I made a copy of South Dakota’s newly approved “Sparrow” Legislative district maps for the 2020s yesterday and started marking where our current legislators and their 2020 challengers live. (I got through current districts 1 through 15; you can view my progress here.) I found that one of the legislators who should be happiest with the new map is one of the Aberdeen Republicans who voted against it.
Since his first Legislative campaign in 2018, insurrectionist Luddite Christian-victim teacher- and refugee-hating schlub Rep. Kaleb Weis has had to truck all over great gerrymandered District 2 to convince voters to send him and his at-best silly ideas to Pierre. His current District 2 grabs a chunk of southwest Aberdeen, including Weis’s lair on exclusive Bunker Drive, then sprawls north, east, and south, well past Greenfield territory in Doland and Clark down to Kristi-land in Hamlin County.
The new Legislative “Sparrow” map spares poor Kaleb those long 133-mile treks to Estelline. He no longer needs to fire up the fan boat to tour the Jim-swamplands of Columbia and Claremont. Embodying Senate Supreme Potentate Lee Schoenbeck’s sage observation that District 2 was bonkers big, Sparrow puts Hamlin County and most of Clark County in District 4 encircling Watertown, drops Spink and the remaining western wedge of Clark into a new District 22 with Beadle, cedes most of District 2’s absurd Brown County wedge to northeastern District 1, and rationalizes the Weis bunker enclave into a wonderfully compacted District 3 that is mostly Aberdeen:
When I ran for District 3 Senate in 2016 and 2018, I reveled in the fact that I could reach 95% of my voters within 15 minutes on my bike. And that was when District 3 still included the Bath township. The Sparrow map chops District 3 in geographical half, sends the Bath township to District 1, and unites a little more of Aberdeen, including Weis’s house, in a more integral District 3. The farthest Kaleb will have to drive in his new district is 8.5 miles to visit the big houses at the far northern edge of the Prairie Wood development on the Moccasin Creek golf course.
Why would Kaleb vote against such a personally advantageous remapping? What’s not to love about turning totally unproductive four-hour drive times into local door-knocking and getting home in time for supper and Bible study with a loving wife and adorable kiddos?
Maybe Kaleb’s grousing that he’s now been thrown into a district already served by three incumbent Republicans:
Sparrow leaves Senator Al Novstrup, Representative Drew Dennert, and Representative Carl Perry in Aberdeen’s District 3. It also leaves the two Democratic candidates who ran for District 3 House in 2020, Justin Roemmick and Leslie McLaughlin, in District 3. In 2020, Weis ran unopposed for reëlection in District 2. If we reran the 2020 election on the Sparrow map, Weis would have to plow through a Republican primary against the more popular and better connected Perry and Dennert, then, on the 10% chance Weis managed to place second, run an actual campaign against actual Democrats to win in November. (The latter isn’t a high wall to climb: Dave’s Redistricing says that, based on 2016 and 2018 vote counts, the new District 3 leans GOP 61.4% to 36.0%, but hey: any contest is still harder than no contest. Plus, those 2016 and 2018 vote totals weren’t piled up with a dour candidate like Weis, who performs poorly in Aberdeen proper, on the District 3 ticket.)
Two’s company, Three’s a crowd—maybe that’s why Weis, Dennert, and Perry all voted against the arguably more sensible reapportionment of Brown County embodied in the Senate-driven Sparrow map. Senator Novstrup evidently does not share the concerns of his District 3 House neighbors: Novstrup voted for the Sparrow map, likely because (a) Senate leadership told him to, and (b) he looked at the map and said, “Hey, as long as I don’t have to fight Senator Rohl in a primary, I’ll do whatever you tell me!”
Of course, Kaleb’s angst could be relieved by any of the District 3 incumbents’ deciding they need a break from Pierre. Maybe Drew will decide he’s sick of city life and take his family back to the farm, where his heart lies, outside Aberdeen. Maybe Carl will decide its time to enjoy the golden years and hit the road in an RV (of course, RVers can still vote, maybe even run for office…). Maybe will get tired of pretending to live in Aberdeen and dedicate himself to running the bumper cars at Thunder Road in Sioux Falls. But if any current District 3 incumbent steps aside, there are lots of other Republicans in Aberdeen who might contend with Weis for their shot to climb the good old boys’ ladder.
Dismantling the sprawling District 2 to make more compact, less gerrymandered districts in northeastern South Dakota is one good aspect of the new Sparrow map. Moving Weis into a compacted District 3 that brings him much closer to the people he would serve is good for him, his family, and the people he would represent. But Weis’s vote against the superior Sparrow map that moves him into a closer but more competitive district indicates that the only person he wants to represent is himself.