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MERCER: A historical look at U.S. House seats

PIERRE — Once upon a time, South Dakota had two U.S. House of Representatives seats. They became one in 1982.

But there also was a 20-year stretch when we actually had three.

Upon 1889 statehood, South Dakota had two House votes. Those elections were statewide through 1910.

However the 1910 census determined the state's population large enough for a third seat. The Legislature drew boundaries for three for the 1912 elections.

Voters had re-elected Charles H. Burke, of Pierre, and Eben W. Martin, of Deadwood, both Republicans, in 1910.

For 1912, First District covered 21 counties in southeastern South Dakota including Sioux Falls and Yankton. Republican Charles H. Dillon, of Yankton, won.

The Second District encompassed counties in northeastern South Dakota including Aberdeen, Brookings, Huron and Watertown. Burke won re-election there.

The Third District spanned west of the Missouri River including Rapid City and Spearfish. Martin won re-election there.

Martin retired in 1914. Western South Dakota voters chose Harry L. Gandy, a Rapid City Democrat.

Gandy won re-election in 1916 and 1918. He lost in 1920 to William Williamson, an Oacoma Republican.

Williamson won re-election in 1922, 1924, 1926, 1928 and 1930.

But the 1930 U.S. census determined South Dakota didn't have sufficient population to keep the third seat for 1932.

What to do? Turn three back into two.

First District covered counties east river. Second District took the west.

Republican incumbents lost both House seats that November. Blame the Depression.

First District voters elected Fred H. Hildebrandt, a Watertown Democrat. He beat Charles A. Christopherson, a Sioux Falls Republican. Christopherson held the seat since 1918.

Second District voters chose Theodore B. Werner, a Rapid City Democrat. He defeated Williamson.

The third House member was Royal C. Johnson, an Aberdeen Republican. He had been state attorney general. He won the Second District seat in 1914.

Then Johnson won it eight more times. He didn't run in 1932.

South Dakota kept the two-district system until 1982, when the incumbents fought in a consolidation election.

Democrat Tom Daschle, of Aberdeen, took out Republican Clint Roberts, of Presho.

Daschle won a U.S. Senate seat in 1986.

Tim Johnson, a Vermillion Democrat, won the House seat in 1986. John Thune, a Pierre Republican, won it in 1996 as Johnson took a Senate seat.

Thune lost to Johnson for senator in 2002. Thune defeated Daschle for senator in 2004.

Gov. Bill Janklow, a Brandon Republican, won the House in 2002 but resigned in 2004 for manslaughter.

Stephanie Herseth, a Democrat, won the House in a 2004 special election. Kristi Noem, a Castlewood Republican, defeated the newly married Herseth Sandlin in 2010.

Former Gov. Mike Rounds, a Fort Pierre Republican, won a Senate seat in 2014 when Johnson retired.

Now Noem is running for governor in 2018.

Dusty Johnson, of Mitchell, and Shantel Krebs, of Fort Pierre, want the Republican nomination for the House seat. Tim Bjorkman, a Canistota Democrat, is running too.

A wild ride indeed.

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