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Pierre swamp being drained? GOP primary brings upsets of longtime lawmakers

(The Dakota Scout)-The make up of the South Dakota Legislature will be significantly different in 2025, after hard-right GOP candidates pulled off upsets over a handful of longtime incumbents.

Driven by no top of the ticket races and low voter turnout overall, at least half a dozen sitting Republican lawmakers within the party’s more moderate faction were dispatched Tuesday, setting the stage for major changes in in the makeup of both the House and the Senate next year.

Chief among those were the defeats of Sens. Erin Tobin and Jean Hunhoff. Tobin, who joined the Legislature in 2020 in an upset bid that unseated a longtime incumbent, has been considered by many of her more like minded colleagues to be a “rising star” within the party, while Hunhoff has long headed the Legislature’s powerful, budget-setting Appropriations Committee and is the longest serving female lawmaker in state history.

Both lost to lesser known, outsider candidates.

Other races that came up with surprising results included the defeat of veteran House lawmaker Tamara St. John, Rep. Tyler Tordsen in District 14, and former Speaker of the House Spencer Gosch regaining his former seat in north central South Dakota, defeating Rep. James Wangsness. Former House lawmaker and congressional candidate Taffy Howard also advanced out of the primary.

On the other side of the column, Rep. Stephanie Sauder was able to defeat district mate Fred Deutsch in a narrow bid to represent District 4 in the Senate, though those results are narrow enough to entitle Deutsch to a recount. Lee Qualm, a former majority leader and target of moderate political activist groups, also lost, though he too is entitled to a recount.

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