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Analysis: Election 2022

The interview posted above is from SDPB's daily public affairs show, In the Moment with Lori Walsh.

Dakota Political Junkies join In the Moment for a special-one hour election recap show.

University of South Dakota emeritus professor Michael Card, Madison Daily Leader publisher emeritus Jon Hunter, and SDPB journalist Lee Strubinger sit down in SDPB's Sioux Falls studio to talk about Governor Noem's decisive victory over challenger Jamie Smith and Senator Thune's historic return to Washington.

In the South Dakota legislature, Democrats lost one seat in the House and gained one in the Senate. How is redistricting playing out across South Dakota? How will Republican leverage their majority to address the grocery tax and abortion?

We'll also look ahead at a call for Republicans to open their supermajority caucus and how early voting plays out when lawmakers are accused of crimes.
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Lori Walsh:
You are listening to In the Moment on South Dakota Public Broadcasting. I'm your host, Lori Walsh. And I'm joined now in the STPB Kirby Family Studio in our Sioux Falls studios by today's panel of Dakota Political Junkies. We have with us John Hunter, who is Publisher Emeritus of the Madison Daily Leader. John, welcome. Thanks for being here.

John Hunter:
Thanks, Lori.

Lori Walsh:
Mike Card is with us. He is Emeritus Professor of Public Policy and Management at the University of South Dakota. Hey Mike, welcome.

Mike Card:
Thank you. I'm glad to be here.

Lori Walsh:
And SDPBs political reporter on the scene last night as he is pretty much every night throughout the year, Lee Strubinger. Welcome Lee.

Lee Strubinger:
Good to be here.

Lori Walsh:
We're going to start, we have the whole hour to talk, but we know how fast it's going to go. So let's start with voter turnout numbers. 59.33% was the voter turnout for this election. For reference, in 2020 it was 73%. That's a general election. And the last midterm 2018, when Governor Kristi Noem defeated Billy Sutton, it was 64%. So somewhat of a drop in voter turnout this midterm versus last midterm. But last midterm was a record turnout. And I'm looking at Mike Card because when you look at these voter registration numbers, what stands out to you? Voter turnout numbers, sorry.

Mike Card:
When you look at the turnout numbers, I think the thing that stands out to me the most is the effect of the negative campaigning that we saw. Is basically the race is over. You don't need to vote for this other candidate. And so I suspect that percentage of people stayed home. There are other explanations. Part of it is, we did have a record turnout, so chances are we're going to have a lower turnout this time. I think we expected a little higher turnout because of the competitiveness at the gubernatorial election, but it didn't turn out to be all that competitive.

Lori Walsh:
Did you see anything in the final days leading up to the election other than the negativity that would sort of depress it? I know Chuck Todd on NBC was really saying, President Trump showing up, he thought depressed the voter turnout in some areas. I was like, what? I wasn't sure I agreed with that at all. What did you think about the sort of Donald Trump kind of giving his endorsement but not really showing up in South Dakota? Does that affect voter turnout?

Mike Card:
Well, I suspect if it did affect voter turnout, and this is just my wild speculation, by actually phoning it in, so to speak, it depressed turnout. Because if you're getting excited to go see the former president and he doesn't show, Oh. So people may have stayed home.

Lori Walsh:
Yeah.

Mike Card:
But I think the larger explanation is that they thought the race was over and there really weren't any other competitive races.

Lori Walsh:
John Hunter, any thoughts on voter turnout at this point from what you're looking at? Anything relevant?

John Hunter:
Well we did see there were five ballot measures last time in the midterms. So those can, I mean, they didn't seem to be particularly exciting topics, but I think you do see ups and downs with voter turnout based on ballot issues. We had two this time plus in Sioux Falls and other local races.

Lori Walsh:
Let's go to a clip from Senator John Thune. Senator Thune, of course, was victorious by 70% to Brian Bangs 26%. And he got up and gave, I really thought a compelling acceptance speech. It didn't look like it was written on a piece of paper. It looked like it kind of came from his heart. And here is little something he said about his family. Take a listen.

John Thune:
So let me just very briefly mention, as I think about kind of our state and its history, I can't help but think of my own family's history. When my grandfather arrived on the shores of America back in 1906 and they went through at Ellis Island, the given name wasn't Thune. It was Gjelsvik. It was spelled G-J-E-L-S-V-I-K. A lot of consonants there. And the immigration officials thought it would be difficult to spell and pronounce for people in this country. And so they asked him to change their name. And they picked the name of the farm where they work near Bergen, Norway called The Thune Farm. And so Nickoli Gjelsvik became Nick Thune in America. And he and my great uncle got out to my home area around Myrtle and Jones County and went to work on the railroad. They were building the railroads, the transcontinental railroads across the United States. They worked on the railroad, they learned English, saved a little money, eventually started a small merchandising company and eventually bought a hardware store in Mitchell, South Dakota called Thune Hardware.

Lori Walsh:
Just a little bit there from Jonathan's acceptance speech last night at the Hilton Garden Inn. Lee Strubinger, you were there. Did you have the same sense that there was something about this speech that was emotional for the Senator?

Lee Strubinger:
I mean, definitely when it's your fourth acceptance speech going back to the United States Senate, he broke the Mundt curse. I think there was definitely kind of some feeling there. But it was also pretty very early on in the night. I mean, the polls closed and then they immediately called it for Thune. So people were still kind of arriving, if you will, and hanging out in the back and chatting and catching up while John Thune is giving this speech. So obviously there were people up front there to sort of listen in on him, but a lot of people were still filing in because it was pretty early on.

Lori Walsh:
Yeah. John Hunter, you heard a couple things in Senator Thune's speech. Tell me, not in that clip, which is a warm family story, but also in the things that he chose to bring up in his speech. What did you hear?

John Hunter:
Well, he did, I think right away say that he has no allegiance to any one man. So I think that's pretty clear that that's relating to the former president. But he amplified that. That wasn't a throwaway line. I think it was part of a real establishment of what he wants to do in these six years, which could be his last. I mean any politician could be their last six, but now that this is a fourth term. But he also said he pledges to uphold the Constitution and he'll raise his right hand and do that again. And there has been some challenges to the Constitution that some politicians have. He also said he's committed to the truth and that the word truth pops up a lot these days. So I think he is clearly establishing himself and chose to. Again, that's not off the cuff I don't think, that he has chosen to say, "This is where I stand on this issue."

Lori Walsh:
Yeah. I said it sounded like his last senatorial acceptance speech or his first presidential speech, I'm not sure which. Lee Strubinger caught up with Senator Thune afterwards and here is what he had to say in reference to really what John is saying. He kind of elaborated on that a little bit.

John Thune:
We have to have confidence in those elections. And I mentioned it being about the future. I mean there are a lot of people obviously who are still sort of dwelling in the last election, but we resolve our differences at the ballot box. We move forward. If he decides to run for office, that's his prerogative. It's a free country. We'll see who else gets into the races. But right now I'm just happy with the way things are going tonight and hopeful that we'll end up with majorities in the House and Senate before the night's through.

Lori Walsh:
Lee, anything else you want to say about that conversation with Senator Thune? You must have asked him directly about Donald Trump running again there?

Lee Strubinger:
Yeah, I asked him if that was... that was basically his response to my question of if he was drawing a line in the sand there with President Trump possibly announcing very, very, very probably soon.

Lori Walsh:
Certainly. Now what he didn't say, Mike Card, in his acceptance speech was also a whole lot. I didn't hear him mention Nancy Pelosi. I didn't hear him do a lot of that negative partisanship. It was very much a positive, this is what we have to do in the future. Did you hear anything else in Senator Thune's acceptance you thought was noteworthy?

Mike Card:
It was almost an awe shucks. I am a guy from a small town.

Lori Walsh:
It was humble.

Mike Card:
I made the big time. Yeah.

Lori Walsh:
Yeah. It was. On the other hand, Dusty Johnson, another race that was called very quickly. He did make sure that he talked about the national race and what he saw happening right away. Here is Congressman Johnson.

Dusty Johnson:
We are seeing that Republican congressional candidates are turning blue seats red. Now this is not two seats or four seats or eight seats, ladies and gentlemen. This is dozens of Republican seats. So many seats that there will be a new Speaker of the House.

Lori Walsh:
All right, Lee Strubinger. What else from Congressman Johnson who defeated Collin Duprel 77 to 23, by the way.

Lee Strubinger:
Yeah, I had a chance to catch up with Johnson after his acceptance speech and he does expect the House to go Republican. It looks like it's leaning that way at this point. But he said also in my conversation that he expects to be the chair of an ag subcommittee once the new term starts. So he didn't say what subcommittee, but he hopes it's very South Dakota focused. So look for that from Dusty Johnson in the coming months.

Lori Walsh:
Mike Card, he's kind of calling the shot for the Republicans pretty early in the night because that race was called, I don't know, maybe 20, 30 minutes after the polls closed in Mountain time. And he wasn't really right or accurate at the time he was speaking. We weren't seeing a red wave. Republicans have been somewhat disappointed but also encouraged because as Lee said, they are... The House will flip, just maybe not by dozens as what Congressman Johnson was saying there. Did you hear anything in Dusty Johnson's speech that you think...?

Mike Card:
No, I think that was it. And Congressman Johnson has to play two games. He's got to play the game with us as constituents, but he's also got to play to either Speaker McCarthy or perhaps someone else being elected if he wants a subcommittee Chairship in his third term, that's relatively quick. And if he's really trying to do that, he's got to give a little bit of allegiance to that as well as to make sure that he keeps the home fires burning, so to speak, and speaks to his constituents. But he turns out not to have been correct on a blue wave.

Lori Walsh:
Red wave.

Mike Card:
Red wave taking over.

Lori Walsh:
Right. But still much to celebrate for Republicans. Have you noticed that John? In the debate as well, Dusty Johnson doing a little bit less of the "awe shucks, I'm just a kid from Mitchell", and more of the, "we are going to lead and there's going to be a Speaker of the House who is Republican and I'm not going to let you down. We're going to do the next big thing." I think Mike Card has a good point there. He's looking at his role in the House of Representatives from what the National Party thinks point of view. Yeah?

John Hunter:
And you think of Dusty Johnson, at least I do, as being the kind of newcomer among our congressional delegation, Rounds has been in office a long time. Thune has been in office a long time. So you kind of forget now that Dusty is becoming a little bit more tenured in the House and he can start to, I think, be a little more vocal. He's not the rookie. He's not the freshman legislator. And so now, yes, if he gets this sub chairmanship, and I think he's also somewhat frustrated by them, kind of the Democrats controlling all three, the House, Senate, and presidency. And what do you do as a Republican legislator in that? So even if they switch to a majority in the House, it doesn't matter if the Senate does or not, but that will kind of boosts his ability to do some of the things he wants to do. On the other hand, just really quickly, Lori, he's been forced to try to get things done in the minority. And that was actually one of the things that I think Billy Sutton used to do well in the state legislature. With a deep minority, Billy still was able to communicate, get some things that, not their whole thing, but get some things into bills that mattered. And I think Dusty's worked hard to try to do that in his minority position.

Lori Walsh:
Mike, you wanted to say?

Mike Card:
I was going to say, I think it's going to be more challenging if former President Trump runs for president because there are a number of leadership candidates for House leadership who are allegient former President Trump and will be leaning in that direction. So I think politics is about power. You want to do things and it's really decides who gets to decide. And as we've noted here, there are thin majorities. So if there is a Trump wing in the House of Representatives, they will have the same power that Joe Manchin had in the Senate because the thin majority, if you lose four or five votes, you've lost the whole thing.

Lori Walsh:
Yeah. Senator Thune, Congressman Johnson. Before we take a break, any final thoughts on these races and what we need to look at in the days ahead? Farm Bill, VA capacity for the Pact Act, Dusty Johnson on the Ag Committee, other things that you think are really going to be interesting to see what they do in Washington next before we take a quick break?

Mike Card:
Well, there seems to be a little bit of a rise in isolationism creeping over the country. I see our commitment to Ukraine sort of waffling. We've certainly seen television commercials to that effect. We're not taking care of people here. We're sending money to Ukraine, nevermind that the upper third of our state is basically settled by Ukraine, German immigrants.

Lori Walsh:
Governor Kristi Noem, as most of you know right now, defeated challenger Jamie Smith by 62 to 35. That's about a 93,724 vote difference. These are, again, I'll say, unofficial vote results. The canvassing has not been completed. This is what we know right now. In 2018, she only beat Billy Sutton 51 to 47. So Jamie Smith did not do as well against her in spite of arguably having more to work with from the what has she not done well standpoint than Billy Sutton perhaps had. John Hunter, where do you want to begin with this conversation?

John Hunter:
Well, remembering that four years ago they had two people who were not incumbents. So Kristi Noem had been in Congress, came back. So she wasn't an incumbent governor, she wasn't an incumbent member of the delegation. So I think it was a little bit more open. And Billy Sutton, of course, a very capable candidate, great experience in the state legislature and did well there too. I think that was part of it. So I think there's some power of the incumbency that played out here, and I don't think you can ignore the fact that there was a lot of money. You'd hope that voters wouldn't be influenced entirely by money. But I think it does play a factor. And I think...

Lori Walsh:
They're not really being influenced by money, they're being influenced by how that money is spent.

John Hunter:
That's well put.

Lori Walsh:
We're not paying them to vote for you. We're just buying some really savvy ads.

John Hunter:
Right. With crackly video taken from In the Moment. We saw that, I think. And she swung hard. I mean down the stretch, she was not sitting on an insurmountable lead. At least the expectation was. So I think she got a big bat and went for it.

Lori Walsh:
Let's talk about that. Because I'm going to lay out some dates and some polling data here so that we can all kind of talk about this whole idea what did the polls say and how did Noem pick up steam when you got into the fall versus what she was really doing in the summer? The SESU poll, which was released on October 11th, but those questions were asked between September 28th and October 10th, had a very close race. Noem was at 45 over Smith 41. So 45 to 41, but 14% were undecided. We talked to Dave Wiltz right after he released that poll. He's the director of the SDSU poll at South Dakota State University. And here's what he had to say at the time about those undecided voters.

Dave Wiltz:
There are some people who are just hesitant to declare a preference this far out in the game. And like I said in our press release that's just out now, most of these folks are essentially going to gravitate towards their preferred party. And in this particular case, we would assume that most of them will be heading towards, not most, but a majority will be heading the governor's way simply because of the partisan structure here in South Dakota.

Lori Walsh:
All right, that was Dave Wiltz on October 11th talking about those undecided voters. If every undecided voter from his poll went to the Noem camp, that would've been about 59%. She was a lead. And she ends up winning by 62. The Emerson College poll in conjunction with Kello TV, that was October 26 release date, had her at 56% and Smith at 37, only 4% undecided voters right now. So with all that on the table, polls, Mike Card, and the Governor's race, because what's relevant to you from all that we've laid out here?

Mike Card:
Well, in many ways it's very tough to do polling right now because especially who you're calling and trying to get your opinions from. Over the past several election cycles, it's been very difficult to accurately gauge the Republican turnout and the Republican preferences and young people's preferences, because young people tend not to answer a call that is on a cell phone that they don't recognize the number. So we've got error built in, so we try to over sample when we're doing sampling. And that is we get a higher percentage of people from the perspective that we don't think we're capturing their views and that's one of the challenges we have. It may be, and one possible scenario is, that both polls were accurate, but my money would say that the influence of those ads, that the use of that money to buy ads that cast Jamie Smith in a very negative light, according to voters, tax increases in a period where people are struggling with money to buy groceries. We don't want any more taxes. And people tend not to like taxes anyway in South Dakota. And so as we moved forward, I think it just got people to stay home and those who were going to vote were not going to vote for Jamie Smith.

Lori Walsh:
Lee Strubinger, again, you were there last night. Governor Noem gives her speech. And we have a little clip from her acceptance speech, to Mike Card's point. And then we'll get to a question for Lee. But here she is at one point talking about that grocery tax. Take a listen.

Kristi Noem:
Let's cut the sales tax on groceries. The fact is we can afford to do it. Just be this last week we learned that we already brought in 80 million more in taxes this year than we had predicted. We have the money, it isn't our money, it's the peoples. So let's give it back to them and help them fight off this crazy inflation that we're facing in Washington DC.

Lori Walsh:
Lee Strubinger, she first said she was going to cut the grocery tax on September 28th. If you think back to all those numbers I just laid out, that was the day that SDSU Poll stirs started reaching out with people with questions. Anything from Noems victory last night that stands out to you, particularly as is related to the grocery tax and the work that's ahead?

Lee Strubinger:
Well, there is going to be a lot of work definitely ahead because when you take a look at also what the voters did was they expanded Medicaid and that's going to also cost money out of the State general fund. So she's wanting to cut a hundred million out of the State general fund, whereas the voters want the State legislature to spend a little bit more. I suspect we're going to hear more about her plan of action during the budget address, but lawmakers are also studying property tax, the property tax structure in the state. And there also are rumblings of whether or not there would be property tax relief. And that's something that would be more fluid than say getting rid of the grocery tax all in one fell swoop. Because once that's gone, it's gone. But this goes back years.

Lori Walsh:
But she promised, Lee. She called my house five times promising.

Lee Strubinger:
Right. And she's really...

Lori Walsh:
Because I do have a landline.

Lee Strubinger:
But when you take a look at the differences of opinion, if you will, that her offices had with lawmakers and the House and Senate, a lot of those policy ideas that she's come to the table with have been a pretty big fight. Or she's been against something like industrial hemp. And that was a huge fight her first year. And so it'll be interesting to see how that really shakes out because the legislature was going on one track and then suddenly this grocery tax comes out in September. And some of the legislators who I talked to, sure they want to cut taxes, what lawmaker wouldn't want to do that, but they've said, we need to see the numbers, we need to see more numbers. The $80 million figure, I haven't seen that one yet. The figure that I have seen is about a month old and it came from the Legislative Research Council that says ongoing general fund receipts are up by about 53.4 million. So maybe we raised 25 million in the last month. I haven't seen that number yet. I'll definitely keep looking for it. So all that kind of remains to be seen.

Lori Walsh:
I want to dig into this more, but first before we move past Jamie Smith. John Hunter kind of alluded to this and Mike Card did as well, how the money is spent. Lee Strubinger asked him about that money. Here is what challenger Jamie Smith had to say.

Jamie Smith:
We ran the campaign that we started at the beginning, was we were going to tell the truth the whole way through, and that's exactly what we did. We were under funded by a long shot, but we made them spend a heck of a lot of money. I mean, when you start with $14 million and I have $10,000, there's a problem in our society that big money wins. And then when you use that big money to spread lies about people, there you go.

Lori Walsh:
John Hunter, backed to Kristi Noem. We mentioned that the grocery tax becoming an issue on September 28th. She also announced having a back surgery on September 12th, which indicated at the time that we wouldn't see much of the governor because she needed to take it easy. And that really seemed to not be... Defied expectations with how often she was out bagging groceries, walking...

John Hunter:
Dancing.

Lori Walsh:
Dancing, holding little kids on her hip. I mean, there was all kinds of things that we saw post back surgery that were a surprise to some people. Talk more about how she finishes the campaign, how strong she is at really coming through the finish line. She doesn't lose. She hasn't lost a major campaign. And often it's the final push that gets her over the edge.

John Hunter:
True. The announcement that she had on Twitter said that this back surgery or the injury and subsequent surgery would keep her out several months. Now I don't know how long a several is, but I would guess three or more. Fortunately, she recovered quickly and was very much able to, I think she mentioned she couldn't stand more than 10 or 15 minutes at a time. She was able to do that, a very fast recovery. I think that's probably good for the electorate. I mean, you want both candidates or all three candidates to be active in any particular race. But when I think of the grocery tax, remember that that announcement that she would do, it was made by a campaign staffer. It was not made by Tony Mangan or anyone else in our governor's office. So that was a campaign issue. And I wanted to follow up with what Lee was saying too about the voters just put in this Medicaid expansion, which according to the LRCs fiscal note would be $33 million. The corrections, two different corrections committees this summer said, we're going to need $600 million in coming years to replace all the prisons. We've got nursing homes closing in South Dakota. I think that grocery tax is going to be an uphill swim. Is that mixing metaphors? I'm not sure.

Mike Card:
Well, I want to add one more to that is, city sales tax is almost all that I looked at we're tied to the state sales tax. And I'm not sure that our city council members and commissioners are going to be able to write that same language into their city ordinances without facing their own blow back. So I think the municipal league will probably come out as opposed to that on behalf of their constituents.

John Hunter:
Also, another big financial ask or fight, if you will, every year is funding for the big three, which is state employees, community care providers and teachers. And that always is one of the last things that really gets decided. Again, we'll see what she proposes during her budget address. Generally it's around 3% or inflation. Inflation was around 9%. I don't see the big three getting 9%, especially if the sales tax cut is there as well.

Lee Strubinger:
Yeah. There's not enough money for all these, let's say that, right? So they're going to have to pick and choose.

Lori Walsh:
And they, the appropriators with the state legislature. So before we take this next break, I want to Lee, how did the balance tip, if at all, in the Republican super majority? As we look at the unofficial results of the state legislative races right now.

Lee Strubinger:
I think it's not surprising that Republicans still hold a super majority in both chambers. House Democrats lost a seat, so they're down from eight now to seven, and then Senate Democrats picked up a seat. And so when you take a look at how these elections really shook out, it's basically if you're a Democrat in this election, if you're a Democrat running for office, you either win in Sioux Falls or in West River reservation districts, which a lot of those districts are court ordered and drawn that way. So that's basically how you won as a Democrat this go around. The party, the Democratic Party was pretty cautiously optimistic about gaining more seats in the state capital. I think you could fairly call this kind of a wash in terms of from the last legislature to this upcoming one in terms of power.

Lori Walsh:
There was not a blue wave.

Lee Strubinger:
There was not a blue wave.

Lori Walsh:
John, I want to start with you during this because one of the races that people were watching was the District 26 race where Shawn Bordeaux, the Democrat, would eventually win out in the unofficial results that we have right now against Republican Joel Koskan, who has been accused of sexual assault against a child. And this brings up the question of early voting, which we have maybe every election. But this election, with the announcement of the grocery tax on September 28th when voting had really already begun, to this controversy and these allegations, a lot of people had already voted when there was a plea bargain sort of announced or when the news broke. Tell me a little bit about your thoughts on that.

John Hunter:
Well, I've editorialized a number of times that I think South Dakota's early voting is too long. I understand the need to give everyone an opportunity if they aren't available on election day. But to start on September 24th when the two examples that you mentioned, certainly the Joel Koskin thing, the court document that he said he would plead guilty to some charges was released late in the campaign cycle. I think overall, the last numbers I heard, and this is not up to date, Mike, but that 13% of registered voters had voted as of last Friday.

Mike Card:
That's what I saw.

John Hunter:
And if you get a 59% turn out, that's maybe 20 some percent of people who actually voted, voted prior to Friday. So I think there are a lot of things that can come up in a campaign in final weeks that deserve voters' attention. And so I've thought that for a long time. I don't know what the right number is, two weeks, three weeks or whatever that would be, maybe an exception for people overseas or something, registered South Dakota voters overseas. But I do think that South Dakota's early voting is too long, and I've written that way.

Lori Walsh:
I want to pull out a couple other districts that were interesting. In redistricting, District 10, my neighborhood was part of District 14, and now it's part of District 10. And in District 14 was always split. It was always, they sent Erin Healy and they sent Taylor Rayfield. So there was a Democrat, there's Republican, Larry Zikmund they always sent, he's a Republican. Now that district went all Republican. Taylor Rayfield went again in District 14, and Tyler Tordsen was elected a Republican. Larry Zikmund still the senator. But over in District 10 where Erin Healy got shifted, all blue. So that is where one of those seats picks up, Lee, because Maggie Sutton was the District 10 senator and now it's Liz Larson. And that means a lot for the abortion conversation, because Maggie Sutton, the senator, was a strong social conservative. You also mentioned district 32, which is kind of interesting as well. Tell us about that.

Lee Strubinger:
Yeah, so I apologize. I'm more from Rapid City, so I understand that a lot better.

Lori Walsh:
We all know our hometown's better. This is my district 10, 14, that's my neighborhood. So tell us about your neighborhood. Yeah.

Lee Strubinger:
But 32 is very interesting because it's, for the first time in decades, North Rapid City, which is kind of historically Native American, is finally in a single legislative district, and that's 32. And so when you look at the results, yes, Republicans were able to take both of the House seats and the Senate seat there. But when you look at the House race, the largest vote getter got 27% of the vote. And the Democrats were right around 25 and 23. Jonathan Old Horse got 23% of the vote. And from what I was able to see there, didn't really run much of a campaign. He sent out a mailer kind of early on. I didn't hardly see any signs. Christine Stevenson had signs started going up about two to three weeks out ahead of the election. But Becky Drury and Steve Duffy who won, they had a lot of their stuff out very early on, were sending out a lot of mailers. And so yeah, it went Republican, but I think that's a very tight sort of legislative race for a city like Rapid City, which since I've been here has not sent a Democrat to the State House.

Lori Walsh:
Lots to watch. Redistricting, Dr. Card, any other thoughts that jump out as far as how we saw this redistrict? Republicans still have this super majority.

Mike Card:
Well, it's always challenging to see who wins and who loses in any battle. And who gets to decide is the purpose of politics. Certainly districts like an attempt to perhaps move some seats out of Sioux Falls into Rapid City, appeared to be the case to get North Rapid to all finally be in one district itself. And there was quite a bit of criticism that I heard from people in this area of the state.

Lori Walsh:
John Hunter, super majority, should they open their caucus?

John Hunter:
Well, another thing...

Lori Walsh:
Explain to listeners what that means.

John Hunter:
Right. So South Dakota has open meetings laws of required for all levels of government except the legislature. So South Dakota law requires city commission, school boards and so forth to hold their meetings in public and conduct all their business, with some exceptions, some rational exceptions. Now, the state legislature also conducts its meeting in public in the state chambers. You can sit up in the balcony and watch and listen and so forth. But parties can caucus offsite or separately from that. And the Republican caucus in South Dakota has been closed. So in the case of the super majority where we only have seven house members or four senators who are Democrats, essentially the entire legislature meets in caucus in private and makes decisions there. And that's not right. Those things need to be vetted. The public needs to be able to hear, listen to logical arguments, participate in many cases, which they can through committee meetings and working with their legislators. So I think this super, super majority, I don't know how many supers you have to have to get to where we are, but I think that it would serve South Dakota democracy well if those caucuses were open to the public.

Lori Walsh:
All right. I want to expand that to the floor here in a little bit or to the table. But first I want to make sure we get some audio clips in before we run out of time. And this gets to the point of, it's a super majority, but it's not a monolith. Abortion will be something in January that lawmakers are going to have to deal with. John Hanson, who was reelected, had put out on Twitter a detailed list of ways that in his words, the unborn need to be protected. Additional things like banning advertising for anyone who provides abortion services. He had a detailed list. He'll be going to peer. Here is Taylor Ray Rayfield, who is from District 14. We just mentioned her. A Republican. It's a longer clip. But when she came to sit with us for her Meet the Candidate's conversation, here are some of her thoughts on what she thought needed to happen regarding abortion in the State House.

Taylor Rayfield:
I do see problems with the trigger law, though. There are issues. And so I plan to address, and I actually have bill drafts, three different areas. So currently the life of the mother is not defined within statute of what that means. So some people might think, "Oh, no big deal." But it is a big deal because physicians, providers don't know what that means and don't know when they can intervene. Examples of that would be myself. I'm a high risk pregnancy. I had a stroke in 2014, and so all of my pregnancies are very high risk. I also had some heart issues during my last pregnancy. So for me to get pregnant today would be detrimental to my health. And of course I take birth control. We're very responsible. I'm married to my wonderful husband, Corey, and have two wonderful children. But I recognize sometimes those things are gray and we don't know. Does a cancer mother be able to get treatment?

And those are questions that need to be addressed because it can be a matter of life or death. The other circumstance is fatal fetal issues. So when you talk about a baby, sometimes they're not compatible with life. And that's something that's really sad, because most of the time the mother and father of that child desperately want that child and is not compatible. And there's emotional and physical ramifications to a mom carrying a baby that is not compatible with life. The third thing is rape and incest. And while we see statistically that abortion doesn't carry a lot of numbers within that category, I think it's still very, very important that we address women who have been victimized and take that into account as we're going forward.

So those are the three areas. And what I'd really like to say at the end of this is that I think we get so caught up in this pro-life, pro-choice mantra, and really if we could just concentrate on people, children, women, babies, and move things forward that are really invested in their success, I think that's really what my approach is.

Lori Walsh:
That is Taylor Ray Rayfield, who according to the unofficial results, will go back to Pier as a Republican from District 14. And to round this out here, we'll go all the way back to the beginning and Senator John Thune, during his acceptance speech also addressed this really difficult conversation that Republicans will be needing to be having amongst their caucus and with Democrats and with citizens about abortion. Here's Senator Thune.

John Thune:
We have important critical questions that divide the country. Questions like, when does life begin? Those are issues that we're going to be fighting over. And we can have fierce convictions, and I do, and believe me, I have strong convictions, I think as you know on a whole range of issues. But at the end of the day, we've got to resolve our differences at the ballot box. And every even numbered year in November, going back for a couple centuries, we have elections and we have an opportunity to set a new course and a chart, a new vision, a different vision for the future of this country. And that's what this is about tonight.

Lori Walsh:
All right. In our remaining minutes, state legislature, abortion, some of these other things we've sort of left on the table that we want to put a bow on. Lee Strubinger, you begin.

Lee Strubinger:
Yeah, so I think the difference in sort of how to approach abortion is also playing out when it comes to certain leadership races in the South Dakota House, at least. John Hanson, Representative Hanson who we mentioned, he was the speaker pro tem last year. Generally the speaker pro tem goes on to become the Speaker of the House. There are two other Republicans who have said, "I would also like to be Speaker of the House." They've indicated this amongst sort of Republicans running for office and kind of caucus. There's sort of a leadership struggle going on. One of them is Rapid City Republican, Jess Olson. You've also got Republican representative Hugh Bartels, who have indicated to other Republicans that they're looking to become Speaker of the House. So there's a split there.

And then there's also a race for majority leader of the Republican caucus. You've got Will Mortenson and Scott Odenbach I think are two sort of the different camps, if you will. Will Mortenson sort of being more of the kind of business Republican side. And Scott Odenbach being more of the social conservative Republican there. And then you also have Rebecca Reimer who has also indicated that she would like to be majority leader. And so I think those sorts of differences between the House caucus there are really going to start playing out in the next coming days. And I think that could inform how the abortion debate really comes down. Because as we know, Senator Schoenbeck has also indicated that he would like to take a look at this and what it would look like.

Lori Walsh:
Mike Card.

Mike Card:
Well, I'm going to link this to both conversations. The fight over leadership clearly seems to me to be one that should be held in a closed caucus. I don't think the public necessarily has the right to know what all machinations there are in there. On the other hand, we also know that there are text networks that they're engaging in, that they are sending texts to each other. That is also beyond the open meetings law provisions where things are being discussed without knowledge of the public. Those are things that may or may not fit into those. But you've noted in the past that your listeners don't like it when we agree on everything. My arguments for...

Lori Walsh:
I get emails.

Mike Card:
Yeah.

Lori Walsh:
I get emails. "They all agreed." I like, sorry.

Mike Card:
I think sometimes in a legislative body you need to hash things out so that you can think of amendments to make better legislation that you may not be willing to make because of either personal commitments or somebody has to vote against the wishes of their own district in order for a bill to pass. And we have to find a way to cover for that person. Maybe that's a political decision as opposed to one that's for the good of the people. But I think those are the arguments for a closed caucus.

Lori Walsh:
John Hunter, final thoughts for this hour.

John Hunter:
For the legislative session, it's always more complex than it shows up in campaigns. During campaigns, it's red or blue. And it seems as though it's clear, but it's not. And really as Taylor Ray Rayfield was talking about, there are complexities here that legislators have to deal with. You have a situation where you have 53 to 47 is the recreational marijuana defeat. And so the headline will read, "South Dakota rejects recreational marijuana." Well, that's not true. 53% did and 47% didn't. So are there compromises? Are there things that can be done in the legislate? Not necessarily with that issue, but it isn't all a hundred to zero. And I think a good legislators can recognize that there are two opinions and there's a lot of people with both that need to be resolved.

Lori Walsh:
Our conversation today has been with John Hunter, Madison Daily Leader; Mike Card, University of South Dakota; Lee Strubinger with SDPB.

Lori Walsh is the host and senior producer of In the Moment.
Chris is a producer for In the Moment.