Election Analysis: Democrats In SD Legislature And The Struggle (Or Not) For Leadership Spots

KELO Pierre Capitol building legislature
This analysis comes from KELOLAND’s Capitol News Bureau Chief Bob Mercer. 

Barring any change from a recount, Democrats will have the same number of legislators for the new 2019 term as they have for the current 2017 term.

Sixteen.  Of 105.

Democrats will have five senators and 11 representatives.

Making matters worse for Democrats is they’ve lost three of their four leaders and assistant leaders.

Spencer Hawley of Brookings was terms-limited in the House and didn’t seek re-election, so he can’t lead again.

Julie Bartling of Gregory, the assistant Democratic leader in the House, ran for the Senate and lost.

Billie Sutton of Burke, the Senate Democratic leader, was terms-limited and ran for governor. He lost to Republican Congresswoman Kristi Noem.

The only returning leader is Sen. Troy Heinert of Mission, who has taken to starting every floor speech with a Lakota greeting.

There are six Democrats and 29 Republicans in the Senate this term. The Democrats will drop to five after Bartling couldn’t succeed Sutton.

The Democrats gained one seat in the 70-member House, bringing the number to 11.

They have some interesting decisions ahead.

Of course, the Republicans have their challenges.

The new lieutenant governor will be Larry Rhoden, who’s been a legislator for 16 of the past 18 years and will preside as Senate president. Rhoden could have his patience tested in dealing with Senator Stace Nelson from Fulton.

Then there’s Senate Republican leader Blake Curd of Sioux Falls, who faces the possibility of a recount against Democrat Kasey Olivier.

Republicans have all of their leadership teams coming back.

Ryan Maher of Isabel is the Senate Republican assistant leader. Lee Qualm of Platte is the House Republican leader, while Kent Peterson of Salem is the House Republican assistant leader.

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