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SD Sees Surge of Women Seeking Elected Office in 2018

The South Dakota Legislature has 105 seats, with 84 occupied by men and 21 by women. (sdaho.org)
The South Dakota Legislature has 105 seats, with 84 occupied by men and 21 by women. (sdaho.org)
April 9, 2018

PIERRE, S.D. - South Dakota has joined the ranks of states where more women are running for office than ever before.

Most of those running are Democrats who've said they're inspired by the "MeToo" and "Time'sUp" movements and their dissatisfaction with President Donald Trump, including sexual-misconduct allegations. More than 60 women have submitted petitions to run for the state Legislature ahead of the June primaries, 14 of whom came from the group LEAD, Leaders Engaged and Determined.

LEAD co-founder Carmen Toft said the non-partisan organization trains women how to run for political office.

"I think that we need more women's voices at the table," she said. "There's a bill that's failed the last two years, which is a pregnancy accommodations bill, and I think that if half of the Legislature were women, it would be a much different conversation."

Toft noted that the number of women who have submitted petitions to run for a South Dakota congressional seat is at 31 percent, the highest in recent history. Another first is tomorrow's mayoral election in Sioux Falls, where the first woman is running for that office in the city's history.

South Dakota has long been a Republican state, where only 20 of the 105 members of the Legislature are Democrats. That means, according to Toft, that LEAD has had to be very strategic in identifying which seats they think women can win.

"Either we looked at districts that had open seats, or districts that are very winnable for progressives," she said, "where progressives have won in the past or there was somebody who, like, this person is kind of a linchpin in some of these super-conservative issues coming out - so let's see if we can take on this person."

There currently are 21 women in the South Dakota Legislature, compared with 84 men; 16 women occupy seats in the House, while five occupy seats in the Senate.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - SD