The official listing on the Legislative Research Council website says Tim Rave resigned March 31, 2015, from his seat in the state Senate. The news spread this morning with the official announcement by Rave and his employer, Sanford Health. Rave, R-Baltic, will oversee public policy for the Sanford system as a vice president and moves up from marketing director. A 13-year legislator, Rave most recently had been the Senate Republican leader since 2013.
Two points come to mind. Rave became Senate leader after the job-related resignation of the previous leader, Russ Olson of Wentworth, who was promoted to CEO of Heartland Consumers Power at Madison. At the time Rave was the Senate Republican assistant leader. Unlike that succession, however, there isn’t anyone waiting in the next chair this time. That’s because Dan Lederman, R-Dakota Dunes, surprised the Senate Republican caucus on Monday, the final day of the 2015 legislative session, by announcing his immediate resignation. So Senate Republicans have two leadership slots to fill. A slot also opens on the Legislature’s Executive Board with the Rave resignation. And Gov. Dennis Daugaard now has two vacancies to fill for Rave’s seat in District 25 that covers part of Minnehaha County and for Lederman’s seat in District 16 that covers Union and part of Lincoln counties.
Rave, 47, had been a constant in the Legislature. He first won election to the House of Representatives in 2002 and gradually moved up the House ladder, rising to speaker for his fourth term in 2009-2010. Term-limited in the House, Rave ran for election to the Senate in 2010 and won. In his second Senate term, he was selected by his fellow Republicans as assistant leader for their caucus during the 2013 session. The resignation of Olson opened the way for him to take the step up to Senate Republican leader.
Tim Rave could be stern when necessary but his general approach was to keep the boat moving ahead without tipping too far to either side. He won some tough election campaigns. He clearly could be trusted. He didn’t rebel openly but instead quietly achieved important steps forward when money could be found, especially for education. His political magic came through private discussions first, finding consensus, and then bringing the fruit of that work into the open for legislative action. Political credit didn’t seem to matter to him personally. He was about helping South Dakota forward.
We now better understand the thick emotions in the Senate chamber on the final night of the 2015 session’s main run three weeks ago, as Rave and his counterpart across the political aisle, Senate Democratic leader Billie Sutton of Burke, exchanged parting compliments that seemed to carry some tears. Tim and Lisa’s son, Mitch, joined his dad on the Senate floor for what we now know were some of his last and most meaningful hours as a legislator, as lawmakers approved the highway and bridge funding package.
Who will succeed Tim Rave and Dan Lederman as the Senate Republicans’ new top figures isn’t clear. The Senate president pro tem remains Corey Brown, R-Gettysburg, and he will continue to provide a steady hand at the wheel. The three Senate Republican whips — the lieutenants, if you will, of the caucus power structure — are Deb Soholt of Sioux Falls, Ried Holien of Watertown and Ernie Otten of Tea. As for the two House members from Rave’s district, they are Republican veteran Roger Hunt of Brandon — who has always preferred to serve in the House, to the point where he sat out terms twice when he was term-limited, so that he could run again for the House rather than the Senate — and Kris Langer of Dell Rapids. Langer is one of the four House Republican whips and is in her first elected term; she was appointed by the governor to fill a vacancy in August 2013 after the resignation of Jon Hansen.
In closing, two cliches come to mind about Tim Rave because they are true. The shoes are big. And the Legislature is left with less without him. The governor said it well this morning in a Twitter comment: “As Dells Rapids natives, Linda and I were always proud to have Tim Rave as our legislator. I am sorry to see him go.”