SIOUX FALLS AP) — The onset of term limits prompted a score of South Dakota lawmakers to try to switch legislative chambers, but the electoral game of musical chairs left some without seats.
Fifteen House members sought Senate seats, and eight succeeded. Five Democratic senators prevented from seeking re-election because of term limits also won seats in the House.
Meanwhile, Republicans increased the size of their majority in the Senate by two seats, to 24-11. The GOP will have a 50-20 edge in the House of Representatives, a drop of one seat from the current 51-19 split.
That means the Republicans will have two-thirds majorities in both chambers. The Democratic minority would be unable to stop the GOP from passing anything if the Republicans voted as a bloc.
For the past two years, Republicans did not have a two-thirds majority in the Senate.
In a high-profile race, Rep. Larry Diedrich, R-Elkton, defeated Rep. Bob Weber, R-Strandburg, in a battle for a Senate seat. The match of House incumbents was set up when Weber, a 28-year veteran lawmaker, decided to run as an independent in the Senate contest.
Another battle of House incumbents went to Rep. Elmer Diedtrich, R-Aberdeen, who beat Rep. Al Waltman, D-Aberdeen, who has been in the Legislature for 14 years.
In a Sioux Falls contest featuring two freshman House members, Democrat John McIntyre defeated Republican William Earley for a Senate seat.
Rep. Deb Fischer-Clemens, D-Mitchell, considered a rising star in the minority party, was defeated in a Senate race by former state Rep. Ed Olson, also of Mitchell.
Another Democratic House member, veteran lawmaker Roland Chicoine of Elk Point, lost a bid to unseat Sen. Ken Albers, R-Canton.
Rep. Don Munson, R-Yankton, also lost his bid for the Senate. He was beaten by Sen. Garry Moore, D-Yankton.
And Rep. Doug Kazmerzak, D-Erwin, was beaten in a Senate race by Republican Brock Greenfield of Clark.
However, Rep. Dan Sutton, D-Flandreau, successfully moved to the Senate, defeating former Republican lawmaker Richard Belatti of Madison.
Other House members who won Senate seats include Rep. Jim Putnam, R-Armour; Rep. Ron Volesky, D-Huron; Rep. Gil Koetzle, D-Sioux Falls; and Rep. Dick Hagen, D-Pine Ridge.
The Democratic senators who won House seats are Gerald Lange of Madison, Frank Kloucek of Scotland, Mel Olson of Mitchell, Charlie Flowers of Iroquois and Paul Valandra of Mission.
Four House members also lost their re-election bids. They are Rep. Mary Patterson, D-Sioux Falls; Rep. H. Junior Engbrecht, R-Marion; Rep. Richard Wudel, R-Parkston; and Rep. Mike Wilson, D-Rapid City.
Rep. Mike Jaspers, a Republican, was elected to a seat in a Sioux Falls district after moving from Eden in northeastern South Dakota.
Former state Highway Patrol Superintendent Gene Abdallah, a Republican from Sioux Falls, also won a House seat. And former Rep. Gordon Pederson, a Republican from Wall, won back his House seat after a two-year absence.
Even before the votes were counted, Republicans were a sure bet to maintain control of both the House and Senate because Democrats failed to run enough candidates to give the GOP a serious challenge.
Republicans in the past two years had a 22-13 advantage in the Senate and a 51-19 edge in the House of Representatives.
Each of South Dakota's 35 legislative districts elects one senator and two representatives, except for District 28 in the northwestern part of the state. That district is split into two single-member House districts, and each elects it own representative.
Because Democrats failed to run candidates in 13 Senate races, Republicans automatically won 11 of those seats. In the other two, an independent and a Libertarian candidate challenged Republicans, and the GOP candidates won both contests.
In a number of House districts, Democrats ran no candidates. In others they filled only one of two spots.