Earlier today, Cory Heidelberger at Dakota Free Press had a post about the fact that, if elected, Billie Sutton would be South Dakota’s youngest governor, exceeding Richard F. Kneip’s record by about three years. This blog had noted this potential milestone after Sutton announced his candidacy last week.
Heidelberger’s post, though its history is for the most part accurate, included one small inaccuracy. At one point, Heidelberger wrote:
The youngest man so far to win election to the Governor’s chair is Dick Kneip, who was 37 years, 11 months, and 29 days when he took office in 1971. Kneip was also a Democrat, and he teamed with a Democrat two years his junior, Harvey Wollman. (Hmm… so to replicate Kneip’s success, what early-30-something does Sutton choose as his running mate?)
The aside about Wollman is not quite correct, insofar as it implies that Wollman was Kneip’s running mate in 1970.
In fact, when Kneip was first elected in 1970, South Dakota still elected the governor and lieutenant governor separately. Kneip was the Democratic nominee for governor, defeating incumbent Republican Gov. Frank Farrar. The Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor was Bill Dougherty of Sioux Falls, who defeated the Republican nominee, Dr. Bob Bartron of Watertown.
At that time, South Dakota still had two-year terms, and in 1972 Kneip and Dougherty were both reelected, again on separate tickets. That same year, voters approved a new executive article to the constitution, which changed the term for the governor and other state constitutional officers to 4 years, beginning in 1974. The amendment also provided for the governor and LG to be elected on a ticket.
Originally, it was assumed that Kneip, having served two 2-year terms, was not eligible to run again in 1974. In fact, Lt. Governor Bill Dougherty ran for governor in 1974, originally on the assumption. Kneip went to court however, and the South Dakota Supreme Court held that he was entitled to two 2-year terms AND two 4-year terms – in short, the court held that the term-limit reset because the term changed. (The case is Kneip v. Herseth. “Herseth” was Secretary of State Lorna Herseth, who refused to place Kneip on the ballot. She was a former first lady and wife of Gov. Ralph Herseth, mother to Lars Herseth, and grandmother to Stephanie Herseth Sandlin.)
So Kneip sought a third term – his first four-year term – in 1974, and easily defeated Lt. Governor Dougherty in the Democratic primary.
Not surprisingly, Dougherty did not run as Kneip’s running mate following that defeat. Harvey Wollman, who was the Democratic Leader in the Senate, let Kneip know that Wollman would seek the Democratic nomination at the state convention, and Kneip gave him his blessing. The Democratic convention nominated Wollman over State Sen. Grace Mickelson of Rapid City, and the Kneip/Wollman ticket prevailed in 1974 over a Republican ticket of John Olson of Sioux Falls and Eddie Clay of Hot Springs.
Kneip resigned in 1978 to become U.S. Ambassador to Singapore, and Wollman served for five months as governor. A month before he succeeded to the governor’s chair, Wollman had narrowly lost the 1978 Democratic gubernatorial primary to Roger McKellips of Alcester. McKellips’ running mate was State Sen. Billie H. Sutton, grandfather and namesake of the current Democratic candidate. The McKellips/Sutton ticket lost in November to a ticket of Bill Janklow and Lowell Hansen, beginning the Republican gubernatorial winning streak that the younger Sutton now seeks to end in 2018.