Rapid City businessman Chris Johnson was chosen by local Republicans on Monday evening to replace the late Sean McPherson as a candidate for the state House of Representatives in Legislative District 32.
Johnson co-owns the The Clock Shop and Presidential Pawn & Gun in downtown Rapid City.
“I’m at a point in my life where my son is running the business,” he said in a speech to local Republicans before his selection. “I have the time, and I believe I have the talent.”
McPherson served two years in the House and was a candidate for re-election before he died of cancer at age 47 on April 26. His name remained on ballots in the June 5 Republican primary election, because the deadline for candidates to withdraw had passed.
In the three-way primary race for two spots in the Nov. 6 general election, McPherson finished second behind Scyller Borglum and ahead of Ed Randazzo.
Pursuant to state law, the job of choosing a candidate to replace McPherson in the general election fell to Republican residents of District 32 who are elected officials or members of the Central Committee of the Pennington County Republican Party.
The district boundaries include much of southeast Rapid City and some areas to the south outside of the city limits. The district stretches roughly from the Skyline Drive area and U.S. Highway 16 across to state Highway 79, and from roughly Omaha Street to just north of Hart Ranch.
Monday evening, there were 15 people eligible to vote on McPherson's replacement, plus about 35 other local Republicans, who gathered for a special meeting in the county party’s office at 429 Kansas City St. in Rapid City.
At the beginning of the meeting, nominations were accepted for McPherson's replacement, and the names of Johnson and Randazzo were the only two put forward.
Each man gave a brief speech. McPherson’s widow, Kris, endorsed Johnson and spoke in favor of him.
“I feel very content that he has Sean’s heart for politics, that he has a love for people of the state and of District 32,” McPherson said of Johnson.
After the speeches, there was a lengthy argument among the meeting attendees about whether certain officials should be allowed to cast two votes. State Rep. Kristin Conzet, for example, argued that she should be granted two votes by virtue of her dual qualifications as an elected official and a central committee member. Two other people present at the meeting also had dual qualifications.
Ultimately, the argument was settled by allowing the 15 eligible voters to cast one regular ballot apiece, and by allowing the three double-qualified voters to each cast a second, provisional ballot.
The vote of the regular ballots was 8-7 for Johnson, and the vote with the provisional ballots was 11-7 for Johnson. Because the result was the same either way, Johnson was declared the winner.
Borglum and Johnson will now advance to face a Democrat, Susan Kelts, in the general election. The top two vote-getters will win the district’s two seats in the state House of Representatives.
The race had included another Democrat, Angel Staley, but she withdrew from the race on Friday, according to the candidate list on the South Dakota Secretary of State's website.