Haugaard takes on Noem, and history

Steven G. Haugaard

The news today reports that Steven G. Haugaard will challenge Governor Kristi Noem in the 2022 Republican gubernatorial primary. The incumbent governor announced last week that she would seek a second term as governor, confirming what had long been assumed.

In South Dakota history, no elected governor seeking a second term has ever been defeated in a primary election.

Haugaard, 65, is a Sioux Falls attorney and four-term state legislator. He was first elected to the State House in 2014 from District 10 and was reelected three times. Following the resignation of Don Haggar in 2017, Haugaard was elected speaker pro tempore, holding that role during the 2018 Legislative Session, and then served as speaker during the 2019 and 2020 sessions. He sought the role of house majority leader for the 2021 session, but lost to Rep. Kent Peterson. Instead, he served during the 2021 session on the House Appropriations Committee.

Serving his fourth term, Haugaard is term-limited and cannot seek reelection to the House. The recently-approved legislative districts for 2022 move Haugaard from District 10, which included northeast Sioux Falls and Brandon, to District 25, which includes northern and western Minnehaha County, including Humboldt, Dell Rapids, and Garretson. Haugaard could seek to continue his legislative service in 2022 by running for the State Senate, likely in a primary against incumbent Sen. Marcia Symens, but rumors of a Haugaard for Governor candidacy were circulating even prior to the passage of the new legislative district map.

Haugaard, who would describe himself as a social and fiscal conservative, has butted heads with Noem over the past three years. Noem refused to allow state funds to cover Haugaard’s litigation expenses after his attempt to ban lobbyist Yvonne Taylor from the House floor over critical comments Taylor had made resulted in a federal lawsuit against Haugaard. Haugaard advocated against Noem’s plans for federal coronavirus relief funds and pushed for a special session on the topic. Although Haugaard is a member of the committee considering impeachment of Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, he has questioned the appropriateness of impeachment and voted against creation of the committee, while Noem has called on Ravnsborg to resign.

Despite these disagreements, though, Haugaard faces an uphill climb in challenging the incumbent governor. The few instances in which an incumbent governor was not renominated were each unusual circumstances:

  • In 1906, Governor Samuel Elrod lost his bid for a second term at the Republican State Convention, losing the nomination to former Attorney General Coe Crawford. Elrod, a conservative or “stalwart” Republican, had defeated Crawford, a progressive, for the nomination in 1904. Crawford prevailed in the rematch, in part because of his support for primary elections. His win against Elrod led to future nominations being made by the voters in partisan primaries, rather than at state party conventions.
  • In 1946, Governor M. Q. Sharpe went against tradition and sought a third two-year term as governor. Sharpe, who had served from 1943-47, lost the Republican primary to George T. Mickelson, the attorney general and a former house speaker from Selby. As governor, Mickelson would sign legislation limiting future governors to two consecutive terms.
  • In 1978, Lt. Governor Harvey Wollman narrowly lost the Democratic gubernatorial primary to State Senator Roger McKellips of Alcester. Wollman, although not yet governor at the time of the primary, was “governor in waiting,” as outgoing Governor Richard F. Kneip had announced that he would resign to become U.S. Ambassador to Singapore, but did not do so until a few weeks after the primary. As a result, Wollman took office as Governor having already lost his bid for a full term in the office.
  • In 1994, Governor Walter Dale Miller, who had succeeded to the governorship following the death of Governor George S. Mickelson in an airplane crash, lost the Republican primary to former Governor William J. Janklow, who prevailed in the fall and became the first former governor to return to the office.

Despite the lack of favorable precedent for Haugaard, though, he is the latest in a long line of challengers who have attempted to deny the incumbent governor the nomination for second term. Such challenges were routine in the early days of the primary system but have become less so since World War II. In addition to those mentioned above, examples of primary challenger to incumbent governors:

  • 1910 – Governor Robert S. Vessey won a competitive Republican primary, winning 38.7% to 31.5% for gadfly attorney George W. Egan and 29.8% for former Governor Elrod. Vessey was reelected that fall.
  • 1914 – Governor Frank M. Byrne won 43.7% in the Republican primary against State Auditor Henry B. Anderson’s 35.1% and 21.2% for Richard O. Richards, a Huron banker and advocate for election reform. Byrne won the general election.
  • 1922 – Governor William H. McMaster won 59.9% in the Republican primary against the aforementioned Egan, who won 40.1%. McMaster won a second term that fall.
  • 1926 – Governor Carl Gunderson prevailed with 61.8% in the Republican primary against Secretary of State Clarence E. Coyne’s 38.2%. Gunderson was upset in the general election by Beresford attorney William J. Bulow, who became the state’s first Democratic governor.
  • 1932 – Governor Warren E. Green won the Republican primary with 58.1% to 32.9% for former Governor Gunderson and 9.0% for Aberdeen newspaper publisher Tom Ayres. Green lost the fall campaign to Democrat Tom Berry.
  • 1934 – Governor Berry handily turned back a Democratic primary challenge from his own lieutenant governor, Hans Ustrud, winning 79.3% to Ustrud’s 20.7%. Berry was reelected that fall.
  • 1940 – Governor Harlan J. Bushfield easily prevailed in the Republican primary, winning 78.4% to 21.6% for former Sioux Falls Mayor Adoph N. Graff. Bushfield was reelected that fall.
  • 1970 – Governor Frank Farrar won 67.2% in the Republican primary against State Senator Frank “Rudy” Henderson. Henderson’s challenge, though, is often cited as a factor that led to Farrar’s loss that fall to Democrat Richard F. Kneip.
  • 1974 – Due to the ratification of a new executive article, Governor Kneip successfully argued that his two two-year terms could be followed by a four-year term. This upset the plans of Lt. Governor Bill Dougherty, who had planned to run to succeed Kneip and argued that the incumbent had “broken faith” with the voters by seeking a third term. Despite that, Kneip prevailed easily, winning 66.2% to 33.8% for Dougherty, and Kneip was reelected that fall.
  • 2014 – Governor Dennis Daugaard defeated right-wing activist Lora Hubbel, a former state representative, by a margin of 80.9% to 19.1%, winning both the largest percentage and by the largest percentage margin of any gubernatorial primary candidate in state history. Daugaard was reelected that fall, also by the largest percentage margin in state history.