PIERRE | How does Dennis Daugaard feel about his eighth, and final, State of the State address he’ll deliver this afternoon as the governor of South Dakota?
“It is something a person thinks about in this job,” he said.
The speech will be a mix, according to Daugaard. He wants to look back at what’s happened in the seven years he’s been governor and review current conditions.
He also plans to outline what he still hopes South Dakota can accomplish before next January when this second, and final, term as governor ends for him and his wife, Linda. Covering those bases might run beyond the hour or so he’s spoken to lawmakers in past years.
“I’ll try to not be too windy,” Daugaard said light-heartedly.
The event is an opportunity for the couple’s two daughters and son, along with spouses and grandchildren, to gather again in Pierre. Laura and Jay Mitchell, and Chris and Emily Daugaard, are coming back to Pierre. Sara and Tony Venhuizen, who is Daugaard’s chief of staff, live in Pierre.
Other family members also plan to be in town for the occasion.
“That’s gratifying,” Daugaard said.
His time with them, however, looks somewhat limited. Today, after the speech and a briefing for news reporters, there is a social gathering for legislators that governors have traditionally attended.
In the interview, Daugaard said he’s assembling a file of important matters to pass along to the next governor.
Daugaard said the list covers topics such as workforce development, what he described as "money traps" and "bonuses" that might be ahead, and programs his administration has underway.
A Republican, he said the file is available for the next governor to be able to make “a conscious decision.”
Four Republicans have filed organizational paperwork to be candidates for their party’s nomination in the June primary election. They are U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, Attorney General Marty Jackley, former legislator Lora Hubbel and Terry LaFleur.
Senate Democratic leader Billie Sutton is running for his party’s nomination.
Daugaard was a state senator when Mike Rounds, a former Senate leader, won the 2002 June primary election for the Republican nomination for governor. Later that month, Rounds asked Daugaard to be his running mate as the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor.
The Rounds-Daugaard ticket won the 2002 general election. They were re-elected in 2006.
As lieutenant governor, Daugaard presided over the Senate most days of the eight winters of the Legislature’s regular sessions and the special sessions in 2003 and 2005.
Daugaard said Rounds provided answers that helped him be “an effective candidate” when Daugaard ran for the Republican nomination for governor in 2010. Daugaard won the June primary and the November general election.
His victory in the governor’s race made Daugaard the first lieutenant governor elected to another major office in South Dakota since Jim Abdnor won a U.S. House of Representatives seat in 1972.
Nearly every lieutenant governor since then — Bill Dougherty in 1974, Harvey Wollman in 1978, Lowell Hansen in 1986, Walter Dale Miller in 1994, Carole Hillard in 1998 and Steve Kirby in 2002 — has run for governor or U.S. House. None made it past his or her primary.
The current lieutenant governor, Republican former legislator Matt Michels, doesn’t appear to be running for any office this year. When Daugaard ran for re-election as governor in 2014, he turned aside a primary challenge from Hubbel and won a second term that November.
Daugaard said the background from Rounds during the 2010 campaign flowed naturally in part because Daugaard was already in the administration.
Now Daugaard is offering the same opportunity to those who want to know more about what’s happening, both in the governor’s second-floor office at the Capitol and throughout the two dozen state departments and bureaus.
“We’ve tried to do that for candidates who’ve asked us,” he said.
The governor said he and his staff have tried to help potential successors work through legislative proposals, whether or not his administration supported or opposed the plans.
“If we can’t win it on our merits, we aren’t going to let a technicality win the day,” Daugaard said.
The governor acknowledged the year remaining is “a little bittersweet.” He mentioned it’s sometimes meant passing up activities that he and Linda might otherwise enjoy. During the recent holiday season, brothers and sisters of Linda arranged for what he described as "a party bus."
Daugaard said he and Linda decided against joining them because he was governor. “It just creates the wrong impression,” he said. “You have to be cautious when you’re out and about.”
The two turn 65 later this year. Daugaard said he plans to take at least a part-time job for a few years after his time as governor is done.
He said he and Linda are especially looking forward to spending more time with their kids and grandkids.
"It’ll be good to be out of the fish bowl,” Daugaard said.