Hunhoff, Frerichs reelected as Democratic leaders

South Dakota’s Democratic lawmakers reelected their top leaders Friday night.

Sen. Jason Frerichs, D-Wilmot, will continue as the Senate minority leader, and Rep. Bernie Hunhoff, D-Yankton, will be the House minority leader for another term.

Meeting near Madison, the Senate Democrats elected largely the same leaders as the past two years. The one new addition is Sen. Billie Sutton, D-Burke, who is the new assistant minority leader.

"I thought I’d be in a good position to work with people across the aisle," Sutton said. "I want to foster good relationships with the Republicans and the Democrats together."

Reelected to their leadership posts were Senate minority whip Jim Bradford of Pine Ridge, and caucus chair Angie Buhl of Sioux Falls.

The House Democrats had more changes, with only Hunhoff and Rep. Peggy Gibson of Huron returning to the Legislature from last year’s leadership team. Gibson, who had expressed interest in the assistant leader position, was reelected to another term as a minority whip, along with newcomer Rep. Scott Parsley, D-Madison.

"I feel like I have a good grasp of the role the whip needs to play, in terms of being able to understand the bills and work with our caucus on what the bills mean and what the ramifications are," said Parsley, a first-time lawmaker.

The assistant House minority leader is Rep. Julie Bartling, D-Burke, a 10-year veteran of the House and Senate who returned to the Legislature this year after a hiatus.

The House Democratic caucus chair, Rep. Jim Peterson of Revillo, also has 10 years service in the Legislature and was reelected this year.

Frerichs said the Senate Democratic elections were low-key, unlike last year when then-Sen. Eldon Nygaard’s defeat in a leadership race contributed to his decision to switch to the Republican Party.¬†

Just 27 years old, Frerichs said he liked the split between young and old in the Senate Democratic team.

"It’s not just our young guns, it’s nice to have someone who’s been around the block, been through many, many debates," Frerichs said, highlighting Bradford’s 14 years in the Legislature.

The House Democratic elections were more competitive.

"We had a bunch of ties," said Hunhoff.

He called the House Democratic leadership team “as good as I’ve ever seen” with “experience” and “diversity.”

The Senate Republicans elected their leaders, including another term for Senate Majority Leader Russell Olson, R-Wentworth, on Monday.

House Republicans elect their leaders at 7 a.m. Saturday morning.