(Post updated May 13, 2020 to reflect filing deadlines.)
Pending the result of the June Republican primary, Congressman Dusty Johnson will make history by running for U.S. House from South Dakota without a major party opponent.
No Democrat filed for U.S. House by the March 31 filing deadline, and no independent candidate filed by the April 28 deadline for independents.
Johnson, a first-term incumbent, will not win reelection without any opposition. He faces a primary challenge from former state legislator Liz Marty May of Kyle. In addition, the South Dakota Libertarian Party has nominated Randy “Uriah” Luallin as it’s candidate; either Johnson or May will face Luallin on the November ballot.
In state history, 2020 will be the first time that South Dakota Democrats fail to nominate or endorse a candidate for U.S. House in a statewide election. It happened only once when the state elected by district:
- From statehood in 1889 until 1910, South Dakota elected two congressman at-large. All candidates ran on a single ballot, and voters selected any two candidates, with the top two finishers winning the election. During that era, Democrats nominated a full slate of candidates from 1889-1894 and from 1902-1910. In 1896, 1898, and 1900, Democrats joined with the Populist Party to nominate a joint “Fusion” or “People’s” ticket for statewide offices, including U.S. House.
- From 1912-1930, South Dakota elected three congressman, one from each of three districts. This era produced the only other time that Democrats failed to nominate a U.S. House candidate. In 1930, no Democrat challenged Republican incumbent Congressman Charles A. Christopherson, who represented Sioux Falls and the southeast portion of the state. Christopherson was reelected with 85% against independent Henry Borman.
- From 1932-1980, South Dakota elected two congressman, one from each of two districts. Democrats nominated candidates in every election for U.S. House during this era.
- Since 1982, South Dakota has elected one congressman at-large. Through 2018, Democrats have always nominated candidates for the seat; indeed, Democrats have won 11 of the 20 elections for this seat from 1982-2018 (including a 2004 special election).
Since statehood, Republicans have always nominated a full slate of candidates for U.S. House.
The failure to nominate a U.S. House candidate will be the latest in a series of historic lows for the South Dakota Democratic Party. In 2010, Democrats failed for the first time in state history to nominate a candidate for U.S. Senate, and incumbent Senator John Thune became the first U.S. Senator from South Dakota to be elected without opposition. In 2014, incumbent Governor Dennis Daugaard and Lt. Governor Matt Michels were reelected by the largest margin in a gubernatorial election in state history, defeating Democrats Susan Wismer and Susy Blake by a 45-percent margin. (Democrats have never failed to nominate a candidate for governor.)