The South Dakota Legislative Circus: Institutionalists versus performers
In a state like South Dakota, where one political party dominates, political divisions are therefore not partisan, but based on personalities. This tends to be true of our state’s Legislature. In the upcoming 2023 legislative session, Republicans will hold 31 of 35 Senate seats and 63 of 70 seats in the House. Democrats do not have enough membership to provide meaningful impact in the Legislature. But politics being what it is, other divisions surely will form.
In recent leadership elections, Sen. Lee Schoenbeck was re-elected Senate President Pro-Tempore while Rep. Hugh Bartles was narrowly selected to be the Republican choice for Speaker of the House. The Schoenbeck-Bartles victories were described in some quarters as a victory for Republican moderates over their conservative opponents. Yet this seems inaccurate. The application of ideological labels masks the real division amongst the Republicans who dominate the state, namely the division between those who wish to defend institutional norms and those who wish to push issue agendas.
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