New landscape confronts South Dakota Republicans after political earthquake shakes incumbents

South Dakota Searchlight
BY: 
 – JUNE 5, 2024 6:02 PM
State Rep. Scott Odenbach, R-Spearfish, speaks in the House chamber on Feb. 7, 2024. (Makenzie Huber/South Dakota Searchlight)

 State Rep. Scott Odenbach, R-Spearfish, speaks in the state House chamber on Feb. 7, 2024. (Makenzie Huber/South Dakota Searchlight)

A literal 3.7-magnitude earthquake shook the state Capitol in Pierre last week. State Rep. Scott Odenbach, R-Spearfish, said a political earthquake shook the Capitol on Tuesday night.

“The people are waking up,” Odenbach said.

He and others within a faction of the South Dakota Republican Party say it’s being run by politicians who are not as conservative as the party’s base of supporters. Their efforts to change that contributed to 14 losses by incumbent Republican legislators in Tuesday’s primary election. Odenbach’s political action committee spent $58,000 ahead of the primary in support of some winning candidates.

Current Republican House Majority Leader Will Mortenson, R-Fort Pierre — who is unopposed for reelection — said new legislators are always welcome, but losing 14 incumbents comes with a cost.

“It’s an opportunity for new ideas, but it does mean we lost a lot of institutional knowledge,” he said.

Those losses include Sen. Jean Hunhoff, R-Yankton, who’s served 24 years in the Legislature, and Sen. Ryan Maher, R-Isabel, who has served 16 years, among others. Read more