No one doubted that Governor Kristi Noem would handily defeat her primary challenger, Rep. Steven Haugaard. But Noem also endorsed several Republican Legislative candidates by word and/or PAC cash in their primaries. How’d those candidates do?
- Joe Donnell*, District 1 Senate: lost to Sen. Michael Rohl 71% to 29%.
- Jake Schoenbeck**, District 2 House, lost, placing third (24%) behind John Sjaarda (34%) and David Kull (26%) but ahead of Jeffrey Lloyd Shawd (16%)
- Rachel Dix, District 3 Senate: lost to Sen. Al Novstrup 41% to 59%.
- Stephanie Sauder, District 4 House: won 31% of the vote, but only 58 more votes than Rep. Fred Deutsch, who got 30% and qualified for the second spot on the general election ballot, despite Noem’s open criticism of him.
- Jesse Fonkert and Ken Teunissen, District 9 House: both lost to Rep. Bethany Soye, 39% to 32% Teunissen and 30% Fonkert. Teunissen qualifies for second spot on general election ballot.
- Regent and former chief of staff to Noem and to his father-in-law, former Governor Dennis Daugaard, Tony Venhuizen, District 13 House: won 37% over Rep. Sue Peterson (32%), Rep. Richard Thomason (21%), and Penny Baybridge (10%).
- Sen. Bryan Breitling, District 23 Senate: won over Rep. Spencer Gosch 54% to 46%.
- Lisa Rave, District 25 Senate: lost, placing third (19%) in four-way primary behind Rep. Tom Pischke (45%) and former Rep. Leslie Heinemann (22%) but ahead of Kevin Crisp (14%).
- Rep. Tim Goodwin, District 30 Senate: lost to Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller 49.6% to 50.4%—but that’s just 46 votes, and there could be a recount.
- Liz Regalado and Larry Larson, District 35 House: lost to Rep. Tony Randolph and Rep. Tina Mulally: Randolph 31%, Mulally 30%, Larson 20%, Regalado 18%.
Twelve endorsees, and only four victories of any sort. The biggest feather in Noem’s endorsement cap may be Senator Breitling’s staving off of Speaker Gosch’s challenge. Noem and Gosch feuded hard as Gosch led the right-wing House Republican caucus in open warfare against various Noem positions, and if anyone stood a chance of upsetting an incumbent Senator, it was an incumbent Speaker of the House.
But Noem’s other three “victories” do call for quote marks and qualification. Noem’s Sauder in District 4 won first-place, but just barely, and she didn’t push the incumbent Deutsch out of the House. Noem was bound to get one of her two picks in the three-way District 9 primary, but the incumbent right-wing Rep. Soye still beat them both by a healthy margin. Noem’s support for Venhuizen in District 13 was trivial: he had $126K in donations from all the leading Republicans of Sioux Falls and South Dakota. But Venhuizen’s win failed to rally votes for the other moderate in the District 13 race, Rep. Richard Thomason and leaves Venhuizen seat-mated with radical right-winger Rep. Sue Peterson. In none of those three House races was a candidate endorsed by Noem able to boot a radical right-winger from the House.
Noem’s eight losers are more clearly losers. Donnell crashed and burned, failing to reach even 30% against rookie incumbent Rohl (perhaps because he spent Sunday fishing instead of canvassing—remember, Joe: Dennis Daugaard said everyone goes to the lake after the primary, not the Sunday before). Schoenbeck failed to win a ballot slot in a district his dad, Senator Lee Schoenbeck, created for him. Dix fizzled against incumbent Novstrup. Fonkert came in last against incumbent Soye. Lisa Rave, wife of former mainstreamish legislator Tim Rave, should have been able to parlay name and connections, not to mention the Governor’s endorsement, into something better than 19%, but she lost to chamber-switcher Rep. Tom Pischke. Regalado and Larson appear not to have moved the needle against the incumbents in District 35. Rep. Goodwin might still have a chance in a recount, but Noem was unable to push this key endorsee past the incumbent Senator Frye-Mueller.
Noem’s endorsements here at home fared a little better than her endorsements of flat losers in Ohio, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania. But for all the money and celebrity she has, Governor Kristi Noem ought to be able to post a better record in a South Dakota primary than seeing 33% of her Legislative endorsees survive the primaries.
*Update 18:21 CDT: I just found Noem’s endorsement of Donnell this afternoon, after publishing to original article, thanks to an eager reader. Donnell posted this endorsement to his campaign FB on Saturday:
**Update 2022.06.09 08:30 CDT: added Schoenbeck, revised headline!