PIERRE, S.D. – Republicans have a big advantage in the battle to control the South Dakota Legislature (search) because once again, they have fielded far more candidates than Democrats have.
Only four of the 105 seats in the Legislature have no Republican candidates, while Democrats are giving up 33 seats.
The GOP had recruited candidates for every seat, but two Senate candidates withdrew and two House candidates were disqualified because of problems with their nominating petitions.
Democrats failed to run candidates in 10 Senate races and 23 House slots. Some of those open slots occurred because candidates withdrew after initially qualifying to run.
The disparity in fielding candidates means that in either chamber, Democrats would have to win three-quarters of the contested races to take control of that chamber.
Republicans have a 26-9 advantage in the Senate and a 48-21 edge in the House. One House seat is vacant because Rep. Matt McCaulley, R-Sioux Falls, resigned earlier this year and no replacement has been named.
Jason Glodt, South Dakota Republican Party executive director, said he expects the GOP will maintain its two-thirds majorities in both chambers. He said he thinks Republicans will gain seats in the House.
"It couldn't look much better for us right now," Glodt said.
But South Dakota Democratic Party Executive Director Jason Schulte said he thinks his party will gain up to a half-dozen seats.
The Democratic Party recruited more candidates this year than two years ago, which shows progress toward getting a more even balance in the Legislature, Schulte said. Democrats will seek to field more candidates in future elections, he said.
Each of South Dakota's 35 legislative districts elects one senator and two at-large House members, except for District 28 in northwestern South Dakota. District 28 elects one senator but is split into two House districts, each of which picks its own House member.
Republicans who will win uncontested Senate races are: Sen. Lee Schoenbeck, Watertown; Sen. Gene Abdallah, Sioux Falls; Sen. Ed Olson, Mitchell; Sen. Jay Duenwald, Hoven; Sen. Clarence Kooistra, Garretson; Sen. Jerry Apa, Lead; Sen. Mac McCracken, Rapid City; former Rep. Mike Broderick, Canton, and Bob Gray, Fort Pierre. Sen. Dave Knudson, Sioux Falls, has no Democratic opponent, but he is not guaranteed re-election because the Constitution Party has fielded a candidate in his district.
Democratic Senate candidates who will win unopposed are: Sen. Frank Kloucek, Scotland; and Rep. Gary Hanson, Sisseton, who is switching to the Senate.
House members automatically win only if the opposing party has no candidates in a district. In a number of districts, Democrats have only one candidate, which means neither of the two Republican candidates are guaranteed of winning.
Republican House members who will win re-election unopposed include: Casey Murschel, Sioux Falls; Hal Wick, Sioux Falls; Joel Dykstra, Canton; Jean Hunhoff, Yankton; Matthew Michels, Yankton; Jim Putnam, Armour; Bill Van Gerpen, Tyndall; Justin Davis, Ipswich; Tom Hackl, Hoven; Ryan Olson, Onida; Tim Rounds, Pierre; Ted Klaudt, Walker; and Larry Rhoden, Union Center. Non-incumbent Republicans who will win House races without opposition are: former Rep. Roger Hunt, Brandon; Shantel Krebs, Sioux Falls; and Thomas Brunner, Nisland.
On the Democratic side, Rep. Maggie Gillespie, Hudson, is the only House candidate to win without opposition.