4 People to watch in South Dakota politics in 2007
1. Representative Elect Russ Olson
Many Republicans (including myself) wondered if Russ going solo against Gerry Lange and Dave Gassman was such a good idea. Every time people exercised both of their votes, they could cast one vote for him, and one against him. It just didn’t matter. Russ took the legislative seat away from Gerry Lange.
But don’t keep an eye on Russ for that reason. Keep an eye on Russ because he’s the favored candidate to replace Dan Sutton in the State Senate.
As I’ve noted previously, after Sutton resigns or is expelled, Russ will likely be the favorite to fill that seat. And that will put him in the unique position of serving as the defacto leader in a renewed “republicanizing” of the Madison legislative district, going from zero GOP legislators last year to 2 before summer after Sutton resigns/is
2. Former Representative Ted Klaudt
You might be thinking “Didn’t Ted lose to Ryan Maher?” Well yes, that is correct. But don’t look at him for his recent loss. Look at him for what else he has going on.
Ted runs the South Dakota Conservative PAC, which just completed its second election cycle and is still handing out money to conservative candidates. This PAC, which originally started back in 2004, might not have been terribly active to date, but there have been rumblings that the organization might get more serious about a mission of conservative activism.
With conservatives feeling a bit shut out after this election, and Ted having more
time on his hands, you might see this organization become more politically aggressive as the moderates did through Stan Adelstein’s MAINstream coalition.
3. Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth
With Tim Johnson’s recent medical troubles, aside from everyone wishing him a speedy recovery, the spotlight is shifting to whether or not he’ll run again in 2008. I’m guessing the answer will be no. And this puts Herseth in the driver's seat for the
If it’s going to happen, I suspect we’ll hear more serious rumblings about it around the end of 2007.
4. House Majority Leader Larry Rhoden
It used to be that the Senate was the conservative wing of the legislature. But with the recent shift to a more moderate culture in that chamber, it signaled that the House is probably going to be where the whimsy of moderates expressed via legislation goes to die.
And why wouldn’t it? Larry is a West River conservative leading such other conservatives as Roger Hunt, Tom Hackl, Gordon Howie, Al Novstrup, Betty Olson, Hal Wick, and several others. When you sit down and put pencil to paper, the House is where the rubber meets the road this year for conservatives. And accordingly, you’ll see more House members in the spotlight for it (for better or worse).
And Larry will bear their standard as they march into battle.
I'm driving back to Pierre this afternoon, so as I have my weekly contemplation time, I'll see if I can add to this list before the day is done.
Happy New Year!