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Conservative caucus forms at South Dakota Capitol

Stace Nelson

PIERRE -- A third legislative caucus is now holding daily meetings in the state Capitol. A conservative caucus is huddling daily, just as the Republican and Democratic caucuses do, according to state Rep. Stace Nelson, RFulton. It has been given the tongue-in-cheek name of "Conservative Republican Caucus of Convenience," Nelson said.

Nelson and state Rep. Lance Russell, R-Hot Springs, were removed from the GOP caucus last week by Speaker Val Rausch, R-Big Stone City.

Nelson was expelled after a vocal disagreement with another GOP lawmaker last week. His seat also was relocated in the House chamber.

Armed state troopers patrolled the halls and Rausch was given a personal guard after the reported outburst. Nelson said it was a simple verbal exchange and reports of anything more were exaggerated.

Russell was removed from the caucus because he was not attending the meetings, Rausch said.

Nelson said the conservative caucus was organized last session and had previously met once a week but switched Monday to meeting every day the Legislature is in session on Jan. 30.

"The caucus (meeting) is relaxed and all are equal, kind of in line with the King Arthur idea of a roundtable," Nelson said in an e-mail.

He said some Republican legislators who have been at the meetings -- he didn't want to release their names -- have said they are being chastised for attending.

"They're getting a lot of heat not to attend, so I'm not sure how much longer this will go on," Nelson said.

While the caucus was intended to draw what Nelson termed "Republican-platform believing Republicans," at least one Democrat, state Rep. Frank Kloucek, of Scotland, has attended a session.

Nelson said Kloucek was welcomed. The idea is to discuss conservative ideas and issues, he said during a telephone interview.

The caucus meetings are open to the public and a few non-legislators have sat in, he said.

Steve "Sibby" Sibson, a Mitchell man who has run for a seat in the Legislature, maintains his own politics blog and is a frequent online commentator, attended one meeting, Nelson said.

The caucus meets in Room 464 on the House side of the Capitol at 12:30 p.m. The meetings typically last about 35 to 45 minutes, Nelson said.

Nelson said while some perceive him as being outspoken, he feels he is representing the voters who elected him.

Nelson represents District 25, which includes Hanson and McCook counties and northern and western sections of Minnehaha County. He is in his first term in the House.