Tony Venhuizen, Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s policy and communications director and one-time Political Smokeout guest blogger, did some research into the history of South Dakota governors moving on to Congress and emailed it over. If you’re curious, take a read:
Rounds would be first ex-governor SD senator in 72 years
By Tony Venhuizen
Former Gov. Mike Rounds’ announcement of a U.S. Senate candidacy is an interesting historical moment. There was a time when South Dakota’s governors routinely sought a position on Capitol Hill, and Gov. Bill Janklow successfully won a seat in the U.S. House in 2002.
In addition, governors across the country are routinely elected to the U.S. Senate. The current U.S. Senate includes ten former governors: Tom Carper (D-DE), Jim Risch (R-ID), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), John Hoeven (R-ND), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Mark Warner (D-VA), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), and Joe Manchin (D-WV). Although Nebraska’s Nelson is retiring, the Senate will be gaining Angus King (I-ME) and Tim Kaine (D-VA).
Several other former governors unsuccessfully sought U.S. Senate seats in 2012: Hawaii’s Linda Lingle, Nebraska’s Bob Kerrey, Virginia’s George Allen, and Wisconsin’s Tommy Thompson.
It is a quirk of South Dakota history, therefore, that if Governor Mike Rounds is elected to the U.S. Senate, he will the state’s first governor to enter that chamber in 72 years.
Here is a brief history of our state’s governor’s campaigns for Congress.
Five South Dakota governors have gone on to serve in the U.S. Senate:
- Coe I. Crawford (Republican - Governor 1907-09; Senator 1909-15). Crawford was a “progressive” attorney general and a railroad executive who was elected Governor in 1906. He passed on a second term as governor to challenge incumbent U.S. Senator Alfred Kittridge - an establishment conservative - in the first direct primary for U.S. Senate in South Dakota. Crawford was elected in 1908, but angered progressives by supporting President Taft’s Payne-Aldrich tariff, and was defeated in the 1914 Republican primary.
- Peter Norbeck (Republican - Governor 1917-21; Senator 1921-36). Norbeck was one of our state’s greatest governors - he founded Custer State Park, established the state cement plant, and held the first pheasant hunting season. Norbeck’s massive popularity ended the progressive-conservative split in the Republican Party, and he was easily elected to the U.S. Senate following two terms as governor. His service as a Senator was arguably more impactful than his service in Pierre. While in the Senate, he helped engineer the construction of Mt. Rushmore and aided in the development of Iron Mountain Road, Sylvan Lake, the Needles Highway, Wind Cave National Park, and Badlands National Monument. He also invited President Coolidge to spend the summer of 1926 at the State Game Lodge. Norbeck died in office in 1936.
- William McMaster (Republican - Governor 1921-25; Senator 1925-31). McMaster was Norbeck’s lieutenant governor and his successor as governor, and he followed Norbeck to the Senate in 1924. Unlike Norbeck, however, McMaster was unable to survive the state’s Democratic turn after the farm crisis of the late 1920’s, and he was defeated for reelection by the popular Democratic Governor W.J. Bulow in 1930.
- W.J. Bulow (Democrat - Governor 1927-31; Senator 1931-43). Bulow is the only Democratic governor to move on to the U.S. Senate - he defeated McMaster in 1930 and served two terms. Bulow was a conservative Democrat who opposed much of the New Deal and was an isolationist, and he was defeated for the Democratic nomination in 1942 by Governor Tom Berry, an FDR Democrat. Berry lost the general election to Governor Harlan Bushfield.
- Harlan Bushfield (Republican - Governor 1939-43; Senator 1943-48). Bushfield served two terms as governor before being elected to the Senate in 1942, defeating former Gov. Tom Berry. He served until his death in 1948. Gov. Mickelson appointed Bushfield’s widow, Vera, to fill the seat until a replacement could be elected — making her the state’s only First Lady to serve in congress.
Only one governor has served in the U.S. House:
- Bill Janklow (Republican - Governor 1979-87; Governor 1995-2003; U.S. House 2003-04). Gov. Janklow had unsuccessfully sought a U.S. Senate seat in 1986, and by 2002 he was the longest serving governor in the state’s history. Rather than take on Congressman John Thune in a primary for U.S. Senate, Janklow sought the Thune’s open U.S. House seat. He won a five-way Republican primary that included former U.S. Senator Larry Pressler, than defeated Stephanie Herseth — a future congresswoman and the granddaughter of Governor Ralph Herseth — in the general election. Janklow served just over a year in Congress before his resignation in early 2004.