Jensen drops out of SD GOP chair race, Brunner enters

Kevin Jensen is exiting the race for South Dakota Republican Party chair and endorsing former state lawmaker Tom Brunner, who confirmed his candidacy Monday.
South Dakota Republican Party
South Dakota Republican Party(MGN/Republican National Committee)
Published: Jan. 9, 2023 at 1:29 PM CST
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PIERRE, S.D. - After a brief stint in the race, Kevin Jensen is dropping out of the running for the chair of the South Dakota Republican Party, and being replaced by a former state lawmaker.

Jensen, a House lawmaker from Canton, confirmed the news to Dakota News Now/KOTA Territory in an email Monday.

“The voters in my district elected me to represent them as their state representative. I believe that is where my focus should be,” Jensen wrote. “Becoming the chair of the party would be a distraction and dilute my time from what I was elected to do. I have also come to believe that no sitting legislator should be the chair or vice chair of the party.”

In his press release, Jensen says that he would endorse former state lawmaker Tom Brunner for the spot. Brunner served in the legislature for 14 years out of northwest South Dakota, but was defeated in the Republican primary last year when he made an effort to return to Pierre.

Brunner confirmed that he would be pursuing the office in an interview. He raised concerns about changes being considered at the precinct level, that would also drastically change the convention process.

“The biggest question right now is the precinct people’s voting rights being threatened, and we need to stand strong that everyone needs to be included,” Brunner said. “We cannot just pick and choose who we want to represent us because it is convenient.”

Party delegates will come to Pierre on January 14th to vote on the next chair, as well as to consider changes to the precinct level. Brunner will face Sen. John Wiik (R-Big Stone City) for the slot.