Republican women Bahmuller, Tobin claim primary victories

060320.N.DR.ELECTIONDAY7.jpg Voting stickers lay on a table for people to pick up as they walk out of the Davison County Fairgrounds after voting on Tuesday morning in Mitchell. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Voting stickers lay on a table for people to pick up as they walk out of the Davison County Fairgrounds after voting on Tuesday morning in Mitchell. (Matt Gade / Republic)

A pair of Republican women were challenging to knock off current legislators in area legislative primary elections on Tuesday night.

In a Republican Senate primary for District 21, first-time candidate Erin Tobin held 2,154 of the 3,520 votes, or 61 percent, while facing House Majority Leader Lee Qualm, who had a 39 percent share of the vote with 1,366 votes in his favor.

In the next district to the east, the District 19 Republican House primary saw Rep. Kent Peterson and challenger Jessica Bahmuller win election to seats in Pierre, ousting first-term appointee Marty Overweg. Peterson, of Salem, was the top vote-getter with 1,881 votes and a 35 percent share. Bahmuller, of Alexandria, was also elected with 1,741 votes, or 33 percent, just ahead of Overweg by 21 votes. Overweg had 1,720 votes, or 32 percent, with all 20 precincts in District 19 counted.

The District 21 House race is within the margin of victory for a possible recount. For a legislative race, the vote margin must be within 2 percent of the total votes cast for all candidates.

Qualm has served in the House since 2013 and was term-limited, seeking to make the move to the State Senate. Tobin's victory ends a streak of strength from Qualm in the district, who had been the top vote-getter in each Republican primary and general election for his House seat since 2014.


The race got a lot of attention among area voters because of the discussion about Qualm’s sponsorship of House Bill 1235, which was legislation proposed by Qualm earlier this year that would have stopped schools and colleges from requiring students to get vaccinations in order to attend classes. The bill was eventually defeated, and Qualm said it was misconstrued as being an anti-vaccination bill, when he said it was about giving people medical freedom. Tobin, who is from Winner and works as a certified nurse practitioner, made public health a key part of her first-time campaign for office.

On Tuesday, Tobin had the most votes in three of the four counties, with Qualm edging Tobin by two votes in his home county of Charles Mix. Tobin ran up a large margin in her home Tripp County, claiming 77 percent of the vote there.

The winner of the election June 2 will face Dan Kerner Andersson, a Democrat from Burke, in the November general election. District 21 includes Charles Mix, Gregory, Tripp and part of Bon Homme counties.

In the District 19 House race, the top-two vote-getters are in line to claim the legislative seats because there are no challengers from other parties. Peterson has been in the state House since 2015, while Overweg, who is from New Holland, was an appointment of Gov. Kristi Noem to replace the vacancy created by Kyle Schoenfish’s move to the Senate after Stace Nelson’s resignation. Bahmuller, of Alexandria, was running for office for the first time and emphasized a campaign prioritizing pro-life, pro-education, pro-agriculture and pro-small business values. District 19 includes voters in Douglas, Hanson, Hutchinson, McCook, and part of Bon Homme counties.

Overweg was overwhelmingly the top vote-getter in his home of Douglas County, with 53 percent of the vote. But while Bahmuller had 20 percent of the vote there, she made up the difference by winning her home county of Hanson County and finishing in second place in Bon Homme, Hutchinson and McCook counties.

In the other legislative election with area interest, only 4 of 13 precincts had been counted in the District 26A House of Representatives seat at press time Tuesday, with incumbent Rep. Shawn Bordeaux, of Mission, holding an early 112 to 52 vote lead.

He was being challenged by Alexandra Frederick, of Winner. Bordeaux has served in the House since 2015. The top vote-getter will claim the seat with no challenger from other parties. District 26A consists of voters in Mellette and Todd counties.

Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at
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