PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The Democratic Party’s decline in South Dakota took another turn in recent days.

Yes, there was the unanimous recall on Saturday of the party’s state chair, Jennifer Slaight-Hansen.

But the more substantial change came in voter registration. Democrats no longer trail only Republicans in South Dakota. They’re now behind independent and no-party-affiliation voters as well.

According to the South Dakota Secretary of State tracking site, the combined totals of NPAs and independents climbed to 151,170 as of Monday night.

Democrats meanwhile slipped to 150,887.

These two trends — NPAs and indies going up, Democrats going down — have been building for years. Republicans meanwhile continue on their own steady march upward. They now number to 304,041.

The Libertarian Party was at 2,967, while the “Other” category came in at 1,107.

THEN AND NOW: Turn back the calendar 14 years. Coming off the Obama-Clinton race for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, July 2009 stood at a modern high for Democrats’ voter registration in South Dakota with 206,086. Republicans were at 242,774 while NPAs and independents totaled 86,310.

Here are the changes since then: Republicans grew 61,267 while Democrats fell 55,199. NPA/indies meanwhile rose fastest of all, adding 64,860.

According to the Secretary of State’s office, at least 21 counties — Brookings, Butte, Custer, Davison, Deuel, Douglas, Fall River, Faulk, Hanson, Harding, Hutchinson, Jones, Lawrence, Lincoln, Meade, Minnehaha, Pennington, Perkins, Turner, Union and Yankton — now have more NPA/indies registered than Democrats, and several others such as Codington and Hughes nearly do.

CASTLEBERRY’S SUCCESSOR: With the resignation last week of Jessica Castleberry from the South Dakota Senate, the Legislature is down to 104 members. The vacancy gives Governor Kristi Noem the opportunity to make her 10th legislative appointment.

Here’s a summary of Noem’s previous nine picks. Each name links to the legislator’s profile; each year links to the news release announcing the appointment.

Dayle Hammock (2018), Rhonda Milstead (2018)

John Lake (2019), James D. Wangsness (2019), Helene Duhamel (2019), Castleberry (2019)

Kyle Schoenfish, Marty Overweg (2020), Casey Crabtree (2020)

Noem’s two 2018 appointments came after she won the election that November but before she took office. Dennis Daugaard was finishing his second term, but he let Governor-elect Noem — like him a Republican — announce them weeks before she was sworn into office.

DAUGAARD’S APPOINTMENTS: During the eight years Daugaard was governor, he filled 18 legislative vacancies.

Kent Juhnke (2011), Dave Scott (2011)

Dave Anderson (2013), Blake Curd (2013), Kris Langer (2013), Chuck Jones (2013)

Alan Solano (2014), Mark Willadsen (2014), Bill Shorma (2014)

Scott Fiegen (2015)., Wayne Steinhauer (2015)

David Lust (2016)

Marli Wiese (2017), Doug Barthel (2017), Michael Diedrich (2017)

Maggie Sutton (2018), Scyller Borglum (2018), Rebecca Reimer (2018)

Five of the vacancies during Daugaard’s time as governor resulted from deaths of lawmakers Dan Dryden, Craig Tieszen, Sean McPherson, Jim Schaefer and Chuck Turbiville.

Lust filled Dryden’s vacancy twice, serving the remaining months of Dryden’s current term and then serving the new term Dryden was seeking.

Daugaard chose to not appoint anyone to serve the two months that remained of Turbiville’s term. Governor-elect Noem then appointed Hammock to serve Turbiville’s new term.

(Note to readers: Rep. Schaefer’s name was inadvertently omitted in the original version of this story. Reporter Bob Mercer apologizes for the error.)

MONEY FOR BULLETS: The state Game, Fish and Parks Department is looking to contract with a person or company to lead a fundraising campaign for construction of the shooting sports complex planned near Rapid City.

The department’s request for proposals calls for raising “a minimum of $5 million in donations.” The closing date for submissions is September 13. The schedule calls for a decision September 20. The contract starts October 1 and runs through December 31, 2024.

Have a news item or tip about South Dakota state government? Contact KELOLAND Capitol Bureau reporter Bob Mercer at 605-280-7580 or bmercer@keloland.com.