PIERRE | As 2017 began, 31 states, including South Dakota, had what website Ballotpedia describes as trifectas, which is when one party holds the governor’s office and majorities in both legislative chambers.
The Democrats have six trifectas; the Republicans have 25. Each state has its reasons. A difference of 19 states seems to say something about one party’s strength and the other party’s weakness.
Harvey Wollman is South Dakota’s most-recent Democratic governor. That was in 1978. He served a little more than five months.
Wollman was lieutenant governor when Dick Kneip resigned as governor July 24, 1978. Kneip was South Dakota’s most-recently elected Democratic governor.
In the 39 years since then, South Dakota had five Republicans as governors: Bill Janklow, George S. Mickelson, Walter Dale Miller, Janklow again, Mike Rounds and Dennis Daugaard and Republicans held the state House of Representatives every year. Democrats had the state Senate one term, in 1993-94.
Of the 105 who served in the Legislature in 2011 when Daugaard began as governor, only 29 remained for his 2017 legislative session.
If you roll back to the first year Rounds was governor, in 2003, six still serve — Democrat Julie Bartling of Gregory and Republicans Brock Greenfield of Clark, Jean Hunhoff of Yankton, Al Novstrup of Aberdeen, Larry Rhoden of Union Center and Tim Rounds of Pierre.
And if you reach even further back to Janklow’s fourth and final term as governor, you’d find Republican lawmakers Mike Rounds of Pierre, Daugaard of Dell Rapids, Jeff Monroe of Pierre and Matt Michels of Yankton.
Monroe is now a state senator, Michels is Daugaard’s lieutenant governor and Rounds won election in 2014 to the U.S. Senate.
Voters in 1992 approved a constitutional amendment that restricts legislators to election to the same chamber no more than four consecutive times.
The standard work-around lets a legislator switch from chamber to chamber. For example, Republicans Craig Tieszen of Rapid City and Lance Russell of Hot Springs did it in 2016 when they faced term limits.
It’s worked for many legislators, including three who face term limits in 2018 — Democrat Jason Frerichs of Wilmot and Republicans Deb Peters of Hartford and Larry Tidemann of Brookings.
Then there are additional moves, from chamber to chamber and back to the original chamber. That’s how Greenfield and Hunhoff stay. Novstrup is in his fourth switch. Another way is be in, sit out, come back, which worked for Democrats Susan Wismer of Britton and Bartling, and for many Republicans.
The current in-out-in GOP list includes Thomas Brunner of Nisland, Lance Carson of Mitchell, David Lust of Rapid City, Chuck Turbiville of Deadwood, Mark Willadsen of Sioux Falls, Rhoden, Tim Rounds and Monroe.
Eventually time, or an opponent, catches up with every legislator. Nobody still serves from 1993 when term limits began.
You can decide whether that’s good or bad.
Bob Mercer is the state capitol correspondent for the Rapid City Journal. He can be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.