South Dakota History in 2022

As the year comes to a close, we think back on the year that was. We saw new arrivals and final farewells; victories and defeats; anniversaries and historic firsts. Here is a look at some of the South Dakota history made in 2022:

Final farewells

Harvey Wollman

South Dakota said a final farewell to Harvey L. Wollman, the 26th Governor of South Dakota and the most recent Democrat to hold that office. Wollman was a consummate citizen-legislator who became lieutenant governor, and then served as governor after Governor Richard F. Kneip resigned. In the years following, he became a fixture at state events, and to the end of his life his love of people was always evident.

In addition to Wollman, others that passed from the scene included Debra Anderson, the state’s first female House Speaker; former attorney general Gordon Mydland; state legislator and gubernatorial candidate Carroll “Red” Allen, and Kristin Anderson, the only child of Gov. Sigurd Anderson. (Not to mention Queen Elizabeth II.)

A sad, historic first

A ticket to the Senate impeachment trial

History was made in 2022 with the impeachment and removal of Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg. Impeachment articles were filed against Ravnsborg after, while driving distractedly, he drove into the shoulder and struck and killed a pedestrian. The State House of Representatives narrowly passed the impeachment resolution in April. That prompted an impeachment trial in the Senate in June, where Ravnsborg was convicted on two counts and disqualified from holding further state office. It was the first impeachment and the first conviction in South Dakota history.

Following Ravnsborg’s conviction, Governor Kristi Noem appointed Pennington County State’s Attorney Mark Vargo to complete Ravnsborg’s term. Vargo had been the lead prosecutor in the Senate trial of Ravnsborg. He did not seek a full term as attorney general, as former attorney general Marty Jackley won the Republican nomination and was elected without opposition in November. Jackley will be the first former AG to return to the office.

A milestone for South Dakota history

Trail of Governors statues of Lee, Byrne, and Bulow

The Trail of Governors in Pierre is a marriage of art and history, as the trail features life-size bronze statues of the state’s former governors, created by South Dakota sculptors.

In June 2022, new statues were unveiled of Andrew E. Lee, Frank M. Byrne, and William J. Bulow. The three new statues completed the trail, as now every former South Dakota governor is represented on the Trail. Going forward, new statues will be added as governors leave office, beginning with current Gov. Kristi Noem.

Big wins for Noem, Thune, and Dusty

Kristi Noem

Governor Kristi Noem cruised to a second term, becoming the seventh straight Governor to win reelection as she secured a 12th straight gubernatorial win for South Dakota Republicans. Noem and her running mate, Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden, won the most votes in South Dakota history as they defeated Democrats Jamie Smith and Jennifer Keintz. Noem had also set a record for most votes in a gubernatorial primary, as she easily won the Republican nomination against challenger Steve Haugaard. In the midst of the campaign, Noem released an autobiography, Not My First Rodeo, making her the first sitting South Dakota governor to release a book.

U.S. Senator John Thune and Congressman Dusty Johnson also won impressive reelection wins. Thune broke the “curse of Karl” as he joined Karl E. Mundt as the only South Dakotan to be elected to four terms in the U.S. Senate. Johnson won a third U.S. House term as, for the second time, Democrats failed to challenge him.

Thune became the top general election vote-getter in South Dakota history, reaching a total of 1,519,857 votes in seven elections, as Dusty Johnson, Kristi Noem, Chris Nelson, and Rich Sattgast all reached the Million Vote Club. Thune, Nelson, and longtime state legislator Brock Greenfield also joined the “Over 25” Club of South Dakota officials who served at least 25 years.

State Legislature stays in Republican control

The South Dakota State Legislature remained firmly in Republican control, as Republicans gained a House seat and lost a Senate seat. It’s remains the most Republican legislature since the early 1950s, as women won an all-time high 31 seats and tribal members won an all-time high of eight seats.

It was the first legislative election under the newly-adopted legislative district map; this year legislative enthusiast Cully Williams created maps of every legislative map in South Dakota history, which he allowed this blog to post here.

Following the November election, legislators selected their new leaders. Senate Republicans reelected President Pro Tempore Lee Schoenbeck and elected Senate Majority Leader Casey Crabtree. House Republicans elected Hugh Bartels for House Speaker and Will Mortenson as House Majority leader. Democrats selected two new minority leaders – Sen. Reynold Nesiba and Rep. Oren Lesmeister.

And among the first-time legislators will be this blogger, who won a Republican primary and an unopposed general election from District 13 in Sioux Falls.

Anniversaries and Milestones

It was Tom Daschle‘s 75th birthday and the 100th birthday for George McGovern and for my grandfather, Henry Poppen. Don Barnett released a book during the 50th anniversary of the Rapid City flood, and it was 20 years since Mike Rounds‘ historic upset in the 2002 Republican primary. And Dennis Daugaard joined the South Dakota Hall of Fame.


This year, this blogger released the 2022 edition of The Governors of South Dakota and published an article on William J. Bulow in The Plains Political Tradition, Volume 4, appearing on the “History 605” podcast with editor Jon Lauck to promote the latter. Two posts from this blog appeared in print in The Dakota Scout (here and here). And this blog debuted the Online Almanac of South Dakota Politics as a repository for the site’s historic lists and writing.

It’s been a good year for SoDakGovs and for South Dakota history, and 2023 will be good as well – history never stops!