Yesterday was the deadline for Independent candidates to file their petitions for partisan races in South Dakota. While the Secretary of State may still have a petition or two on her desk to process, it appears the last four weeks drew no surge of Independent candidates to challenge the partisan slates. Since the partisan filing deadline of March 29, only two Indies jumped into Legislative races: Mike Myers and Eric Leggett, both in the Republicanless District 15 House race. Leggett and Myers both ran and lost in 2014—Leggett in this same race, but Myers in his Indy bid for Governor. Both have some good policy positions, but as a Democratic candidate for Senate, I’m counting on incumbent District 15 Democrat Karen Soli and Democratic newcomer Jamie Smith to fight more effectively for change in Pierre from an expanded Democratic caucus.
Leggett and Myers join only one other Independent Legislative candidate in the entire state: Charles Haan of District 5, Watertown. Both of District 5’s House seats are open—Lee Schoenbeck has had enough of Pierre, and Roger Solum is vying for Senate. Haan will not win either seat: he is a conservative crank who impotently sued Rep. Kristi Noem in 2013 for not carrying out her campaign promises, then tried to sue his way onto the 2014 U.S. House ballot as a Constitution Party candidate. Let’s see whom Haan sues in District 5.
Out of 203 candidates for Legislature, we have just these three Independents, compared with 86 Democrats and 114 Republicans (I don’t count the four filed Republican candidates who have withdrawn: Deutsch, Holien, Bergan, and Eckrich). Compare those candidate numbers with current statewide voter registration totals, and Democrats fielded one Legislative candidate for every 1,946 of their registered voters. Republicans fielded on Legislative candidate for 2,117. Independents have one candidate for every 36,337 registered Independent voters. That number suggests that the upward trend in Independent registration represents a shift toward disengagement from state-level politics.