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Senate scraps bill to switch nominations from conventions to primaries


Senate scraps bill to switch nominations from conventions to primaries

Mar 07, 2023 | 1:13 pm ET
By Seth Tupper
Senate scraps bill to switch nominations from conventions to primaries
Legislators in the Senate Chamber during the 2023 legislative session at the Capitol in Pierre. (Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)

An effort to change the way many statewide candidates are nominated has failed, after it pitted factions of the Republican Party against each other for much of the current legislative session.

Tuesday at the Capitol in Pierre, the Senate decided not to support House amendments to the bill or appoint a conference committee to work out the differences between the chambers. That effectively defeated the legislation.

Sen. David Johnson, R-Rapid City, was the bill’s prime sponsor. He said lawmakers could not reach agreement on a path forward. 

“Multiple legislators have been involved in multiple efforts over the weekend, and frankly right up to about five minutes ago,” Johnson said. “Senators, we have reached an impasse with the House.” 

The legislation was intended to address an inconsistency in the way nominees for statewide offices are chosen to represent political parties in general elections.

Currently, nominees for governor and Congress are chosen in primary elections. Meanwhile, delegates to political party conventions choose nominees for lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, state auditor, state treasurer, commissioner of school and public lands, and public utilities commissioners.

The version of Senate Bill 40 that passed the Senate would have moved all of those nominations to primary elections, except for lieutenant governor. The bill would have allowed candidates for governor to choose their own running mate.

That version of the bill was widely viewed as a reaction to last year’s state Republican convention. Delegates to the convention nearly forced Gov. Kristi Noem to accept her defeated primary challenger, Steve Haugaard, as her running mate instead of Lt. Gov. Larry Rhoden. Republican convention delegates also dumped incumbent Secretary of State Steve Barnett in favor of Monae Johnson, who went on to win the general election after refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election.

Some Republicans want to keep the nomination process as it is, or work within the party to reform it. In the House, representatives pared the bill back to only the lieutenant governor provision.

Rather than accept and move forward with that one change, Johnson supported the motion in the Senate to defeat the bill.