“Eldon, you’re nothing but a two-timing…”

Why did the song “Your Cheatin’ Heart” immediately jump to mind? Lucas Lentch, executive director for the South Dakota Republican Party, just issued a statement announcing that state Rep. Eldon Nygaard of Vermillion has decided to switch his political allegiance. Nygaard has left the Democratic ranks and joined the Republicans. First, this proves Eldon can count. He was going to be one of six Democrats in the Senate come the 2011 session. Now he’ll be one of 30 Republicans. Nygaard expressed faith in the ability of Gov.-elect Dennis Daugaard, a Republican, and said he’ll continue to reach across the political aisle as he has in the past. Except now it will be from the other side. A key part of Nygaard’s statement says, “This election brought a lot of changes across South Dakota and the nation. Voters sent a message to all elected officials — they want action and they want change. I firmly believe that I can represent my district’s needs in Pierre more effectively as a member of the Republican Party.” Here’s the kicker: Eldon serves District 17 and succeeds Democratic Ben Nesselhuf of Vermillion in the Senate; Ben is now running to be the South Dakota Democratic Party’s chairman. This party-switching in the Senate isn’t new, although Eldon’s crossover is a significant message from a serious legislator. During the past two years the Senate saw Sen. Jim Bradford of Pine Ridge, a Democrat traditionally, serve as a Republican and then switch back last session to a Democrat, while Sen. Ryan Maher of Isabel was elected two years ago as a Democrat but switched to a Republican last session in a move that coincided with Bradford’s change of allegiance back to Democrat.

The last time the Democrats had less than six senators was the 1953 session when they had zero. For the five sets of sessions from 1939 through 1947 they had five, four, four, zero and zero. It’s fair to say that, at least from a historical perspective, the Democrats aren’t in a good place right now in the South Dakota Senate.

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About Bob Mercer

I am a newspaper reporter in Pierre where I cover state government, issues and politics for the Aberdeen American News, the Black Hills Pioneer, the Mitchell Daily Republic, the Pierre Capital Journal, the Rapid City Journal, the Watertown Public Opinion and the Yankton Press & Dakotan. I began covering the Legislature in 1985 and have lived in Pierre since December 1986. I grew up in Wisconsin, worked my way through college, took my first full-time newspapers jobs in Wyoming, and have lived in South Dakota since the summer of 1984 when I moved to Aberdeen to join the American News. I worked for the Rapid City Journal as its state government reporter in Pierre from late 1992 through late 1998. I spent four years as press secretary and a senior aide to Gov. Bill Janklow during his fourth and final term from late 1998 through 2002. I returned to journalism in January 2003 as a self-employed reporter, providing state government coverage to the Mitchell, Watertown, Spearfish, Pierre and, depending on the year, Aberdeen newspapers. In 2008, the Aberdeen American News offered to hire me as full-time member of the AAN staff, with my reports continuing to be available to the Mitchell, Watertown, Spearfish, Pierre, Yankton and Rapid City papers. The new arrangement has been in effect since January 2009 as the seven papers continue their remarkable dedication to their readers and the general public, as the only South Dakota news outlets with a full-time reporter covering state government in Pierre throughout the year. In addition to focusing on the Legislature during the annual winter session and its various activities during the interim periods between sessions, I spend many days throughout the year -- traveling as often necessary -- to cover state government boards and commissions which oversee the state universities, technical institutes, outdoors, water, environment, business, public schools, banking, agriculture, utilities, health care and various other areas of public interest. I purposely don't register to vote because of my profession; the last time I recall voting in a presidential election was the first time, 1976, when I had just turned 18. I think I voted for Jimmy Carter over Gerald Ford. Make of that what you want, just don't make much of it.

3 thoughts on ““Eldon, you’re nothing but a two-timing…”

  1. Angus

    One can act like a Democrat, look like a Democrat, smell like a Democrat and talk like a Democrat but after voting like a Republican for so long coming out of the closet really is ones only choice. The Democrat party in South Dakota seems to be in real trouble.

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