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South Dakota’s elections take shape with crowded GOP field

March 30, 2022 GMT

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota’s political races are taking shape as party candidates hit a deadline Tuesday to submit petitions to run for office.

Republicans touted a crowded primary field as a sign their control over state politics may only be increasing; Democrats said they were taking a targeted approach to competitive districts.

The state Republican Party provided a list of over 150 legislative candidates and said it was the first time in decades they had recruited a candidate in nearly every legislative district. Meanwhile, Democrats appeared to field a handful fewer candidates than in 2020 — an election that saw the party hit a 60-year low for statehouse seats. The Democratic Party provided a list of 53 legislative candidates — a dozen less than it fielded in 2020. Both parties may still see more candidates if the Secretary of State receives petitions in the coming days from candidates who submitted petitions through certified mail.

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After redistricting last year, candidates will also be navigating a new political map. The new districts were proposed by Senate Republicans, but Democrats were able to draw some key concessions. South Dakota Democratic Party chair Randy Seiler said it was a “fair” that should produce more competitive races. Republican incumbents are also seeing primary races across the state amid a divide between the GOP establishment and the right-wing of the party.

Republican Party of South Dakota chairman Dan Lederman contended the party was “in position to pick up the remaining 11 seats in the Pierre.”

“The GOP’s dedication to building in-roads in communities across South Dakota has allowed the party to make historic moves ahead of the midterm elections,” he said in a statement.

The state Democratic Party has been rebuilding with new leadership in the last year, and the party’s chair Randy Seiler said it was not taking a “shotgun approach” but targeting winnable districts.

“We’re cautiously optimistic that we are going to pick up some seats,” he said, adding that the party also planned to put energy behind its candidate for governor, state Rep. Jamie Smith, and U.S. Senate, Brian Bengs.

In statewide races, two Republicans, Mark Mowry and Bruce Whalen, have also submitted petitions to challenge Sen. John Thune in June’s primary. Thune’s petitions have already been verified by the Secretary of State, while his challengers are still waiting for verification. Democrat Brian Bengs has also submitted petitions for the Senate race.

Gov. Kristi Noem’s candidacy for reelection has also been certified. Her Republican primary challenger, Rep. Steve Haugaard, as well as Smith, the Democrat, have submitted petitions and are awaiting verification. And both U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson and his primary challenger, state Rep. Taffy Howard, have had their petitions verified.