Before votes are counted, S.D. Republicans are already jostling for legislative leadership spots

Capitol News Bureau
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PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota’s November 3 general elections are still a week away, and Republicans look likely to hold two-thirds majorities in both chambers of the Legislature for 2021. The inside battles sizzling now are for Republican leadership of the House and Senate caucuses.

The Senate has a new Republican leader to choose, after Kris Langer of Dell Rapids withdrew her candidacy for re-election. Gary Cammack of Union Center and John Wiik of Big Stone City are two names mentioned as contenders to succeed her.

Another Senate battle that might be brewing is for president pro tem. Brock Greenfield of Clark holds it now; the veteran doesn’t have an election opponent this fall. But Lee Schoenbeck of Watertown has the spot targeted.

Schoenbeck served as president pro tem in the 2005-2006 term, according to legislative records, and has used his campaign committee to donate to other legislative candidates this cycle. Greenfield, who defeated Cammack for the post, hasn’t shown similar campaign activity.

Greenfield and Langer denied but later admitted to drinking alcohol at a lobbyist’s house on the final night of the 2020 session and were admonished by a Senate disciplinary committee.

The House will follow tradition and select a new presiding officer to succeed Steven Haugaard of Sioux Falls as the chamber’s speaker. Last year Haugaard lost a federal lawsuit after he banned a lobbyist from the House floor.

Waiting one rung down is speaker pro tem Spencer Gosch of Glenham. Word is David Anderson of Hudson might challenge Gosch.

Anderson and Gosch have used their campaign committees to give to other legislative candidates. Meanwhile, Tim Reed of Brookings, a former mayor, is reportedly looking at speaker pro tem. His campaign committee has made some contributions to other legislative candidates.

The House will have a new Republican leader: Lee Qualm of Platte was term-limited in that chamber (and lost a Senate Republican primary in June.) Competing to replace him reportedly are Kent Peterson of Salem and Sue Peterson of Sioux Falls. Kent Peterson and Sue Peterson have used their campaign committees to help other candidates.

Governor Kristi Noem, a Republican, hasn’t given to any of the legislative candidates, according to her pre-general campaign report. But her predecessor as governor, Dennis Daugaard, has donated to some, including $1,000 each to Anderson, Reed and Kent Peterson in the general-election cycle, and $1,000 apiece to Cammack, Reed and Kent Peterson ahead of the primary elections.

Republicans currently have advantages of 30-5 in the Senate and 59-11 in the House. The South Dakota Constitution allows a legislator to win election to a maximum of four consecutive two-year terms in the same chamber. Here’s the official list of the current Legislature’s seniority.

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