2016 Election Preview: South Dakota State Legislature

This is the fifth of several posts previewing the Tuesday election through a historical lens.  The first part was an introductionthe second part looked at South Dakota’s history of supporting Republican presidential ticketsthe third part looked at the six U.S. Senators from South Dakota  who have been elected three times; and the fourth part compared the Republican Party’s current winning streak in statewide races to other winning streaks in state history.

Among the other items on the ballot, South Dakota voters will elect today the 105 state legislators who will represent them for the next two years.  With so a total lack of polling in legislative races, one cannot say with certainty how the elections will turnout, but there is very little doubt that Republicans will continue to control both houses of the legislature. And, even if the Republicans margins slip, they are still likely to hold legislative margins that exceed any in the past fifty years.

photo-sep-20-12-18-35-pm-1The 2015-16 had, between the two houses, 85 Republicans and only 20 Democrat.  This is the most Republicans to serve in the State Legislature since the legislature’s current size of 105 (30 senators and 70 representatives) was set in 1973.

The current total of 85 Republican members equates to 81% of the legislative seats, the highest since the 1967-68 legislature, which had 93 Republicans and 17 Democrats (84.5% Republican).

Looking at gubernatorial administrations, the Republicans during the first six years of the Daugaard Administration have held, on average, 82/105 seats (78.1% of the total).  That administration average is the highest since the Farrar Administration, when Republicans controlled 86/110 seats, or 78.2%.

The most Republican legislature in state history was elected in 1952 – Republicans controlled the Senate 35-0 and the House 73-2, for a cumulate percentage of 98.2%.

The most Democratic legislature in state history was elected in 1932, the year of the FDR landslide.  Democrats controlled the Senate 29-16 and the House 70-33, holding 66.9% of the seats.  (At that time, the Senate had 45 seats and the House had 103; they were reduced to 35 and 75 in 1939).

There are a few other instances where the Republicans did not hold control of the legislature:

  • In 1891, the State House had 58 Republicans, 20 Democrats, and 44 Independents, who were a populist party.  The Democrats and Independents joined together to organize the House.
  • Likewise in 1897, a Democrat/Populist coalition controlled both houses.  The Senate was 21 R, 2 D, 20 Populist; and the House was 39 R, 10 D, and 35 P.
  • Democrats next took control in the aforementioned FDR landslide of 1932.  They controlled both houses in 1933 and 1935.  In the 1937 session, Democrats controlled the Senate and Republicans retook the House.  (Note that, prior to 1963-64, the legislature only met in odd-numbered years.)
  • In 1958, Democrats took the Senate 20-15 as Democrat Ralph Herseth won the governor’s office.  Republicans retained control of the House, and in 1960 House Speaker Archie Gubbrud defeated Herseth for reelection.
  • In 1973-4, during the Kneip Administration, Democrats controlled the legislature by the narrowest of margins:  An 18-17 margin in the Senate, and a 35-35 tie in the House.  Under House rules, in the case of a tie, the Governor’s party organizes the House.  In 1975-6, Democrats retained control of the Senate, 19-16, but lost the House.
  • Finally, in 1993-94, the Democrats won control of the Senate, 20-15, during the final two years of the Mickelson/Miller Administration.

Below are two line graphs, visualizing partisan control of the Senate and House since statehood.  Following those graphs is a chart of partisan control, listed by year and with the governor who was in office for each two-year legislative term.

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SESSION GOVERNOR SENATE HOUSE
YEAR NAME PARTY REP DEM OTH REP DEM OTH
1889 Mellette REP 37 7 1 106 13 5
1891 Mellette REP 22 8 13 58 20 44
1893 Sheldon REP 35 4 4 69 4 10
1895 Sheldon REP 35 3 5 69 2 13
1897 Lee POP 21 2 20 39 10 35
1899 Lee POP 31 4 10 61 9 17
1901 Herreid REP 39 1 5 79 5 3
1903 Herreid REP 41 3 1 76 6 5
1905 Elrod REP 41 2 2 87 2
1907 Crawford REP 38 7 80 9
1909 Vessey REP 39 6 95 9
1911 Vessey REP 33 11 1 99 4 1
1913 Byrne REP 33 11 1 88 14 1
1915 Byrne REP 35 10 85 18
1917 Norbeck REP 35 10 91 12
1919 Norbeck REP 43 2 90 10 3
1921 McMaster REP 44 1 94 4 5
1923 McMaster REP 34 9 2 84 10 9
1925 Gunderson REP 34 10 1 85 11 7
1927 Bulow DEM 29 16 81 21 1
1929 Bulow DEM 33 12 83 20
1931 Green REP 31 14 79 24
1933 Berry DEM 16 29 33 70
1935 Berry DEM 14 31 40 63
1937 Jensen REP 22 23 66 37
1939 Bushfield REP 30 5 62 13
1941 Bushfield REP 31 4 65 10
1943 Sharpe REP 31 4 69 6
1945 Sharpe REP 35 0 72 3
1947 Mickelson REP 35 0 71 4
1949 Mickelson REP 27 8 64 11
1951 Anderson REP 29 6 66 9
1953 Anderson REP 35 0 73 2
1955 Foss REP 29 6 57 18
1957 Foss REP 18 17 48 27
1959 Herseth DEM 15 20 43 32
1961 Gubbrud REP 23 12 57 18
1963-64 Gubbrud REP 26 9 58 17
1965-66 Boe REP 18 16 1 45 30
1967-68 Boe REP 29 6 64 11
1969-70 Farrar REP 27 8 59 16
1971-72 Kneip DEM 24 11 46 29
1973-74 Kneip DEM 17 18 35 35*
1975-76 Kneip DEM 16 19 37 33
1977-78 Kneip DEM 24 11 48 22
1979-80 Janklow REP 24 11 48 22
1981-82 Janklow REP 25 10 49 21
1983-84 Janklow REP 26 9 54 16
1985-86 Janklow REP 25 10 57 13
1987-88 Mickelson REP 24 11 48 22
1989-90 Mickelson REP 20 15 46 24
1991-92 Mickelson REP 18 17 45 25
1993-94 Mickelson-Miller REP 15 20 41 29
1995-96 Janklow REP 19 16 46 24
1997-98 Janklow REP 22 13 48 22
1999-00 Janklow REP 22 13 51 19
2001-02 Janklow REP 24 11 50 20
2003-04 Rounds REP 26 9 49 21
2005-06 Rounds REP 25 10 51 19
2007-08 Rounds REP 20 15 50 20
2009-10 Rounds REP 21 14 45 25
2011-12 Daugaard REP 30 5 50 19 1
2013-14 Daugaard REP 28 7 53 17
2015-16 Daugaard REP 27 8 58 12
2017-18 Daugaard REP  ? ? ?  ?

The party or coalition controlling each house is designated in bold.  In 1973-74, the State House was evenly divided at 35-35, and by rule the governor’s party, the Democrats, organized the chamber.

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