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Republicans Lose One House Seat, Gain Billie Sutton’s Senate Seat

After all that talk of a “Blue Wave,” South Dakota Democrats made zero progress in the Legislature, increasing their share of the 70-seat House of Representatives from ten to eleven but ceding one of their six Senate seats.

Republicans made inroads into sacred Democratic territory, bullet-voting Tamara St. John into the District 1 House seat that Susan Wismer vacated to run for Senate. She beat both incumbent Rep. Steve McCleerey (who hangs onto his job with his second-place finish) and former legislator H. Paul Dennert.

Political slogan-mumbler and Sharia-for-Jesuser Kaleb Weis defeated the far more intelligent, experienced, and personable Democrats Jenae Hansen and Mike McHugh to join fellow anti-education Republican incumbent Lana Greenfield in the House.

Democrats surrendered a House seat in District 7, as right-wing extremist Doug Post placed a weak but effective second over the illegitimate Democrat candidates and the strongest independent in South Dakota, Cory Ann Ellis, to join thankfully mild-mannered Rep. Tim Reed in the House.

Republicans surrendered one seat in District 9, with Democrat Michael Saba edging unapologetic racist Rep. Michael Clark for second place and the chance to carpool with Deb Peters, who easily moves from Senate to House.

Sioux Falls gives us two more Democrats. Cool kids Kelly Sullivan and Erin Healy won second place in Districts 13 and 14 respectively. Healy, like Saba, actually beat an incumbent, Rep. Tom Holmes.

Democrat Ryan Cwach grabbed a formerly Republican seat in District 18. But Dems gave up a seat in District 21, where Republican district-switcher Caleb Finck joins Majority Leader Lee Qualm in the House, and a seat in District 25, which gets a full complement of misogynist Reps. by swapping incumbent Democrat Dan Ahlers for former legislator Jon Hansen, who joins angry dad Rep. Tom Pischke.

Republican Rep. Elizabeth May surrendered her District 27 seat to Peri Pourier; Republican Rep. Steve Livermont hung on to his seat by just seven votes over Democrat Margaret Ross, who is entitled to a recount.

Democrats flipped five seats; Republicans flipped four. 87% of the House seats remained in the hands of their incumbent’s party.

In the Senate, Billie Sutton’s neighbors underscored their rejection of his agenda by handing his District 21 Senate seat to a Republican, Rocky Dale Blare, who beat Democratic Rep. Julie Bartling 55% to 45%. No other seat flipped. Bellwether rookie Republican Senator Jordan Youngberg broke election law by driving his campaign-wrapped truck up and down Washington Avenue within 100 feet of the polling place door at the playhouse and beat Democrat Scott Parsley by an even larger margin than in 2016. Senate Majority Leader R. Blake Curd held his District 12 seat by only 27 votes over Democrat lawyer Kasey Olivier. Democrat Red Dawn Foster managed to hold Kevin Killer’s District 27 Senate seat.

South Dakota Senate Election Map 2018
South Dakota Senate Election Map 2018

And up here in District 3, I got 246 fewer votes than I did in 2016. Incumbent Senator Al Novstrup got 1,031 fewer votes with his guy Trump not on the ballot to rouse the bigots to his banner of racism and hypocrisy. Final result: Al 58%, Cory 42%.

The Republican supermajorities in the Legislature seem only to have gotten less statesmanly and more radical last night. Like their puppetstringed Governor-Elect Kristi Noem, the Republican 2019 Legislature promises to sink South Dakota even deeper into neglect of public institutions, failure of accountability, and religious and racial exclusivity.


  1. BHSD76 2018-11-07

    Sadly it’s probably time for the State Democratic Party to disorganize. It’ll save everyone time and money if we just decide elections at the primary and then run all unopposed Republicans in the general. I believe it’s what most South Dakotans want from their voting patterns over the past 10 years.

  2. SDBlue 2018-11-07

    Words cannot express how incredibly disgusted I am with SD voters.

  3. BHSD76 2018-11-07

    I forgot to add… Welcome a new level of corruption upon SD. They know now they really can’t lose and will do whatever they want. With Gov. Daugaard gone and a Governor in place that’ll sign every single religious extremist or discriminatory bill put in front of her expect this Legislative session to be the most radically right ever witnessed in our State’s history. Sad.

  4. OldSarg 2018-11-07

    Morning! The sun is coming up on a free land and the people have spoken. The proper civil thing to do is thanks all of those wo were brave enough to through their hat into the ring and face the uncivil attacks that have been cast upon good people.

    The days of calling all those we oppose as racist, misogynistic, privileged, crooked, islamophobist and whatever needs to end. It is time to start acting as adults. The nasty attacks do not improve a person’s chance of winning and does nothing more than cause hurt an pain on others. The day of the bully is over.

  5. 96Tears 2018-11-07

    None of this should be surprising. Republicans jumped up on their feet when they saw the flagship taking on water in Noem v. Sutton. They voted Republican only because they are registered Republicans, and all that hype about values is garbage. Team pride for the brand, no matter who is on the ballot. Very sorry about your loss, Cory. I thought folks in that district were sick of that blowhard. Reckon not.

    The only thread of hope left from Tuesday is Billie Sutton’s campaign. It was ridiculously uphill. He didn’t crawl in the mud like Noem. There may be lessons to learn here.

  6. BHSD76 2018-11-07

    Considering he did better then any other Democrat for Governor did since 1986 (in a much tougher environment for Democrats) I’d say there are lessons to be learned on that one. He will be back again at some point (he’s only 34) and if the environment changes a bit he might be more successful. Remember Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin lost against Janklow for Congress and ended up making a successful comeback. It all takes time.

  7. Gail 2018-11-07

    It is especially sad to me that the best qualified Attorney General candidate lost to the most unqualified candidate. Party affiliation is stronger than quality in South Dakota. Unbelievable.

  8. OldSarg 2018-11-07

    “Party affiliation is stronger than quality in South Dakota” I think that is a true statement but the same can be said of almost any state. This is a nice state with nice people. It is just the national political climate has brought a lot of hatred to all the states. Look at what people have been saying about anyone they don’t agree with. All this calling people fascist, nazis, racist and such needs to end. None of it is justified. It is time we all made the decision to be more civil again and stop the name calling.

  9. bearcreekbat 2018-11-07

    I am unsure if this is correct, but my quick Google research seems to indicate that as of 2016 South Dakota had never elected a black person to state office, and I cannot recall any black folks being elected after 2016.

    This means our SD republican voters deserve some credit for this year’s election of Tony Randolph to the House in District 35. Just as Kristi Noem is the 1st woman governor, it appears that Randolph is the 1st black elected to state office. Randolph ran on a heavily religious platform, so he may end up an unfortunate choice, yet his election reflects some positive change in the state voters’ old negative attitudes about race. As more evidence of this positive change, Randolph’s election signs featured a large picture of him, which suggests that voters may well have realized the race of the reopublican candidate.

    I wish him the best of luck and sincerely hope that he exhibits a Jimmy Carter style religious attitude, focusing on helping those in need and welcoming immigrants, different religions, marginalized folks and others (you know, like Jesus implored) to our community. Religious folks who actually follow the teachings of Jesus, rather than looking for every possible way to inflict harm and pain on the weakest people they can find, have the potential to make our state an even more open and humane place to live and of which to be proud.

    Congratulations Tony and welcome to the seat of SD government!

  10. Steve Pearson 2018-11-07

    The best news was your defeat. Again. Hope you do it again. Never gets old.

  11. Steve Pearson 2018-11-07

    OldSarge is 100% correct. Quit the BS labeling you cry babies.

  12. Dicta 2018-11-07

    Like libtards, cucks, lefties, communists, etc? Baffling how people can act like the rhetoric is one-sided.

  13. bearcreekbat 2018-11-07

    Dicta, don’t forget crybabies.

  14. mike from iowa 2018-11-07

    I nail Drumpf with bawl baby poopy John on occasion. He’s a sore loser even when Putie installed him in the kremlin annex. He is a racist,xenophobe, misogynist, white supremacist, pathological liar and a twin to iowa 4th district scumbag ‘Cantaloupe Calves’ King.

    And, seriously, those are their good points.

    OS and the regular Troll are deniers and enablers of all things wingnut.

  15. mike from iowa 2018-11-07

    And Steve Pearson is a whacked out wingnut wannabe OldServalcat clone without an original thought. There seems to be an abundance of them wingnuts posting here.

  16. Samantha Spawn 2018-11-07

    SDDP needs new leadership and a backbone. They’ve proven to be feckless with any strategy or long-term approach to changing the status quo. I re-registered as an Independent, and I’m staying until I see some substantial change.

    I am so very angry, but not at the voters.

  17. leslie 2018-11-07

    Well by coming here they expose themselves for what they are.

    Enjoy impeachment much? Spitballin’ a little, i kno the senate won’t unless retired USMC and Special Prosecutor Mueller “punches Trump in the mouth” and “gut punches right now” the rest of the Trump cadre [(C) LARRY ROHDEN] with illegal/unlawful collusion, obstruction, fraud, nepotism, emoluments, conspiracy, money laundering, tax evasion, abuse of process, kidnapping, child abuse, accessory to murder, arms smuggling, falsification of evidence, witness tampering and human rights violations, worldwide. Peace.

    Russian cohort Manafort has met with Mueller nine (yes 9 times in the last week). Gulp!,

  18. OldSarg 2018-11-07

    leslian there will be no impeachment. The impeachment talk was all political rhetoric. Like so many other politicians of the past the they make statements but never follow through. Kind of like all the wall building the republicans promised or repealing Obamacare. It is all just talk. Now, like him or not, Trump does make his promises happen but I think that is reflective of his not being a professional politician. No, there will be no impeachment. Just an empty promise to help them regain power over the people. Only a sucker would still believe them. Don’t be a sucker.

  19. Timoteo 2018-11-07

    I’m disappointed that Billie didn’t win. I didn’t want our fine state to go socialist, but I think a Democratic governor could have helped to keep folks honest in Pierre — serving as a check and a balance.

    I’m also disappointed that Cory didn’t win in his district. Again, I didn’t want our legislature to become liberal, but he could have helped to keep things honest in Pierre too. Another part of my disappointment is that the people of Aberdeen could support Al. But it is their right to do so.

    The people of South Dakota have done what they thought is right. I respect that. I’m just disappointed.

    It will be okay. We’ll get through it together.

  20. OldSarg 2018-11-07

    Timoteo, those are good words.

  21. bearcreekbat 2018-11-07

    After the mid-term results impeachment seems unlikely now that Trump asked Sessions to resign and he complied. It is being reported that Trump’s new interim guy (which apparently won’t be Rosenstein) will have the authority to deny any and all of Mueller’s requests for authority to indict anyone Trump does not want indicted. Further, Trump’s new guy will have the authority to bury whatever reports to Congress Mueller issues, including reports of criminal activity by Trump.

    And when Trump decides to nominate Judge Jeanine or Rudy or whoever to replace Sessions as AG, the gains in the Senate by republicans in the mid-term make confirmation a given, if the republicans in the Senate continue their obsequious behavior and blind obedience to Trump.

    Welcome to the new definition of “law and order.” Our elected officals who continue to control the executive branch and the Senate after mid-terms, and their appointed henchmen, will increase the focus on the weakest sacrifical targets, namely, indigent refugees and asylum seeking women and children, young boys and men seeking work, and religious minorities, in the continued public effort using misdemeanors and lies as the justification for the cold blooded harm inflicted upon the weakest among us using the DOJ, ICE and our military as tools to publicly inflict pain and despair on those least capable of defending themselves. Meanwhile, their voters and apologists close their eyes and plug their ears, or worse yet, giggle in glee at the agony caused the most needy and powerless people that become victims of the most power law enforcement (and military) in the world.

    These winners want to make America great again, which raises the question of the next step backward, such as our historical record of public hangings, military slaughter of civilians, and many other atrocities and human rights violations that might again appeal to “the base.”

    Sorry for the gloom and doom, but this seems to be our current reality and unlikely to change under the current administration. It will be sad to see similar efforts on the state level here in SD, but given the various anti-immigrant, anti-muslim, anti-LGBTQ publicly expresed attitudes by many who have won public office, as well as their voters, I fear we may not be too far behind the feds.

  22. OldSarg 2018-11-07

    bearcreeky, Mueller could come out any day with any charge he would like. Mueller isn’t even a federal employee anymore so Trump has no control over what Mueller says and to whom. Sessions Rosenstein whoever, none of them are actually the “God” above Mueller preventing him from coming out in the press yet he hasn’t. He’s been investigating for two years. Why hasn’t he said anything to anyone?

    Think about it; If Trump were actually colluding with anyone when he wasn’t even working for the government, had no access to electronic surveillance and owned no spies wouldn’t you think Mueller, having all the access to all those tools would have found something, anything by now? If is foolish to even act like you believed it in the first place. You’re smarter than that I would hope.

  23. mike from iowa 2018-11-07

    bcb nails it again. The party of law and order will go out of their way to use the legal system to protect the worst and most criminal potus ever.

    We are headed back to where korporations used the guard and military as strike breakers and only wealthy whites had rights.

  24. mike from iowa 2018-11-07

    Howz this for Ripley’s Believe it or Not? The guy Drumpf appointed as acting AG is a former iowa Hawkeye tight end and former US Attorney. I seem to remember something about himj using funds meant to expand voting rights for Indians to investigate cases of fraud, but I can’t seem to find that anywhere.

  25. mike from iowa 2018-11-07

    My humblest apologies to Whitaker, it was Matt Schultz who led the fraud investigation and found virtually no fraud.

  26. grudznick 2018-11-07

    Timoteo seems wise, beyond his years.

  27. Bill Adamson 2018-11-07

    Cory, I occasionally read your opinion blog, and I have noticed that you seem to have an unusual obsession with District 7 Democrats. You continually refer to Zach Kovach and me as illegitimate candidates. To the contrary, both of our nominating petitions were validated by the Secretary of State (SOS). If our nominating petitions were invalid due to an expired notary seal, Shantel Krebs should have thrown out the defective petitions. She didn’t. If the SOS’s office had reviewed the notary seals before validating our nominating, we would have been aware of the error and could have corrected the problem before the filing deadline. The same can be said of Mary Perpich’s State Senate petitions. We only became aware of the invalid notary seal when the state Republican Party challenged Mary’s nominating petitions. At that point, however, it was too late to resubmit the petitions. We were actually expecting that our petitions would be challenged in the 5 working day time-frame for challenges, and we would have filed as independents for District 7 State House. We acted in good faith and did nothing illegal. If anything, I would argue that the SOS office failed to perform their due diligence by not reviewing the notary seals. If the SOS had properly performed its duties, this whole issue would have been resolved without any conflict.

    Your claim that we are illegitimate candidates is only your opinion and not supported by any facts. Of course, you have right to your opinion. It’s your own blog, and it is your prerogative to support a candidate that is your personal friend. You are not a journalist and have no obligation to be objective.

    The challenge to our petitions (which you were tacitly if not actively involved in) occurred well after timeline to challenge petitions and was only filed after the deadline to file as an independent candidate. This tactic had the “appearance” of the independent candidate trying to knock her Democratic opponents of the general election ballot and give her a clear head-to-head race against the two Republicans left on the ballot. Furthermore, this challenge would have disenfranchised Democratic voters in District 7 (of which, over 100 registered Democrats signed our petitions). What you fail to comprehend is the Bakewell (1940) decision by the South Dakota Supreme Court prohibits this type of electioneering duplicity. Without this prohibition, candidates would just “sandbag” any challenges to an opponent’s nominating petitions until the general election ballot was set. Candidates could then eliminate any opponents and give them an unopposed free-ride into office. The SD Supreme Court rationalized that this type of deceit would cause chaos in the election process and undermine the validity of democratic elections. This is why the tardy challenge to our petitions was rejected. It was not a miscarriage of justice.

    Your analysis of the District 7 House race is equally flawed. I lost by 664 votes to Doug Post. It is a reasonable assumption that I would have gotten enough of Cory Ann Ellis’s (who was running as a moderate like myself) 1976 votes to beat Doug Post. Doug (who is a good person) is more conservative than what District 7 (basically, the city of Brookings) voters typically elect. Without Cory Ann in the race, I probably could have won a close race with Doug. This is speculative, however, because Brookings County like the much of South Dakota saw an increase in voter participation and most were Republicans. It is just as likely that I would have lost a close race to Doug.

    This is the problem of running independents as opponents to Democrats in South Dakota. Both appeal to moderate-to-liberal voters and scavenge votes from each other, giving Republicans a much easier path to winning. In the future, if we don’t want to just cede elections to Republicans, independents will have to join Democrats in a coalition to have a unified front against Republicans. Finishing last or next to last as we saw in this election should be a clear signal that independents don’t have enough recognition without a party label to be competitive in most races.

    Speaking of “weak” candidates, I am surprised that you didn’t mention your pounding by Al Novstrup in the District 3 State Senate race. It was just not competitive. A 16-point loss. Now that is a beat-down.

  28. bearcreekbat 2018-11-07

    Thanks 96! Do you know when Jones served? I don’t see anything about him on Google.

  29. Timoteo 2018-11-07

    Thank you both (OS and grudznick).

  30. mike from iowa 2018-11-07

    Celebrate Black History Month: Chet Jones
    Posted on February 19, 2009

    As part of Black History Month, for the remainder of February we’re going to shine the spotlight on a member of South Dakota’s African American community.

    Today is Chet Jones.

    State legislator Chet R. Jones was a native of Stockton, California. In 1967 he took a bus to Aberdeen, SD to attend Northen State College (now University). At that time, Jones was the only black student. At Northern, he played football and was a wrestling champion for 3 straight years. After graduation he became a prominent member of the Sioux Falls community and in 1992 was elected to the state legislator, becoming the first African American to achieve this honor.

  31. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-11-07

    Say, Bill Adamson, did you read the entire article, or did you just stop when you got mentioned and launch your attack?

    Now let’s have some fun and watch two Democrats who both got beat haggle about things that don’t matter much and don’t contribute to moving the party forward… other than reminding candidates to handle their petitions properly.

    Tell me, Bill, in what way your and Zach’s petitions and thus your candidacies were legitimate.

    Please note, all, Adamson’s attempt to campaign like a Republican, trying to portray factual critique as “unusual obsession,” some sort of emotional defect.

    I am a journalist. I documented the violations of law you committed. I also have opinions. But my opinions don’t change the fact that your petition was gravely flawed.

    Your legalisms are deceptive and unbecoming. It’s far more honest to say, “We screwed up our petitions. They shouldn’t have had force of law, but the law handcuffs the Secretary of state with all this talk of strictly ministerial duties. The only reason we didn’t get booted from the ballot was that Marty Jackley saved our bacon by dragging out some crazy and outdated precedent that reinterpreted the letter and intent of the law to make petition challenges almost impossible.”

    It’s a poor craftsman who blames his tools for his errors. It’s a poor candidate who blames other candidates for taking away “his” votes. Cory Ann Ellis didn’t cost you the race. You lost your own race the same way I did: by not convincing more people to vote for you.

  32. Debbo 2018-11-07

    “Words cannot express how incredibly disgusted I am with SD voters.”

    Me too. 😒

  33. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-11-07

    BHSD76: More corruption and Sharia Law for old entitled white people who want to probe your uterus while they ignore the lobbyists raking in the cash behind the curtain! Looks like I’m going to have plenty to blog about

  34. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-11-07

    Yeah, Dicta. I just call Al Novstrup what his words and policies show him to be: dishonest and racist. I don’t make up stuff he isn’t like Communist and all that.

  35. bearcreekbat 2018-11-08

    Thanks mfi & 96. It looks like the Guardian researchers missed that history. I appreciate the follow up.

  36. happy camper 2018-11-08

    Cory the Propagandist calls himself a journalist. Blasphemy.

  37. Mark Wolski 2018-11-08

    I am very sorry for your loss. I’m guessing the only benefit is that you will keep your blog, which I read each morning to give me a fresh insight into South Dakota and its politics. Please keep up the good work!

  38. cantstopwontstop 2018-11-08

    I’m not as hopeless as the rest of you. We had smaller margins in several Legislative races than we’ve seen in several cycles. Two young women won in districts they absolutely shouldn’t have. I hope the Dem Party finally gets it: you can’t put all of your eggs in the statewide basket. They should have strategically concentrated on winnable Legislative races. Bottom-up change, folks.

  39. MHR 2018-11-08

    I am very very sad at the election results state and nation-wide – however, the people spoke and life goes on ……….

  40. Jenny 2018-11-08

    The SDDP are like the MN Vikings never winning or even getting to the Super Bowl in the last 40 plus years. The Vikings still fight on and the SDDP needs to keep fighting with their heads held high like them! :)

  41. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-11-08

    CSWS, you point is worth considering… and worth testing in 2020, when the Dems will not have a Governor’s race to focus on. Let’s put that marker down now: Dems should pour the same effort they poured into Sutton this year into recruiting and backing enough Legislative candidates to seize at least one-third of each chamber. That’s 12 Senate candidates, 24 House candidates. Round up for cushion and hope: focus on 18 Senate seats, 36 House seats. 54 candidates. Take the $3M poured into Billie’s campaign, divide that by 54 candidates… that’s $55K per legislative candidate, enough to do some really big local campaigning. Give me $55K, and I could do four hard mailings against my opponent (yes, 2020 strategy includes the “punch in the mouth” that Lederman cites as successful GOP strategy), 20 hours of radio, and every available billboard in District 3 from September 24 through Election Day. (We should probably put down that deposit right now.)

    Back that with two reasonable and clever candidates for Congress who require the GOP to spend money statewide, and GOP Legislative candidates will struggle against our targeted onslaught.

  42. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-11-08

    Hap, I report more facts in one day than any Republican Senator in this state publishes in a month.

  43. 96Tears 2018-11-09

    bearcreekbat – Sorry to take so long to get back. Things got busy for a few days. Chet Jones was elected in 1992 and 1994. He got swept out in a Janklow-engineered wave in 1996, replaced by former Representative and Citibank exec Dave Munson, who would later serve two terms as Sioux Falls mayor. Chet remains one of the finest, most gracious people you could ever meet.

  44. bearcreekbat 2018-11-09

    96, Thanks for that information! As noted earlier, I relied on the linked erroneous story purporting to cover our history through 2016. I appreciate learning about Chet’s public service in SD. By the way, I have interacted with Tony Randolph in a non-political neighborly setting in District 35, along with his spouse and two of his young sons. They too are very gracious and pleasant people.

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