Late withdrawals from SD legislative races leave Democrats seeking new candidates
South Dakota election law sets an Aug. 2 deadline for exiting a race and gives the party until Aug. 9 to select replacements.
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Six Democratic candidates in South Dakota decided to exit their races before the Aug. 2 deadline for a general election candidate to withdraw from consideration.
The party will have until Aug. 9 to select replacement candidates, at which point the general election field will be set. Berk Ehrmantraut, the executive director of the South Dakota Democratic Party, said the reasons for the withdrawals vary.
“Some of these folks were on the ballot explicitly understanding that they may step aside as we were looking for someone else. And in some cases, you know, people had other reasons for stepping aside,” Ehrmantraut said. “So it’s case by case but we think we have some great new candidates who are stepping in.”
Placeholder candidates are a phenomenon that come from the state’s election laws, which set March 29 as the deadline for a partisan candidate to enter the race. However, in the event of a withdrawal of that candidate, the parties have until Aug. 9 to find a replacement, a grace period that, in practice, allows potential candidates who are on the fence about running to make a decision.
Mary Perpich, who serves as the chair of the Brookings County Democratic Party, was one of those placeholder candidates. Perpich and fellow Democrat Lisa Johnsen withdrew on July 29 from the race for House in District 7. While Perpich says she had initially planned to run all the way through, in early July she was approached by Cole Sartell, a former organizer on the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016 who was mulling a run. Sartell will be the lone House candidate on the Democratic side.
Paige Schroeder, the House candidate for District 17, recently accepted a role with the state Democratic Party; a move to Sioux Falls would have disqualified her from running even if she had not withdrawn. Clay County Democratic Party chair Ailee Johns said the party does not expect to nominate a replacement, leaving Rebecca Engquist-Schroeder as the sole Democratic candidate in the race.
Emily Meier, the only Democratic candidate in District 3, withdrew from the race on Aug. 2 for personal reasons. Brown County Democratic Party chair Jennifer Slaight-Hansen said the search for a replacement is ongoing.
Daniel Brandt, the Senate candidate in District 19, and Travis Paulson, the House candidate in District 4, also withdrew from their respective races. The candidates did not respond to a request for comment from Forum News Service.
According to the Secretary of State website , the Republican Party is currently guaranteed 35 seats in the House, just one seat away from control of the chamber, and 21 seats in the Senate, three seats away from a two-thirds majority. The entrance of Sartell into the race, which has not been processed yet, will bring the number of uncontested House seats to 34.