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18 GOP Legislative Primary Candidates Backed Sales Tax for Teachers; Five Lose Primary

South Dakota’s primary provided the first test of the electoral impact of votes on House Bill 1182, the 0.5% sales tax enacted last week to provide $60.4 million in new K-12 funding to raise teacher pay statewide from 51st to 43rd in the nation.

23 Legislators who voted on HB 1182 this year faced the primary voters yesterday.

Two contests put HB 1182 supporters against HB 1182 opponents. In both of those contests, the naysayers won. Republican Rep. Lance Russell bumped Senator Bruce Rampelberg out of his District 30 seat, while Senator Phil Jensen beat back Rep. Jacqueline Sly’s effort to take his District 33 seat. Sly’s loss stands out because she co-chaired the Blue Ribbon K-12 panel that birthed the Governor’s sales-tax-for-teacher-pay plan.

Sixteen other Republicans who voted yes on HB 1182 faced non-incumbent primary challengers. Thirteen of those GOP tax-hikers won their primaries: Senators Tidemann, Peters, Solano, Partridge, and Haverly and Representatives Willadsen, Holmes, Zikmund, Anderson, Peterson, Schoenfish, Johns, and Conzet. Three GOP HB 1182-backing incumbents lost to newcomers: Senator Shorma and Representatives Solum and Werner. Each of those three primary losses involved significant confounding factors: Solum was trying to switch from House to Senate, Shorma was trying to switch from Senate to House, and Werner was trying to switch districts from 22 to 23. Solum’s loss stands out because his controversial swing vote, secured by his fellow District 5 Representative Lee Schoenbeck’s amendment to direct 3% of the new sales tax revenue to vo-tech teacher pay, was key to passage of HB 1182.

(Shorma fell just 1.22 percentage points behind second-place Kevin Jensen in the District 16 House race; a recount is possible, though unlikely to result in the 36 extra votes Shorma would need to reverse his apparent loss.)

Two Republicans who voted no on HB 1182 faced non-incumbent primary challengers. Representatives Roger Hunt and Sam Marty both won.

Only one Democrat incumbent who voted on HB 1182 faced a primary last night. Like every Democratic legislator except one, Rep. Patrick Kirschman voted yes on HB 1182. Rep. Kirschman lost last night to Dr. Reynold Nesiba, a Democrat who recognizes the regressive impact of sales tax but who likely would have cast the same vote as Kirschman on raising teacher pay. This Democratic primary vote thus does not tell us much about the electoral impact of HB 1182.

The key metrics: thirteen of eighteen Republicans who voted to raise our sales tax by over $100 million withstood primary challenges. Four of four Republicans who voted not to raise sales tax to raise teacher pay all won their primaries.

SDEA gave money to fifteen HB 1182 yay-saying Republicans; twelve of them won their primaries. Eleven of those SDEA-GOP winners face Democratic challengers in November.


  1. Steve Sibson 2016-06-08 09:06

    “SDEA gave money to fifteen HB 1182 yay-saying Republicans; twelve of them won their primaries.”

    So the teacher union has given up on Democrats? They have decided to side up with the crony capitalist Chamber of Commerce and SD Retailers.

  2. O 2016-06-08 22:15

    No Steve, SDEA continues to side with those who support a pro-education agenda. Unfortunately, not all those efforts were successful against every Tea Party challenge.

    You fail to see the evidence in front of you, that although education is a political issue, it is not necessarily partisan (given the Democrat AND Republican support last session).

    It is sad to see that thoughtful consideration and governance was rejected in favor of knee-jerk, absolute, slogan-driven obstruction in too many GOP primary races across this sate.

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