Two state Republican lawmakers banned from party caucus

2012-01-27T09:51:00Z 2012-02-28T22:56:26Z Two state Republican lawmakers banned from party caucusDavid Montgomery Journal staff Rapid City Journal
January 27, 2012 9:51 am  • 

Personality conflicts and ideological disputes among Republican lawmakers have led to two of them being banned from the party caucus.

Rep. Lance Russell, R-Hot Springs, and Rep. Stace Nelson, R-Fulton, are no longer welcome among the other 49 legislators in the House Republican caucus.

Russell hasn't attended caucus meetings yet this session, though he says he was planning on returning until the ban was issued. But Nelson's exile is acrimonious and contested, the culmination of monthsof feuding between the first-term gadfly and GOP leadership.

Rep. David Lust, R-Rapid City, said the final straw was an angry dispute between Nelson and an unnamed lawmaker earlier this week.

"I am not going to condone the conduct he engaged in toward another member of the Legislature very publicly. It's just not acceptable," Lust said.

Nelson admitted to saying things he wasn't "proud" of in a post-session argument this week but insisted that the accusations were trumped up.

"They're simply concocting things as character assassination," Nelson said. "They've never asked me what happened. They've never allowed me to explain what the conversation was about or my side of the conversation."

A caucus is an organizational group of lawmakers of the same party.

Caucuses typically meet every day before the afternoon legislative session, to share information and discuss party priorities.

Russell said he had spent caucus time doing research in the state Supreme Court law library, and that he frequently doesn't attend caucus early in the session. He said he was planning on coming back to caucus after Lust asked him to, until being surprised with a ban.

"My understanding of the caucus situation is, it's something where you can voluntarily participate," Russell said. "When Dave (Lust) ran to be leader of our caucus, he never said that he would be enforcing some rule that we had to be there every day or we had to have permission not to be there."

So far, Russell said neither Lust nor any other leaders have told him directly he's not welcome. All information he's gotten has been second- or third-hand, from other lawmakers or members of the media.

Despite his frustration, Russell said he has hopes his dispute can be mended.

"I think that there's a chance for reconciliation here. I really do," he said.

Nelson, however, is facing worse consequences than being barred from the caucus. House Speaker Val Rausch, R-Big Stone City, moved Nelson's seat away from other Republican lawmakers. Rausch said he's considering taking Nelson off one or more of his committees, and on Thursday Rausch refused to recognize Nelson when he wanted to speak during a floor debate.

"The only right you have as an elected official is the right to vote on bills," Rausch said. "Everything else is a privilege. As your behavior warrants, so does your privileges."

Russell, Rausch said, hasn't "behaved disruptively" and won't be punished, even though he's no longer part of the Republican caucus. But Rausch accused Nelson of exercising a "lack of control" in his relations with other lawmakers.

In turn, Nelson accused Rausch of acting like a "dictator" and exceeding his authority.

"Rep. Rausch does not have authority to punish any legislator," Nelson said. "In order for a legislator to be punished or censured, the full house has to investigate the charges against them."

House rules, Nelson said, require the Speaker to call on the first member who stands up, making Rausch refusing to recognize him a violation, he said. Rausch said speaking during debates is a privilege and that he might continue to refuse to recognize Nelson unless he agrees to meet with him and discuss the issue.

Nelson has been feuding with Republican leadership since the end of last year's Legislature. As the dispute accelerated, Nelson accused Lust, Rausch and others of impropriety and misconduct. His accusation led to an investigation by a legislative panel that dismissed the charges, though Nelson criticized that judgment as a whitewash.

Both Lust and Rausch denied that this week's actions were retribution for Nelson's earlier charges.

"We had moved beyond that the first caucus meeting we had," Lust said. "This has absolutely nothing to do with that situation."

Nelson insisted that retaliation was the only explanation.

"It's clear that they want my head on a spike," he said.

Lust, in contrast, said he took his actions only as a "last resort."

"I have been very patient, as has our caucus," Lust said.

Nelson hasn't decided what his next step is - whether he'll try to reconcile with Republican leaders, escalate his conflict, or follow a path somewhere in between.

He and Russell have reserved a room to meet on their own as a miniature caucus on Monday, to discuss bills among themselves and anyone else who wants to attend. But neither of the two has committed to organizing their own formal caucus, or to forming a tactical alliance with the House Democratic caucus.


The Legislature reconvenes on Monday, Jan. 30.

Contact David Montgomery at 394-8329 or


Copyright 2015 Rapid City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(11) Comments

  1. whisk
    Report Abuse
    whisk - January 28, 2012 7:21 am
    Who appointed Val Rausch as SD's dictator????
  2. AmericanPatriot
    Report Abuse
    AmericanPatriot - January 28, 2012 6:54 am
    Boys will be boys. Isn't it time to send some MEN to Pierre?
  3. 196thlightinfantry
    Report Abuse
    196thlightinfantry - January 27, 2012 2:18 pm
    They should all read that Bible thing that Hickey wants all to study in school and get some lessons on how to play together. No wonder we have these lawsuits hanging over our melons with this bunch of knuckle heads in charge. Someone with some common sense, please run against these guys. Independents and Democrats need apply. Your state needs you.
  4. PhlegmaticRN
    Report Abuse
    PhlegmaticRN - January 27, 2012 2:14 pm
    jhunter246 said: "Personality conflicts? Nice spin. The GOP name has been tarnished with many, many American people watching the circus surrounding Ron Paul, a fellow Republican. Then of course, the other side (DNC) has their own issues with Blue Republicans emerging. Anybody have some popcorn? If our local politicians can not work together than what do all of us have in the end result? "

    I agree with you on this. The GOP can not make Paul look bad with his public history so they resort to strange behaviors that literally questions their own credibility. Let's hope it hasn't spread to South Dakota.
    Brilliant for bringing up the Blue Republican movement. Yes, the other party seems to be experiencing the same problems. You just don't hear about through the popular media which happens to an arm from both of these "clubs"
  5. jhunter246
    Report Abuse
    jhunter246 - January 27, 2012 1:11 pm
    Personality conflicts? Nice spin. The GOP name has been tarnished with many, many American people watching the circus surrounding Ron Paul, a fellow Republican. Then of course, the other side (DNC) has their own issues with Blue Republicans emerging. Anybody have some popcorn? If our local politicians can not work together than what do all of us have in the end result?
  6. badhand
    Report Abuse
    badhand - January 27, 2012 11:51 am
    This is what happens when you have one political party in a state. Too bad workings South Dakotans are so naive as to believe that these people are working on their behalf.
  7. retired
    Report Abuse
    retired - January 27, 2012 11:34 am
    I would think rausch is wrong people elected that guy to represent them in the state, by not letting him express his voters concerns he is dening them representation, maybe he is a dictator thats what they do take rights away from people.
  8. Progstopper
    Report Abuse
    Progstopper - January 27, 2012 10:39 am
    Centerfield - "When one party cannot even agree among themselves, they certainly are not going to be able to work with the other party to accomplish anything."

    When this gets to the point of school yard childs play it is not good. But we don't send these people to represent us to all think the same way, and just go along to get along. And the democrats say the republican pary is the party of sheeple. Sounds like to me it is the party of new ideas that some of the old timers either need to listen to or move on to some other way to make a living.

  9. Centerfield
    Report Abuse
    Centerfield - January 27, 2012 10:25 am
    Totally not surprised to see the fractures in the Republican party trickle down to state and local governments. When one party cannot even agree among themselves, they certainly are not going to be able to work with the other party to accomplish anything. This is very visible on the national level. Sad to see it happening at the lower levels now.
  10. Inthemiddle
    Report Abuse
    Inthemiddle - January 27, 2012 10:17 am
    The GOP across the nation seems to have the same problems. The Iowa GOP and their handling of their own elections which in the aftermath has shown 8 precincts were basically missing. Then South Carolina GOP (local media only people) reported approximately 900 deceased people voted in that election.
    Then we have this situation in the South Dakota GOP. Maybe the problem with our total electoral/governmental system is the term "Party" all together? I once believed elected officials came together for the people's interest with a party ideology motivating them, not party agenda. The big boys (Washington) from both sides have clearly shown America this is not case.
  11. jacie
    Report Abuse
    jacie - January 27, 2012 10:14 am
    We wonder why nothing gets done; time for the members of the legislature to put on their 'big people panties' and stop these school yard games. There are more pressing issues in S. D. Remember the school systems? No budget cuts against education this session!
Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick

Activate subscription button gif



State law requires the use of seat belts, though a driver not wearing one has to break an additional traffic law before an officer can pull them over since it's a secondary offense. Do you think wearing a seat belt should continue to be a secondary offense or should police be able to ticket someone just for not wearing a seat belt?

View Results

Recent Blog Posts

Riding into the smoke

Riding into the smoke

I started my week photographing the Cold Brook Fire Tuesday at Wind Cave National Park. It is a somewhat controversial wildfire because it sta…

18 minutes ago(0)




2 hours ago(0)

Area athletes sign with colleges

Quite a few area athletes decided to continue their athletic careers in college this week, led by a bunch of Stevens Raiders.

April 15, 2015 11:01 pm(0)

Code-talkers memorial could be next

South Dakota’s excellent series of statues memorializing war veterans along Capitol Lake in Pierre could be getting another. The state’s Capit…

April 15, 2015 8:11 am(0)

Cooler with some rain

Rain expected for Wednesday, most likely turning to snow by the evening and continuing into early Thursday morning. Rain expected for the rest…

April 14, 2015 6:00 pm(0)