Republicans kept clear control with two-thirds majorities in both chambers. Democrats haven’t had a majority on either wing of the Capitol’s third floor they took the Senate in the 1992 elections and fell back again in 1994.
During the 2012 legislative session, Republicans had 50 of the 70 House seats and 30 of the 35 Senate seats. Based on preliminary numbers, it appears Republicans could hold 53 House seats for the 2013 session – an independent incumbent converted to Republican for the election – and will have 28 Senate seats.
Democrats seemed to have nowhere to go but up, and they had a net gain of two Senate seats Tuesday night. Democratic challenger Chuck Welke of Warner edged Republican Sen. Art Fryslie of Willow Lake 5,441 votes to 5,140; and Rep. Larry Lucas of Mission defeated Republican Sen. Kent Juhnke of Vivian.
Lucas rolled up a huge margin in Todd County to offset Juhnke’s advantage in much of the rest of District 26 that sprawls across south-central South Dakota. Lucas won overall 4,505 votes to 3,909. Lucas has served 16 years in the Legislature, Juhnke 13.
There were battles royal for several desks in the Senate that were too close to forecast before the final precincts’ votes were fully counted.
One of the biggest showdowns came in District 19, where Republican former Rep. Bill Van Gerpen of Tyndall returned to active politics and beat Democratic Rep. Frank Kloucek of Scotland for an open seat.
Gerpen delivered a knockout blow, winning 7,024 votes to 4,677 to end Kloucek’s 22-year career in the Legislature.
Kloucek’s fellow long-timer from that same area, Sen. Jim Putnam of Armour, lost in June in the Republican primary for the two House nominations.
Kloucek and Putnam had swapped slots on the ballot for years. Putnam served a total of 26 years in the House and Senate.