mr. Haugaard is tight with Mr. Jensen and I doubt there will be any fallout. These House fellows seem dumber than all get out and when they elect such fellows, insaner than most, it leads to the Senate having their way with the House and mopping the floor, and the people in the know just laugh and laugh and laugh. The House will never get smarter, not with Mr. Goodwin calling the shots.

    1. If Haugaard wins his election, you are correct that there will be minimal fallout. Which makes this a problem for his candidacy for Leader. Or, at least, it should.

  2. Thanks Pat for these great insights. Your analysis is spot on. The bottom line is that District 30 (House and Senate) and District 33 & 35 (House) are the laughing stocks of the legislature and throughout the state. During my travels, I’ve spoken to many legislators as well as local politicians and citizens across our great state who are “in the know”. When we get to the topic of the SD Legislature the first thing out of their mouths is “what the hell is going on in western SD? Is there something in the water out there?” I really hope that the SD GOP and Pennington County leadership will get a handle on this insanity sooner rather than later. We need sound, thoughtful representation in Pierre, not emotion-driven, bible-thumping, narrow-mindedness that is focused only on those who voted for these folks. Bottom line, all of those elected represent each and every one of us – no matter who we voted for. This important tenant of our democratic republic seems to have been lost in these districts.

    1. I respectfully disagree with your blanket characterizations of West River Legislators. While we have a few loose cannons, so it goes outside of West River and most one-party dominant states as well and we don’t have a monopoly on narrow-mindedness either. We are all in this together, whether East or West River, and I think the overwhelming majority of our legislators do a darn good job advocating for our districts while keeping the interests of all South Dakotans in mind. We have our problems but working together we get an awful lot of stuff right.

      1. Ed,

        The idiot minority spread manure on everyone close. And like it or not, the Party organizations in the Hills have done a horrible job of recruiting reputable, intelligent, conservatives.

        They’ve tolerated bigoted morons for years.

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