This article has been updated with comments from the South Dakota Republican Party Chairman.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The clock is officially ticking for potential 2022 candidates. 

Starting Jan. 1, candidates could sign declaration of candidacy forms with the South Dakota Secretary of State’s office and start circulating petitions among members of his or her political party. In November, South Dakotans will vote for one U.S. Senator seat, one U.S. Representative seat, South Dakota Governor and state legislators. 

State law prohibits any candidate’s name printed on an official primary election ballot unless a petition has been filed on that person’s behalf after December 31 and by March 29.  

Officials for both the South Dakota Republican Party and the South Dakota Democratic Party have held announcements calling for potential candidates to work with the party offices. 

Berk Ehrmantraut, the South Dakota Democratic Party Executive Director, said with a new legislative map for districts there’s new opportunities for possible candidates. 

“I think there’s always a little less energy in a non-Presidential year, but these midterm elections are really important in South Dakota,” Ehrmantraut said. “We’re really encouraging folks to take a look at their new district and decide if now might be the right time for them to step up.” 

When trying to get new candidates to run for office, Ehrmantraut said the biggest concern he hears from potential candidates is the current state of politics in America. 

“It feels very angry. It feels very divided. People are looking at that and wondering if that’s something they want to be part of,” he said. “That’s exactly why you have to get involved. We need politics where people are working together to solve problems.” 

Ehrmantraut said if people look at the current state of politics and don’t believe it reflects the style of decision making, they like, they should run for office. 

“That’s an indication that you should step up and be a leader for your community,” Ehrmantraut said. “Running for office can be one of the most rewarding experiences in your life. It’s an opportunity to talk with your friends, your neighbors and people in your community about what matters to them.” 

The South Dakota GOP held a “Candidate Development Workshop” in November and has had a number of declared candidates.

There’s been a handful of new Republican candidates announcing for state legislative positions, but GOP leadership has also seen Sen. John Thune, the party’s elder statesman, weigh his options of serving another six years in the United States Senate or stepping away from politics. 

Thune told the Black Hills Pioneer last month his wife wanted him to retire and said this week make an announcement on his decision by Sunday. 

South Dakota Republican Party Chairman Dan Lederman said in emailed statement the Republican Party in South Dakota is very fortunate to be blessed with a wealth of citizens who actively identify with the GOP and decide to run for office.

“The GOP’s voter advantage is a reflection on the values we share regarding limited government. South Dakotans want to pass our story of freedom down to the next generation, and you do that by standing up for what you believe,” Lederman said in an email.

“More South Dakotans have identified with the Republican Party as we’ve raised our voter advantage from 83,000 to over 126,000 more Republicans than Democrats in the last four years,” Lederman said. “This remarkable voter advantage has provided us with a deep bench, and that means there are dozens more members of our party who want to serve in elected office.”

Republicans hold strong voter registration lead

At the start of 2022, South Dakota had 279,331 registered Republicans, 152,709 Democrats, 139,847 Independents, 2,605 Libertarians, 1,380 listed other and 63,510 inactive voters. 

Republican and Democrat state legislative candidates need 50 signatures from people registered in their party or 1% of the vote for their party’s gubernatorial candidate in their district for the 2018 election. 

Independent candidates for U.S. Senate, U.S. House or Governor need 3,393 signatures, while Republicans need 1,730 and Democrats need 1,615 signatures. 

Ehrmantraut said democrats hope to have some sort of announcement regarding the governor’s race soon. 

“We’re continuing to have conversations with folks who are interested in running for governor and figuring out those logistics,” Ehrmantraut said.  

Despite who ends up running in the statewide races, Ehrmantraut said the goal for the South Dakota Democratic Party is to make gains in the state legislature. There’s currently a Republican super-majority of 94 members compared to the 11 Democratic members. 

“When Pierre gets too lopsided, too far to one side or the other, it’s just not good decision making that happens,” Ehrmantraut said. “We get better politics, better solutions for the state when we have more balanced representation in Pierre.”