Tuesday’s aftermath and the future of Senate Leadership.

As I read the big Mercer article where I’m mentioned (they cut that part out in Pierre), I noticed a little tidbit that Bob drops about a few of the Republican founders of the MAINstream Coalition. Specifically, how founders Dave Knudson, Ed Olson, and Tom Dempster and Mac McCracken remain and the question whether they will continue to have influential roles in the senate when re-elected. Most are committee chairs, and Senator Mac McCracken intends to seek the role of Senate President Pro Tem, a position currently held by Lee Schoenbeck.

I was having this very conversation with an elected official about the same time this came out, and if what we off-handedly projected would happen in the fall elections, we counted 16 or 17 conservative Republicans who would likely stand together on leadership elections, and 7 or 8 who would fit into that moderate category.

What does that mean to the leadership equation?

Our thoughts were basically that it’s somewhat unlikely that those MAINstream founders who happen to be committee chairs would be removed. Regardless of ideology, they’re well respected. For example, I don’t think there’s a Senator in the Legislature who would speak a harsh word of Ed Olson. Just like a lot of other Republicans on Tuesday, I might not agree with the MAINstream thing personally, but I couldn’t speak poorly of him either. Ed’s a good guy.

Regardless, who do I think could be looking at top positions? I think it’s likely we’ll see State Senator Bob Gray seeking the Majority Leader slot. After he recaptures his old seat, I suspect Larry Diedrich is going to be considered a natural for one of the top positions as well.

Look for some competition to be thrown into the mix – many of the members on Appropriations have on occasion expressed frustration over being passed over for other committee assignments. At times over the years, they’ve felt suppressed. But after Tuesday, there’s likely to be a whole crop of new legislators who recognize that when the rubber hit the road during the primary, Jerry Apa, Bill Napoli, Brock Greenfield and a few others were big cheerleaders. And when Republican Senators pick who is going to lead the caucus this next December, it’s not likely to be forgotten.

Getting back to the legislator mentioned in the article, Senator McCracken, what does that mean for Mac? Is this newly emboldened conservative majority likely to place Senator McCracken at the pinnacle of Senate authority? My dusty Magic-8 ball says “ask again later.” Not because of a personal beef anyone has with him, but the MAINstream association could hang around his neck like an anchor. And 17 conservatives beat 8 moderates every time.

But there’s hope. He didn’t have a primary. He doesn’t have a general election. That leaves him lots of time that others don’t have to help out challenger races this fall. In 2004, he had the luxury of being able to work with Senator Stan Adelstein in handing out checks to candidates. (Heck, one of my candidates I was helping got one.)

Fast forward to 2006 and the multi-PAC filtering that Stan did in the election. That didn’t come across as palatable to many Republicans in the primary, so a big cash influx that way is probably out. Regardless, Mac can raise money. (Possibly better than others.) And he can provide moral support.

regardless of who leads, Republican Senators on both sides of the ideological spectrum are probably going to demand some more decorum in how Senators speak about each other. Conservatives are tired of being falsely labeled as "out-of-touch extremists who should be thrown out of office" by their Republican colleagues. And they've shown that they can exercise the electoral muscle at the ballot box and remove the people who do that in primaries. In other words, hit them and they're going to hit back much harder. So, there's likely to be a state of detente' come January.

Any realistic conjecture in the leadership situation is months off. But one fact is likely to hold true - It's going to be a much different Senate come next January.


Anonymous said…
Your last sentence is about the only one I agree with. It will be a different senate. I don’t know why you assume the republicans are going to keep 25 seats. They just alienated half of their own party. I know that you were very excited about the election outcome but the republicans I’ve been talking to are very concerned about the direction the party has taken. I think you will see the democrats pick up a number of seats. There are 3 or 4 competitive races in Sioux Falls, thanks to the primaries 4 more races just became tightened considerably, there are 2 new districts, one in which Julie Barlting could very easily beat John Koskan (who is the assistant leader but I noticed he was absent from your post). The other new district is majority democrat and is a toss up. On top of that you have some great races developing in Watertown and Huron and even a few west of the river. I can only hope that Larry Deidrich is as overconfident as you are. That is a very tough race for you to be calling this early. I think the republicans might bleed a little for kicking out all of their moderates.
Anonymous said…
Senator Knudson is perhaps the smartest guy in town when the session meets.

Let's pray the ultra right wing can realize that.
Anonymous said…
Seriously. Bogue and Schoenbeck are gone. Koskan has a tough fight against Bartling. It could be a situation where the ranking Republicans are all out on the street. The only leaders left are the Mainstreamers.

Can you honestly say a guy like Bob Gray, someone who has only been around two years, is going to be in line for leadership?

And the appropriators... I would love to hear them whine. They have such broad egos - especially Apa. There's one guy who isn't in it for the people, Jerry Apa. He just likes power.
Anonymous said…
Knudson is a deucebag, and I hope the rest are wise enough not to elect him to leadership. As a Dist4 republican I know Jim Peterson is well-liked and has some good characteristics that Diedrich doesn't possess. If I were a betting man I'd put my money on Jim.
Haggs said…
"Conservatives are tired of being falsely labeled as "out-of-touch extremists who should be thrown out of office" by their Republican colleagues."

Well, if they keep legislating as poorly as they have been, they'll have to live with it.
Anonymous said…
Brock Greenfield should be the next leader. He is a conseravative who has the ability and knowledge to make him the Leader. Moderate is someone with no convictions, lets try and make everyone happy. It sounds great but in reality no one wins.

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