Area Races

At the close of Tuesday night’s vote counting, tw0 Republican primaries for the South Dakota Legislature remain in doubt and could be headed for recounts.

Both the District 17 Senate and District 19 House primaries were decided by razor-thin margins. Under state law, they fall within the margin of difference that can qualify for recounts.

District 17 includes Clay and Turner counties. District 19 includes Douglas, Hutchinson, Hanson and McCook counties and a portion of Bon Homme County.

Both of the GOP races flipped because of late surges.

In the District 17 Senate primary, incumbent Art Rusch of Vermillion defeated challenger Nancy Rasmussen of Hurley 1,002-996 for the right to advance to the November general election. The race has been flagged for a possible recount.

Rasmussen has served in the House but is term limited and now seeking a seat in the Senate. The other District 17 House member, Democrat Art Ring of Vermillion, was also term limited but chose not to seek the Senate seat.

In the District 19 House primary, incumbent Kent Peterson of Salem and newcomer Jessica Bahmuller of Salem claimed the two slots by 1,881 and 1,741 votes, respectively.

The third candidate, Marty Overweg of New Holland, has served in the House as a gubernatorial appointment and finished third in Tuesday’s primary with 1,720 votes.

• In District 16, consisting of Lincoln and Union counties, the Republican primary for House did not have final results as of 11 p.m.

The primary had turned into a horse race for the two open slots. Incumbent Kevin Jensen of Hudson had pulled into the lead, while incumbent David Anderson of Canton and challenger Bill Shorma of Dakota Dunes — who had previously served in the Legislature — were in a dead heat.

• In District 17, the GOP primary winners for the two House seats were newcomers Sydney Davis of Burbank and Richard Vasgaard of Centerville with 1,272 and 844 votes, respectively. The other two candidates were Dan Werner of Dolton with 501 and Charles Kludt of Viborg with 482.

• District 18, which consists of Yankton County, did not have a contested Senate or House primary.

• In District 21, which covers Charles Mix, Gregory and Tripp counties and part of Bon Homme County, the Republican primary for Senate saw Erin Tobin of Winner defeat Lee Qualm of Platte 2,155-1,366

The race had drawn statewide interest because Qualm has served as the House Majority Leader and had also introduced a bill in the 2020 session — which was defeated — to remove immunization requirements for children entering public schools.

Tobin, a nurse practitioner, opposed the idea.

A new District 21 senator was guaranteed, as incumbent Rocky Blare chose to run for the House.

Because of COVID-19 and convenience, area counties reported record numbers of absentee ballots. In some cases, Tuesday’s primary surpassed past general elections for early balloting.

In addition, South Dakota voters decided a number of county, city and school races. Because of the pandemic, spring elections were moved to June. Those government bodies could hold their elections in conjunction with the June 2 primary or select another Tuesday in June for the rescheduled election.


• BON HOMME: Two Republican primary races were decided for county office.

For treasurer, incumbent Jenn Knoll of Springfield defeated challenger Brad Kopp of Springfield 700-215.

For District 2 county commissioner, Ed Van Gerpen of Avon defeated Shon Whitwood of Scotland 134-99.

The early balloting accounted for 641 of the votes cast in Tuesday’s election, accounting for 16.8 percent of the 3,821 registered voters.

Those 641 early votes came from 234 Democrats, 27 independents or no party affiliation (NPA) and 380 Republicans.

According to Auditor Tamara Brunken, the 641 compared to the 104 early ballots in the 2018 primary, 33 ballots in the 2016 primary and 45 ballots in the 2014 primary.

• CHARLES MIX:  Two Republican primaries were held for county office.

For state’s attorney, incumbent Steve Cotton of Wagner defeated challenger Pam Hein of Lake Andes 682-361. Hein had held the state’s attorney’s seat prior to Cotton.

For District 2 county commissioner, challenger Colin Soukup of Wagner defeated incumbent Neil VonEschen of Wagner 139-94.

The early balloting accounted for 749 votes cast in Tuesday’s election, or 14.2 percent of the 5,287 registered voters.

The 749 early votes were divided among 214 Democrats, 52 independent/NPA and 483 Republicans.

Charles Mix County Auditor Danielle Davenport reported a strong voter turnout, fueled by the early balloting,

“This number is much higher than previous years,” she said. “The total number of ballots received for the 2018 primary election was 1,261 for both in-person and absentee.”

• CLAY: Three Democratic candidates advanced to the general election for at-large Clay County Commission seats.

Emerging from the field were Elizabeth “Betty” Smith with 906 votes, Mark Winegar with 853 and Richard Hammond with 718. The fourth candidate, Cynthia Aden, finished with 666 votes.

All of the candidates are from Vermillion.

Clay County Auditor Carri Crum said she was pleased with the interest shown in Tuesday’s election.

“We had an amazing voter turnout,” she said, comparing the 2,630 ballots cast in this election — with absentee voting accounting for 1,822 ballots — as comparable to a hotly-contested 2008 primary with 2,841 ballots cast.

• DOUGLAS: The Republican primary for District 4 county commissioner was won by Nathan Ymker with 106 votes, followed by with Ivan Lau with 42 and Joel Meyer with 39.

• HUTCHINSON: No races were held at the county level.

Auditor Diane Murtha reported the 2018 primary had 1,552 votes cast while the 2020 primary had 1,311 votes cast with 1,060 absentee ballots among them.

“This is the most absentees we have ever had,” she said. “The 2018 Governor election was the most absentee we ever had. It was between 500-600 absentees.”

• TURNER: While there were no primary races at the county level, Auditor Sheila Hagemann said the number of absentee ballots far exceeded previous years.

The 660 early ballots accounted for 11.7 percent of the 5,633 registered voters. The early votes were divided among 200 Democrats, 24 independent/NPA and 436 Republicans.

“Our absentee applications have been crazy!  We’ve sent out 818 ballots for this primary,” she said. “The largest primary we’ve ever had was 238 in 2004. Usually, we have around 100.”

Tuesday’s primary rivaled general elections in terms of early ballots, Hagemann said.

“Our largest general election we had (for absentee ballots) was in 2016, with 768,” she said.

In addition, South Dakota voters decided a number of county, city and school races. Because of the pandemic, spring elections were moved to June. Those government bodies could hold their elections in conjunction with the June 2 primary or select another Tuesday in June for the rescheduled election.


• ANDES CENTRAL:  Challenger Leah Tootie Loeffler and incumbent Will Bennett won school board terms with 112 and 95 votes, respectively. The other incumbent, Kristin Dvorak, finished third with 79 votes.

• FREEMAN: In the city race, Michael Walter defeated Terry Waterman 259-141 as the new mayor. In the school race, challenger Cody Fransen defeated incumbent Kerry Hoffer. 294-233.

• TRIPP: City voters chose long-time councilman Scott Schelske as the new mayor, as he won over Tom Brown 155-31 for the two-year term. Incumbent Vic Olson decided not to serve another term after serving four years.

In the other race, Ward I voters chose incumbent Randy Squier over challenger Loren Buchholz 53-12 for another two-year term.

• TYNDALL: In the Ward I race for City Council, incumbent Mike Elsberry defeated challenger Larry Chester 57-37 for another term.

The election drew 36 percent turnout with 47 absentee ballots cast, according to City Finance Officer Linda Pesek.

• VERMILLION: In the school board race, Carol Voss-Ward won the seat with 950 votes, followed by Curt Cameron with 626 and Shane Nordyke with 534.

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