SD Senate Republicans elect new leaders

Sen. Casey Crabtree

Tuesday’s general election delivered Republicans a 31-4 majority in the State Senate – a loss of one seat but still a historically large margin. With the general election behind us, the four party caucuses now move ahead with electing their leadership teams. The first to do so is the Senate Republicans, who announced their leadership team this evening. (See an overview of legislative leadership positions at the SoDakGovs Online Almanac.)

Leading the Republican caucus as senate majority leader will be Sen. Casey Crabtree of Madison. Crabtree succeeds Sen. Gary Cammack in the role; Cammack, who served the past two years as majority leader, was term-limited but was elected to the State House.

Crabtree is the director of economic development for Heartland Energy. He is entering his second full term in the State Senate. After being appointed by Governor Noem in 2020 to replace Sen. Jordan Youngberg, who had resigned, Crabtree was was reelected in 2020 and 2022. He is the second senate majority leader to come from Madison, following Sen. Russell D. Olson, who served in that role from 2011-13. In addition, Madison native Jerome Lammers served as house majority leader from 1988-92. That makes Madison the fourth city to produce at least three party floor leaders, following Sioux Falls, Rapid City, and Aberdeen.

Sen. Lee Schoenbeck

Joining Crabtree in the Senate Republican leadership team will be Sen. Lee Schoenbeck, a Watertown attorney, who was nominated by the caucus for another term as president pro tempore. (The president pro tempore is elected by the entire Senate, but by tradition the majority caucus nominates the candidate.) This will be Schoenbeck’s third term as president pro tempore; he previously held the role from 2003-04, and again in the previous legislature in 2021-22. Schoenbeck is a longtime legislator; he first served in the State Senate from Webster in 1995-96 and has since served from Watertown in the State Senate in 2005-06 and from 2019 to the present, and in the State House from 2015-16. Watertown has produced three presidents pro tempore, more than any other city.

Rounding out the leadership team are Sen. Mike Diedrich of Rapid City, who will serve a second term as assistant senate majority leader, and majority whips Sens. David Wheeler of Huron, Helene Duhamel of Rapid City, Jack Kolbeck of Sioux Falls, and Ryan Maher of Isabel.