When the best Democrats can say is that things didn’t get any worse, it’s been another depressing election.
South Dakota Democrats have gained one seat in the Senate but lost one seat in the House, keeping their total caucus in the South Dakota Legislature at 11 out of 105 seats.
The brightest spot on the Legislative map for Democrats is District 10 in northeastern Sioux Falls, where Democrats won all three seats. Democratic challenger Liz Larson ousted incumbent Republican Senator Maggie Sutton with a strong 57% to 43% victory. The redrawn district also re-elected Representative Erin Healy and gave her a Democratic seatmate, Kameron Nelson. Healy and Nelson won 4,613 and 3,510 votes, respectively, while Republican challengers John Mogen and Tom Sutton (yeah, Mr. Maggie) drew 3,114 and 2,980 votes, respectively.
Traditionally Democratic District 15 in north and central Sioux Falls stayed that way, but not by as much as District 10 went blue. Democratic Senator Reynold Nesiba kept his seat but beat Republican Brenda Lawrence by only a 53%-to-47% vote. D-15 Dem Linda Duba kept her seat in the House with a first-place finish. Newcomer Kadyn Wittman appears to have held the second House seat in D-15 (left open by Jamie Smith in his failed bid for governor) for Democrats, but her 97-vote margin over Republican Joni Tschetter is within recount range.
Alas, the longtime Democratic stronghold of District 1 in northeastern South Dakota has finally surrendered fully to Republicans. Republican Senator Mike Rohl fended off the challenge from former Democratic legislator Susan Wismer. Republican crypto-critical race theorist Tamara St. John held her House seat, and the Republicans’ illegal candidate Joe Donnell fended off former Democratic legislator Steven McCleerey by over 1,100 votes. Democrats thus lost the House seat Jennifer Keintz left open as she ran for lieutenant governor alongside Smith.
Democrats also lost the House seat they held in Yankton in District 18. Republican Julie Auch placed second in District 18’s House race, behind incumbent Republican Rep. Mike Stevens but ahead of incumbent Democratic Rep. Ryan Cwach. 155 votes separate second place and third place, making an Auch-Cwach recount possible. While I relish the prospect of getting to write “Auch-Cwach” in as many headlines as possible, I would not anticipate any recount finding 156 missed Democratic ballots or flipping 78 Republican votes.
Democrats held the District 26 Senate seat, as Rep. Shawn Bordeaux beat three-time loser and now known child rapist and incestophile Joel Koskan 58% to 42%. (But you know, the white folks in Brule County and Jones County still have Koskan majorities, showing that some white folks still feel better represented by a white man who rapes Indian children than by an Indian.) Democrat Eric Emery stepped up to hold Bordeaux’s House seat, beating Republican Joyce Glynn 67% to 33%.
Redistricting helped Democrats take District 10, but it didn’t help in Rapid City. Party leaders celebrated the consolidation of the Lakota vote in Rapid City’s central District 32 as an electoral opportunity, but Democratic candidate Nicole Heenan mustered only 44% against incumbent Senator Helene Duhamel, and Republicans Steve Duffy and incumbent Rep. Beck Drury held off their Democratic challengers Christine Stephenson and Jonathan Old Horse. The only Democrats representing anyone close to Rapid City and the Black Hills thus remain Senator Red Dawn Foster and Representative Peri Pourier, who won reëlection in District 27, which now reaches up further from Pine Ridge to include the barren eastern fringes of the Rapid City metroplex.
Redistricting didn’t help Democrats in District 28A. Democratic Representative Oren Lesmeister appears to have held his seat in that single-seat district on our north-central reservations, but just barely. The addition of more white ranchers from southern Perkins County to D-28A appears to have helped Republican Ralph Lyon win 49% of the vote. The mere 43 votes separating him from the incumbent may trigger a recount.
But as it stands, the Democratic caucus in Pierre will remain at 11 members, constituting 11% of the Senate and 10% of the House.