Minnehaha GOP leaves 2 of 4 city council seats uncontested, after chair R. Shawn Tornow promised to “chip away at Democratic Party strongholds”

The Sioux Falls City Council* candidate filing deadline was today. And of the four seats up for election, the two seats in the northern half of the city were completely conceded by Minnehaha County Republicans without a fight and without GOP candidates, despite the earlier promise of the County GOP Chair “to chip away at Democrat strongholds” during his race for county party chairman.

In January 2023, the Minnehaha County Republican chairmanship was won by former Republican legislator R. Shawn Tornow who made certain campaign promises:

Tornow said his goals will be shoring up fundraising and local organization, as well as beginning to chip away at some of the Democratic Party’s last strongholds in the state.


“We’d really like to try to recruit good candidates, get more precinct committeepeople involved and fundraising is part of it,” he told Forum News Service.

Read that story here.

Tornow must have actually promised something about eating a bag of chips, and not chipping away at Democrat strongholds, as his first test was a bust where one of city council seats currently held by a Republican was handed away without a shot fired, and no one bothered to provide assistance to a new candidate in another open seat to check to see if he did things correctly.

As the dust settled this evening and the candidate slate was set for Sioux Falls city races, the sole contest where Republicans will have to perform is the at-large seat with former Republican State Representative Richard Thomason bearing the burden of carrying the GOP banner in upcoming city elections against Democrat Allison Renville, and magician Doug Henning  unaffiliated candidate Jordan Deffenbaugh.  This seat is currently held by Republican Councilor Alex Jensen who chose not to run again.

Republicans did retain a currently held position in the Southwest City Council seat which was left uncontested for Sioux Falls Republican Ryan Spellerberg already winning the seat without an election when no other candidates filed by the deadline for the seat where current Republican councilor Marshall Selberg is term limited.

That’s the good news.  The bad news is where the Minnehaha GOP had the opportunity to make a difference, but performed like they did at last years’ Sioux Empire fair, where they skipped the important stuff and just didn’t show up. 

The Northeast District will remain outside the grasp of Republicans after Republican Tarek Maalouf discovered his nominating petitions had been improperly filled out when it was too late, leaving the race Republican free, with Independents Miranda Bayse and David Zokaites running against Libertarian Neil Jeske.

This would have been an opportunity for the county Republican team to show their value in assisting a new candidate. Which they didn’t.

In the Northwest District where Republican Councilman Greg Neitzert was term limited out, his seat was actually handed over to Independent Jennifer Sigette, as no other candidate filed. What happened with the campaign promise of “try to recruit good candidates?

Just didn’t happen. As Yoda from the Empire Strikes back is quoted, “do or do not, there is no try.”

That’s the problem with the group who is currently in charge of the largest Republican County organization in South Dakota.  There is “no try.” No candidate assistance. No candidate training. No candidate recruitment.

Not in the least.

(*And yes, I’m well aware that they are not partisan offices. But that doesn’t mean that parties don’t recruit and assist people to run for them.)

10 thoughts on “Minnehaha GOP leaves 2 of 4 city council seats uncontested, after chair R. Shawn Tornow promised to “chip away at Democratic Party strongholds””

  1. Spellerberg is in the Lincoln portion of Sioux Falls, so the Minnehaha GOP can’t take credit for him, and Richard Thomasson is not exactly a favorite of the far right. The Minnehaha GOP didn’t recruit him either. So, that means Minnehaha didn’t recruit a single City Council candidate.

    Same story with the SFSD school board candidates. There are only two Republicans running. One is Marc Murren who’s running for re-election — most definitely not recruited by the Minnehaha GOP. The other is Stuart Willett, who was recruited by a group that has nothing to do with the Minnehaha GOP. The Minnehaha GOP didn’t recruit a single School Board candidate either.

    Tornow and team are too busy focusing on his power trip and ideological crusade to be bothered with running the Party. Either that, or they’re woefully incompetent and are incapable of running the Party. Honestly, I don’t know which is worse!

  2. Wiik has said repeatedly that the county GOPs need to work on recruiting candidates for city council, school board, and mayoral races. It’s even in the central committee meeting minutes. Tornow is a failure.

  3. I don’t know if this is a fair characterization of the city council races. It’s so hard to get decent candidates to run for city council. It’s a tough job, doesn’t pay much, and it’s hard to make a big impact. So when candidates are recruited, including by the business community, we are looking for good people that want what’s best for Sioux Falls and aren’t overly concerned with party labels. We have more independents running than usual, sure, but Jennifer and Miranda are broadly supported by the Republican business establishment.

    1. Miranda is WAY better than her wacky opponents. She is moderate, but she’s pro-family, & pro-business.

    2. But the Minnehaha GOP didn’t recruit Jennifer and Miranda. So the point still stands: the Minnehaha GOP didn’t recruit a single City Council or School Board candidate.

      If you’re focused on what’s best for the city, as I suspect Matt is, that’s fine. But if you’re focused on what’s best for the Party, that’s a problem.

      1. The Party, he loves us, we love him, it is right to give thanks. War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength!

      2. Aren’t the parties supposed to want what is best for the city?

        The fact they aren’t is why they are irrelevant.

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