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Women lost seats in Legislature for second consecutive election

PIERRE -- There will be 20 women among the 105 members of the South Dakota Legislature when the 2017 session opens in January. That is a decrease of two from the current total and a decline of four from the peak of 24 women who served in the 2013...

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South Dakota State Capitol

PIERRE - There will be 20 women among the 105 members of the South Dakota Legislature when the 2017 session opens in January.

That is a decrease of two from the current total and a decline of four from the peak of 24 women who served in the 2013-2014 term.

The 20 still will be more than during the previous decade, when the number of women varied from 15 in the 1999-2000 term to 18 in the 2007-2008 term. There were at least 21 women in the four terms since then.

A combination of circumstances led to the latest drop.

Five women didn't seek re-election this year. They are Republican State Sens. Phyllis Heineman, of Sioux Falls, and Betty Olson, of Prairie City, Republican State Rep. Michele Harrison, of Mobridge, Democratic State Rep. Peggy Gibson, of Huron, who was term-limited in the House, and Democratic State Sen. Angie Buhl O'Donnell, of Sioux Falls.

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Republican Rep. Jacqueline Sly, of Rapid City, who was term-limited in the House, lost in a June Senate Republican primary. Democratic Rep. Paula Hawks, of Hartford, ran for the U.S. House of Representatives and lost.

Four Republican women - Nancy York, of Watertown, Sue Lucas-Peterson, of Sioux Falls, Julie Frye-Mueller, of Rapid City and Taffy Howard, of Rapid City - won election to the Legislature for the first time this year. They will serve in the House of Representatives

Democrat Susan Wismer, of Britton, is returning to the House. She was out of the Legislature during the 2015-2016 term because she ran for governor in 2014.

Women who won re-election to the House are Democrats Julie Bartling, of Gregory, and Karen Soli, of Sioux Falls; and Republicans Jean Hunhoff, of Yankton, Tona Rozum, of Mitchell, Elizabeth May, of Kyle, Lynne DiSanto, of Rapid City, Kristin Conzet, of Rapid City, Mary Duvall, of Pierre, Lana Greenfield, of Doland and Nancy Rasmussen, of Hurley.

Senate contests on Nov. 8 saw four Republican women win re-election: Deb Peters, of Hartford, Jenna Haggar Netherton and Deb Soholt, both of Sioux Falls, and Terri Haverly, of Rapid City (who was unopposed Nov. 8 but won a Senate primary in June).

House member Kris Langer, a Dell Rapids Republican, won an open Senate seat as well.

An unofficial count indicates slightly fewer women won than lost - 20 vs. 22 - in Nov. 8 elections for legislative seats. In the June primaries the same held true as seven women and eight women lost, in some cases running against each other.

State Sen. Heineman's retirement after 16 years of service leaves Hunhoff and Bartling as the senior-most women. Hunhoff will be starting her seventeenth year and Bartling her fifteenth.

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The record for legislative service by a woman belongs to former State Rep. Mary Edelen, R-Vermillion, who spent 18 years across two periods.

Two women previously served 16 years: Republican Ellen Bliss, of Sioux Falls, and Democrat Doris Miner, of Gregory.

Republican Mary McClure, of Redfield, served 15 years and resigned to accept a White House post in the administration of President George H.W. Bush.

Related Topics: ELECTION 2016
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