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4 out of 12 of Noem’s Legislative Endorsees Survive GOP Primary

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 59 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:

Joe Donnell, endorsement from Kristi Noem, posted to Joe Donnell for District 1 Senate FB, 2022.06.06.
Joe Donnell, endorsement from Kristi Noem, posted to Joe Donnell for District 1 Senate FB, 2022.06.06.
**Update 2022.06.09 08:30 CDT: added Schoenbeck, revised headline!


  1. John 2022-06-08 14:00

    Better, yet, for one’s health, longevity, and the health and longevity of one’s family . . . move out of republican precincts.
    A study of the US posted in the British Medical Journal notes that folks in republican areas have worse health outcomes and a reducing lifespan compared to folks living in democratic areas. The folks living in democratic areas have better health outcomes and have a growing longevity than do those folks living in republican areas.
    Apparently being a hateful republican can kill you, sooner.

  2. grudznick 2022-06-08 17:31

    grudznick’s thoughts come from an angle that makes Mr. H plugs his ears and go “lalalalalalala”: This just shows the sheer, raw, awesome political near invulnerability of Mr. Novstrup, the elder. A whooping he still gave out, but he would have won 89-11 otherwise.

    Let us hope Mr. Novstrup does not hold a grudge against his attempted tormentors, for he will raise his mastery of the legislatures to new heights.

  3. O 2022-06-08 17:33

    It seems like, as always, incumbency is king (almost literally).

  4. grudznick 2022-06-08 17:56

    Indeed, Mr. O. How else does one explain the seeming perpetuity of the ineffective Mr. Nesiba of Sioux Falls and the perpetually sour Mr. Burg from Wessington Springs. These fellows just coast, or coasted, in the case of Quinten, into their cushy jobs over and over without question.

  5. 96Tears 2022-06-08 18:12

    Team Noem/sChoenbeck’s Purge was a flop. Their embracing Amendment C doubles the embarrassment. Paybacks are hell. I’d say that kind of failure means the Senate hearing and state convention open the door to Ravnsborg getting nominated for a second term.

  6. grudznick 2022-06-08 18:32

    That would be bad, Mr. Tears. That would be very bad.

  7. P. Aitch 2022-06-08 18:47

    They can’t win at the ballot box so they’re going to try to figure out ways to win on technicalities, by cheating, by trying to prevent things from getting to the ballot box.
    – SD ranks among the bottom five states in “innovation skills” and Amendment C, while sponsored by Schoenbeck/Hansen, is no “brainchild” of either.
    – There are 125 bills to change the ballot measure process in 28 states, including measures that would increase the thresholds to get initiatives on the ballot or approved. Other proposals would require ballot initiatives to pass multiple times, increase filing fees and change the signature requirements. Republican lawmakers have also introduced more than 300 bills to restrict voting, dozens of anti-protest bills, and numerous measures that would undermine or snatch power from state courts and local election boards.
    – It’s organizations like the Koch network and ALEC, who are the brainchild and financial backers of a lot of what’s going on here to push this sort of broader national campaign.
    *Schoenbeck, Weiland, and Noem are quoted and examined midway into this espose.

  8. Arlo Blundt 2022-06-08 18:58

    The lunatic far right wing of the Republican Party proved itself as very strong throughout the state. While the entertainment value of this ascendancy is high, its pervasive intensity is cause for concern.

  9. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-06-08 18:58

    96, I’ll be analyzing the Schoenbeck/Odenbach funding contest soon.

    But tell me how Tuesday’s results increase the chance of a Ravnsborg comeback. Goach fought impeachment and got beat. Mortensen filed the articles of impeachment and led the House argument for impeachment, and he survived the District 24 House primary while his neighbor and Joe’s friend Mary Duvall lost her Senate primary.

    Hmmm… looks like I need to do a new post on impeachment positions and primary results….

  10. grudznick 2022-06-08 19:06

    Mr. Goach [sic] was beaten because of the vest he wore to cover his jiggles in a jump campaign movie and some voter recoiled. Mr. Mortensen dominated because he’s the straw that stirs the drink. Ms. Duvall lost because she was targeted by some of the super-operatives in the alt-right crowd, and those fellows know how to operate.

  11. Kurt Evans 2022-06-08 21:55

    “grudznick” writes:

    How else [besides the electoral power of incumbency] does one explain the seeming perpetuity of the ineffective Mr. Nesiba of Sioux Falls and the perpetually sour Mr. Burg from Wessington Springs. These fellows just coast, or coasted, in the case of Quinten, into their cushy jobs over and over without question.

    I attended grades K-12 with Quinten Burg’s nephew Cory in a class of about 40. The Burgs are traditional Catholic Democrats. That isn’t my worldview, but I think Jim and Quinten enjoyed long-term political success largely because they work hard and because they’re relatively unpretentious.

  12. grudznick 2022-06-08 22:24

    Mr. Evans, isn’t that a might coincidence that ol’ grudznick would trot out a reference to Mr. Burg, a fellow from the legislatures few around here would know, at a time like this.

    Could make a fellow wonder.

  13. Mark Anderson 2022-06-08 22:52

    Well, Ms. Howard lost and gave up her seat to do it. Taffy has a stick-to-itiveness, nevertheless.

  14. grudznick 2022-06-08 23:12

    Ms. Taffy did indeed give up her seat, and thank goodness Mr. Haugaard did as well or we’d be back to him enforcing the rules on Ms. Taffy like he used to when she wore the short skirts and didn’t wear the nylons like his rules mandated. But I’m sure many in the legislatures will miss them both.

  15. Arlo Blundt 2022-06-08 23:34

    grudznick…are you stepping all over Jim Berg’s reputation??? He was a fine guy, honest and forthright, a legislator who showed everyone in the chamber respect, regardless of their views. A Democrat, from the golden age of Democrats, but his generally Republican district returned him to the Legislature many times. If he completed his public service in an appointed position (and I don’t recall if he did or not), I’m rather certain the public was well served by his appointment. I know he returned to farm in eastern Jerauld County.Speak well of the dead, Grudz, we are all certain to join them.

  16. grudznick 2022-06-08 23:38

    Did you not read my blogging, Mr. Blundt? I brought up Quentin Burg. Not this “Jim Berg” of whom you type. I know of no “Jim Berg.”

    Mr. Evans, it seems, has confused you. Go back and read my blogging.

  17. grudznick 2022-06-08 23:39

    Plus, Mr. Blundt, I don’t believe Mr. Burg is dead. Yet.

  18. Arlo Blundt 2022-06-08 23:44

    OOOPS sorry…Jim Burg hasn’t joined the departed….still, he’s about the last guy I’d expect to find criticized by Grudznick, who usually shows some discretion and judgement.

  19. 96Tears 2022-06-09 07:32

    Cory, The Purge missed the mark on Bolin and Novstrup. Team Noem/sChoenbeck should have done some kind of polling before opening the bombay doors and showered the districts with nastygrams. The locals weren’t buying it, so they backed up their good ol’ boys. These two are particularly dangerous because Bolin is as clever and bright as Novstrup is brutish and petty. The Purge was a yuck on their yum, and it failed. This is a case of when you poke the bear, make sure you kill it. Otherwise you’ll succeed in only making it insanely angry.

    As repulsive as it would be, put yourself in Bolin’s and Novstrup’s shoes. Your Governor and your President Pro Tem launched an unprecedented attack on you and fellow party members and it flopped. What do you have that Noem and Schoenbeck want more than anything after they went to the trouble of holding the Senate hearing right in front of the state convention? Are you going to hand over your vote, or are you going to embarrass them and teach them a lesson about stabbing fellow Republicans in the back?

    More than anything, Noem does not want Ravnsborg’s name under her name on the November 2022 ballot. It might upset her apple cart as she continues to ignore her role as governor while running for President in 2024. This is something that Bolin and Novstrup can now control as Schoenbeck scratches around to beg 21 GOP Senators to convict Jason Ravnsborg.

  20. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-06-09 09:58

    Update: Noem’s failure rate is now 67%. I hadn’t counted her endorsement of third-place finisher Jake Schoenbeck. If any of you find other examples of Noem endorsements of Legislative candidates, successful or not, let me know. But as the record stands right now, Noem’s endorsement isn’t worth much, even in the South Dakota that supposedly adores her.

    96, my full post on Schoenbeck’s side of the purge effort is now up.

  21. John 2022-06-09 21:18

    The Peter Principle caught up with the snow queen. She’s toast, having no future beyond being an accidental governor.
    Updated versions are available:

    “The Peter Principle states that, if you perform well in your job, you will likely be promoted to the next level of your organization’s hierarchy. You will continue to rise up the ladder until you reach the point where you can no longer perform well.”

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