Come Wednesday morning the state GOP hopes to find itself with a Senate majority for the first time in 136 years. I’ve listened carefully enough in the right corners that I can tell you how the GOP believes that can happen.
In the 35 seat Senate, a caucus needs 18 votes to have a majority.
Five Republican incumbents are unopposed: Arthur Orr in SD 3, Jabo Waggoner in SD 16, Jimmy Holley in SD 31, Tripp Pittman in SD 32, and Rusty Glover in SD 34. Two more Republicans will be entering the Senate without any opposition: state Rep. Cam Ward in SD 14 (in the seat Hank Erwin vacated to run for Lt. Gov) and Slade Blackwell in SD 15 (in the seat last held by Republican Steven French).
The GOP feels quite good about its chances in six other races:
- Paul Bussman in SD 4 (against incumbent Zeb Little),
- Greg Reed in SD 5 (against Brett Wadsworth for the seat vacated by Republican Charles Bishop),
- Clay Scofield in SD 9 (against Tim Mitchell for the seat vacated by retiring Democrat Hinton Mitchem),
- Del Marsh in SD 12 (against Wallace Wyatt),
- Scott Beason in SD 17 (against Tommy Hudson),
- Dick Brewbaker in SD 25 (against Doug Smith for the open seat vacated by retiring Republican Larry Dixon).
Only two of those are GOP incumbents (Beason and Marsh) but Republicans have felt quite good about their chances in these elections.
The Republicans believe with only some less confidence than they have in the above races that they are likely to win two more races:
- Bill Holtzclaw who is challenging Dem Tom Butler in SD 2, and
- Incumbent Ben Brooks in SD 35 (against Scott Buzbee)
If you are keeping up, you know that these total 15 seats. If they win those 15, then the keys to winning the Senate lie in three district races that the GOP believes are clearly leaning their way:
- SD 21 where state Rep. Gerald Allen is challenging Democratic incumbent Phil Poole,
- SD 27 where former Dem Tom Whatley is challenging Democratic incumbent Ted Little, and
- SD 30 where Bryan Taylor is challenging Democratic incumbent Walking Wendell Mitchell
Those three Democratic Senators have served a combined 76 years or nineteen terms in the state Senate, and the GOP believes they are poised to send them packing.
Victories in all of the above races would give the GOP 18 votes necessary to claim a Senate majority.
In addition, four other Republicans could provide either a larger majority or a cushion in case the Dems pull surprises in any of the above races. Incumbent Paul Sanford in SD 7 (fighting off a challenge from Jeff Enfinger), Phil Williams in SD 10 (against Dem incumbent Larry Means), Gerald Dial in SD 13 (against Greg Varner for Democrat Kim Benefield‘s old seat), and Danny Joyner in SD 22 (against incumbent Marc Keahey) are in races that the GOP believes are leaning their way.
Other races could go their way as well, but here is the path that the GOP sees to a Senate majority.