Will South Dakota House leadership survive the 2022 session?

A faction of the South Dakota State House attempted to remove Speaker Spencer Gosch (R-Glenham) as recently as November, due in large part to frustrations around personnel decisions and how the redistricting process had progressed up to that point.
South Dakota lawmakers convened on Nov. 11 for a special legislative session to begin the...
South Dakota lawmakers convened on Nov. 11 for a special legislative session to begin the formal process of investigating and considering the impeachment of Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg.(Dakota News Now)
Published: Jan. 7, 2022 at 7:31 PM CST
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PIERRE, S.D. - South Dakota State House and Senate leadership typically stays in place over the duration of two years, and thus, two sessions.

But some in the House have indicated they would like to see a change take place after just one session of the current leadership being in place.

“My speakership, if you will, has been relatively unprecedented,” said Speaker Spencer Gosch (R-Glenham). “I came into a COVID outbreak, no two people agreed on how things should proceed forward with that... then you turn around and you have impeachment articles dropped... then you throw in redistricting.”

The desire of some in the Republican caucus to oust Gosch and certain members of his leadership team stems in part from a clear divide between the House and the Senate. That divide has become more visible as of late because of the fallout from a decision by Gosch to not release publicly the names of the members who signed on for a special session to consider the impeachment of Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg. Senate President Pro Tempore Lee Schoenbeck (R-Watertown) ultimately opted to release the names of House members himself.

The Senate has long been considered the more moderate of the two bodies, and the House the more conservative body.

That same ideological divide also splits Republican members of the House.

“I think that in an election year like this one, we will see even more of an ideological distinction between members, especially in the House,” said Michael Card, professor of political science at the University of South Dakota.

Further reason for the fracture in the House stems from frustration around committee assignments, which came to a head during the redistricting process.

During the special session to consider redistricting in November, Majority Whip Tim Goodwin (R-Rapid City) led an effort to create a bipartisan coalition of House members to oust Gosch and various other committee chairs. At the same time, Goodwin also faced allegations by a former intern of having attempted to recruit her to run against other Republican house members in 2022.

Goodwin said that in part, his frustration with Gosch and other members of leadership stemmed from House members that were not appointed to the Appropriations committee, despite having past experience with that committee.

“There was some talk about having a vote on the speaker job,” Goodwin said. “Of course, the speaker position is a floor vote, all of the members including the 8 Democrats vote. There was some discussion on that idea, and it had some traction.”

The attempt to oust Gosch and some other members of leadership failed after Majority Leader Kent Peterson (R-Salem) asked those behind the effort to not pursue it further. Peterson did not respond to a request for comment on the matter.

Though Goodwin says that he personally does not intend to attempt to remove Gosch during the upcoming legislative session, it isn’t clear if others who supported his efforts intend to resurrect them.

Or, what the situation will mean for policy decisions to come out of the South Dakota State Capitol this year.

“There are some house members who are conservative on social issues and fiscal issues, but there are also some who are more conservative on social issues, but not at all conservative on fiscal issues,” explained Card. “That is another issue, especially when there are all kinds of money around to be appropriated. Then, you have some that are conservative on fiscal issues, and basically libertarian on social issues.”

“Pierre office politics and fights don’t get us anywhere,” Gosch said in response to the attempts to oust him. “Your grandmother and your mother have both said it, you have to be the bigger man and the better person. We cannot screw South Dakota, and if we continue down this path, it is the people of South Dakota who get hurt.”

The state legislative session begins on Tuesday, January 11th, with Governor Kristi Noem’s State of State address at 1 PM.

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