Who will lead the House and the Senate in 2023? Here are the current leadership contests that are taking place in the GOP Caucuses

The battle for Republican Leadership is less of a battle at this point, as much as nudging and elbowing as people position themselves in line.  Who are the names that you should keep an eye on as we roll past November 8, and Republican legislators plan to get together amongst themselves to decide who will be leading the Class of 2023?


Coming off previous sessions in the House, which many outside observers rate the running of the State House from poor (under Steve Haugaard) to dysfunctional (under Spencer Gosch), at least on the surface, there seems to be an appetite for a change. Now, that’s not a guarantee that the House and Senate are going to get along and agree on everything, but there’s the possibility that a Republican House would spend more time governing than attacking the Republican Governor.

Who are the players to keep an eye on in the various contests for leadership?  Things can develop quickly, and a lot of how races come out will depend on which Republicans are sent to Pierre in the fall.

Speaker of the House:

This is the big contest. In the House, the Speaker has the authority to decide committee assignments, seating, and a host of other official duties. The buck stops with them, for better or worse. And we’ve had a lot of worse over the past couple of years.

The current word in the Speaker race is that several are in the contest. State Representative Hugh Bartels from Watertown is the first name at the top of many lists, followed by State Representatives Greg Jamison of Sioux Falls and Jess Olson of Rapid City.  Current Speaker Pro Tempore Jon Hansen of Dell Rapids is also said to be running, but given that he was the chief lieutenant under Gosch, conventional wisdom is that legislators may step forward and break with tradition.


House Speaker Pro Tempore:

This internal caucus race is kind of quiet at the moment, but the name that I hear is Mike Stevens of Yankton. Stevens, an attorney by trade, is an experienced hand in his second run of being in the legislature and would be viewed by most as a respected, steady hand at the wheel.

Republican House Majority Leader:

Here’s where some of the jockeying has been going on recently. Long-time politico and Pierre-area attorney Will Mortenson is said to be leading the chase for Majority Leader after Mike Derby was said to have stepped back from the race, throwing his support to Mortenson. Current Majority Whip Rebecca Reimer of Chamberlain is also said to be campaigning for the spot, as well as Representative Scott Odenbach from Spearfish.


Assistant Republican Majority Leader:

This office has had those holding it move on to bigger and better things, such as Kristi Noem, current Governor, former Congresswoman, and former Assistant Majority Leader for the 2009-2010.   And you never know, as Sioux Falls State Representative Taylor Rehfeldt campaigns as hard as the Governor did back in the day.

Rehfeldt is probably the most visible of the names that has popped up for the contest, with State Representatives Randy Gross of Flandreau, and Representative Kirk Chaffee of Whitewood also said to be running for the position among their colleagues.



The Senate is not thought to be looking wholesale change in the coming term, or at least there are no thoughts of it based on who we anticipate will be elected.

Compared to the House, it might even be said to be a little boring, but boring is good for what has worked over the last two years.

President Pro Tempore:

Senator Lee Schoenbeck of Watertown who has led the Senate through all of the rocky waters over the past 2 years of his tenure, including leading on redistricting, and being the voice of sanity during 2 years of impeachment investigations and proceedings is not facing any challenge at the moment.  During the past few years, Lee has been an effective leader in building coalitions and steering the Senate at a time when the House had been divided and struggled.

Senate Republican Majority Leader:

With Current Majority Leader Senator Gary Cammack termed out, Senator Casey Crabtree of Madison is fully in the driver seat for Senate Majority Leader contest, and has taken a lead on efforts including helping Senators to get re-elected.  He should win this contest handily, and no opponents are out there.

Senate Republican Assistant Majority Leader:

Senator Mike Diedrich of Rapid City is definitively in the contest, but there are rumors that another Senator is looking at a run. We’ll see how they develop, as it’s still early for this chamber. The sense of urgency for the internal Senate caucus campaigns are not as urgent as the House’s, just because of fewer numbers and a less disparate group.

Senate Majority Whips:

I’m told that we can expect Senators Duhamel, Wheeler, Tobin, Schoenfish, Bolin and others will be running for whip positions, with most current whips attempting to return to their positions.

That’s what I know at the end of September, with more fierce campaigning for these internal positions on both sides of the Capitol Building to come after the election on November 8.

Stay tuned!

38 thoughts on “Who will lead the House and the Senate in 2023? Here are the current leadership contests that are taking place in the GOP Caucuses”

  1. Not who, but what.

    Will the best ideas find themselves to the forefront?

    The anti-cannabis position is not defensible except if used as a tool to de-fund the left, who is using the proceeds to advance its agenda.

    Conservative cannabis advocates are being tossed aside in this scenario, like a disrespected rag doll.

    Take the market through better product development and customer service, not through medical and government sponsored oligopoly.

    It’s pretty easy to dominate the market, actually .. the products, branding, consumption methods and customer service that are being put forward now, with one exception that I know if, are really badly construed.

  2. It would be great if these leadership positions were filled by those who actually follow the GOP platform! Few of those mentioned vote conservative. I wonder how many former Democrats who ran as Republicans as they knew they would never be elected as Democrats. I only see a couple that I would consider Republicans by their voting records.

    1. Anyone to the left of Mussolini is a lib in your world. Develop some nuance. I kmow it is scary at first, but you can get there.

    2. Just because you don’t like their positions doesn’t mean they’re voting against the platform. Are you on any committees or volunteer with the GOP? Was your name on the ballot to be a delegate? Do you attend meetings? Or are you only a keyboard warrior?

    3. SD Senior, they don’t take an oath to uphold the Republican party platform you know.

      At the SDGOP convention, the people who complained about Republicans failing to follow the party platform were the same people who stood in opposition to a resolution endorsing the Republican slate of candidates.

      So now that we know they are l all the same people, and they aren’t going to vote for any of the Republican candidates anyway, there is no reason to pay any attention when they complain that the people they didn’t vote for aren’t living up to their expectations.

      Outside of the weirdness at the convention, we have the people who have never read the party platform, have no idea what’s in it, but this does not stop them from declaring that Republicans aren’t following it. This most famously came to light when advocates of midwifery declared that anybody who didn’t favor the practice of non-nurse midwives wasn’t following the SDGOP platform, but there was nothing about midwives to be found in the platform. We had pine beetles in there, but no midwives.

  3. Crabtree is a solid leader. I don’t want to see Hansen and his fascist ideas anywhere near leadership. That guy is off his rocker.

      1. I really thought marli wiese was the future for the Madison mafia. I saw her moving up the ladder. Sad to see her go.

  4. The Speaker race will be interesting, but I’m not sure I agree that it is “conventional wisdom” that Hansen will lose. That may be an indication of which side you’re hearing from. Not saying he’s a lock, but I’d say he’s the favorite.

    1. Hansen would do too much damage to the party with his fascist ideas. The guy literally wants to track women who might leave the state for an abortion. The guy is off his rocker.

      1. That’s obviously a made up lie and Hansen himself said so on social media. The character of the people who make this stuff up and spread it around is really not so great.

  5. In case anyone is interested, these are the scores on how these aforementioned folks voted on conservative issues:
    Odenbach – 94, Gross – 90, Hansen – 84, Chaffee, Reimer – 81, Jamison – 79, Rehfeldt – 78, Bolin, Crabtree, Tobin – 77, Schoenbeck – 71, Mortensen – 70, Wheeler – 67, Diedrich, Stevens – 65, Olson – 62, Duhamel, Schoenfish – 61, Bartels, 58.
    These scores are from the American Conservative Union website…not the hated South Dakota Citizens for Liberty scorecard.

  6. .Hugh, Mike S., Rebecca, and Randy…you cannot beat them for common sense, experience, leadership qualities, and ability to get along with all factions.

    1. Rebecca is a nice person but being a nice person doesn’t make you a good leader. She does have the experience of being a follower of the Governor and Jon Hansen. Not too much independent thought and you couldn’t count on her word (waffle much?).

      1. I guess its hard to not be arm in arm with House leadership when you are a part of House leadership. Hansen got stuck between a governor who wants everything her way and will stop at next to nothing to have everything her way, and a house leader with an ego the size of Texas who despised the governor. It was a lose lose situation for him. I have known Hansen for many years. He is one of the smartest and most intellectual people I know. Don’t write him off.

        1. Hansen had the opportunity to be better and to show true leadership. Instead, he pandered to Gosch and supported unreasonable legislation. He also threw away procedural processes for his own benefit.

          The House will be full of dysfunction if he wins. We all should hope the old and new Representatives can see clear.

          1. Ravnsborg hurt Odenbach and the conservatives. They have yet to take a stance against natvig who mislead them.

            I think that is a big problem and why Mort is expected to win.

            He didn’t side with corrupt and deceitful. Many of these people lost credibility at convention by supporting Haugaard and Natvig.

  7. People once thought of Jon Hansen as a future state leader. Now they think of him as a future Fred Deutsch.

  8. Lee has been superb in the Senate. We have a deep bench for house speaker and Will Mortensen would be an excellent majority Leader.

    1. I had a lot better understanding of Lee’s calling people wackadoodles after the mob of wackadoodles showed up at the SDGOP convention to make complete fools of themselves, trying to vote themselves money from the party treasury, declaring they won’t vote for the Republican slate of candidates, and holding their own caucus and dinner party events.
      They were at the wrong convention.

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