We’re seeing again this election year that term limits don’t necessarily force a legislator to leave the Legislature, especially not forever.
Only 10 of the 105 current lawmakers are at the end this year of their allowed four consecutive two-year terms in the same chamber.
The three senators are Democrat Jim Hundstad of Bath and Republicans Bob Gray of Pierre and Tom Hansen of Huron. All three are retiring from the Legislature rather than taking the option of running for the House instead.
Four of the seven House members who are term-limited are retiring too. They are Republicans Jamie Boomgarden of Chancellor, Thomas Brunner of Nisland, Roger Hunt of Brandon and Chuck Turbiville of Deadwood.
The three other term-limited House members are running for the Senate.
House Speaker Val Rausch, R-Big Stone City, is challenging Republican Sen. Tim Begalka of Clear Lake in District 4. Democratic Rep. Steve Street, formerly of Revillo and now with a Milbank address, is waiting to take on the winner there.
A change of address took place, too, for another term-limited Democrat recently. Redistricting placed Rep. Paul Dennert of Columbia into the redrawn District 1 with Senate Democratic leader Jason Frerichs of Wilmot.
Rather than retire, Dennert bought a home in Aberdeen that is in District 3, allowing him to challenge Republican Sen. Al Novstrup of Aberdeen.
Then there are Sen. Jim Putnam, R-Armour, and Rep. Frank Kloucek, D-Scotland. They’re trying to switch places again.
Putnam was appointed to a vacancy in the state House in 1987 after the death of Rep. Gary Bender. Putnam has been in the Legislature ever since.
He won election to the House in 1988 and then won five more terms in a row for the House. In 2000, he ran for the Senate and won. After one term in the Senate, he ran for the House in 2002 and won. He then won three more terms in a row for the House. In 2010, he ran for the Senate again and won. Now, after one term in the Senate, he’s running for the House again.
Kloucek’s career has followed the same pattern. He won his first term in the House in 1990. In 1992, he ran for the Senate and won. He won three more terms in a row for the Senate, then ran for the House in 2000 — just as Rep. Putnam was running for the Senate in 2000.
Sometimes politics is just a lot of coincidences, right? Kloucek won a term in the House in 2000, then ran for the Senate in 2002, just as Sen. Putnam was running for the House in 2002. Kloucek won a term for the Senate in 2002, then won three more terms in a row for the Senate.
Term-limited in the Senate in 2010, Kloucek ran for the House, just as the term-limited Putnam was running for Senate.
Now they’re making their switches again this year, as Kloucek tries to get back into the Senate and Putnam tries to return to the House.
The hold that the Legislature gets on some people is remarkable. Dennert now has 20 years, Kloucek 22 and Putnam 26. They are the Legislature’s longest-serving current members.
There are only 11 other legislators in the history of South Dakota who have served at least 26 years. The record is 30 years.