PIERRE, S.D. (SDBA) – All statewide offices would be selected via a party primary under a bill a House committee passed Wednesday.
SB 40 also allows gubernatorial candidates to select their lieutenant governor running mates.
The bill passed the House State Affairs Committee 8 to 5.
The measure has primarily become an interparty fight within the Republican Party.
It pits the GOP state leadership and precinct committeemen and women against a majority of legislative Republicans.
“This is the moment in time to give people the right to vote (on all statewide candidates),” said bill supporter, Republican Rep. James Wangness from Miller.
A fellow Republican felt the opposite.
“This is a knee-jerk reaction to the last (GOP) convention,” bill opponent, Republican Rep. Rebecca Reimer from Chamberlain said. “Give our chairman a chance.”
In the 2022 convention, Monae Johnson unseated incumbent Secretary of State, Steve Barnett.
Also, Gov. Kristi Noem had to fight to get Lt. Gov. Larry Rhoden approved as her running mate after handily winning the June primary.
Further, though not named, one legislator brought up impeached Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg (rounds-berg) as a failure of the Republican convention in 2020.
Several Republican supporters of the bill said they never had contact with the precinct committeemen or women who vote at the convention for most statewide offices.
Supporter Rep. Taylor Rehfeldt from Sioux Falls said some GOP committee men and women had actually worked against her in primaries.
Republican Sen. John Wiik from Big Stone City is the new state Republican chairman.
He said he needs time to fix the issues with precinct men and women, including training and ensuring all 2,000 slots are filled.
There was testimony that only 600 current positions were filled, and at least ten counties were not represented at the last convention.
“We’re working with regional (GOP) directors to get unrepresented counties represented,” Sen. Wiik said. “It’s a process. It takes time.”
Republican Party activists testified that the committee men and women are the true grassroots of the party.
Other Republican legislators said the grassroots are the voters, “the people in your neighborhood.”
Bill sponsor, Republican David Johnson from Rapid City, said he had introduced the same bill five years ago but withdrew it based on promises from the previous GOP chair that things would get fixed.
“I waited and waited and waited,” Sen. Johnson said. “Nothing changed, so I decided to bring the bill back.”
An attempt to amend the bill just to allow the gubernatorial candidate to select their running mate failed.
“I’m a true Republican player, but I’m also an advocate for South Dakota voters,” said bill supporter Republican Rep. Roger Chase from Huron.
The bill now goes to the House for its consideration.