Dana Hess

Dana Hess

Dana Hess spent more than 25 years in South Dakota journalism, editing newspapers in Redfield, Milbank and Pierre. He's retired and lives in Brookings, working occasionally as a freelance writer.

Legislators mingle on the House floor ahead of the governor's budget address on Dec. 6, 2022, at the Capitol in Pierre. (Makenzie Huber/South Dakota Searchlight)

Legislative term limits punish success, rob voters of power

By: - June 27, 2023

State Sen. Brent Hoffman would be pleased if, in the next election, voters would tell him that his days in the Legislature are numbered. Hoffman, a Republican from Sioux Falls, is the moving force behind an initiated constitutional amendment that would set term limits for state legislators at eight years in the House and eight […]

Sen. Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota, speaks with Roger Zakheim, the director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute, before a hearing with the Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on Capitol Hill on Feb. 15, 2023, in Washington, D.C. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

When it comes to classified docs, Trump and the DOJ, Rounds wants it both ways

By: - June 23, 2023

The federal indictment of former President Donald Trump has elicited a variety of responses from members of the Republican Party. Sen. Mike Rounds has decided to straddle the fence on this one. If he straddles it much harder, he’ll get splinters.  After Trump’s indictment, Rounds put out a statement, the gist of which is that […]

Secretary of State-Elect Monae Johnson celebrates her Nov. 8, 2022, election victory. Behind Johnson (from left) stands her campaign manager, Gretchen Weible, and Weible's husband Rick Weible. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)

Seeking election integrity behind closed doors

By: - June 19, 2023

The shouting about the mishandling of the 2020 presidential election has been long-winded and false. However, it has led a number of states, including South Dakota, to make moves designed to increase election integrity. One move was the passage in the last legislative session of Senate Bill 160 which requires county auditors to conduct a […]

Amir Beaudion Jr. appears in court on Jan. 28, 2020, at the Lincoln County Courthouse in Canton. Beaudion is charged with first degree murder in the death of Pasqalina Esen Badi. (Photo by Abigail Dollins, reused with permission from the Argus Leader)

Bizarre legal debate shows it’s time to talk about the death penalty

By: - June 8, 2023

Read the next paragraph and see if it doesn’t seem like the plot of a dystopian science fiction novel in which the future is going horribly wrong. Or maybe it’s the plot of a social satire in which society has gone horribly, well, wrong. Lawyers are arguing over the future of a young man accused […]

Gov. Kristi Noem speaks to reporters March 6, 2023, at the Capitol in Pierre. (Makenzie Huber/South Dakota Searchlight)

Higher-ed policy by the ‘perpetually aggrieved and easily offended’

By: - June 5, 2023

In late May, Gov. Kristi Noem sent a four-page letter to the Board of Regents, telling them to get busy and start graduating more students. In the letter, Noem noted that South Dakota’s university graduation rate is 47% while the national average is 63%. She told the regents to have South Dakota’s graduation rate up […]

Dan Ahlers. (Courtesy of South Dakota Democratic Party)

New Democratic leader faces challenge filling blank spots on ballots

By: - June 1, 2023

The South Dakota Democratic Party has a new executive director. Let’s resist the urge to make a comparison to the captain of the Titanic. While the Titanic sank, at this point there’s no place for the South Dakota Democratic Party to go but up. Dan Ahlers of Dell Rapids is the new executive director and […]

Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, joined by Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, left, and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, speaks at the Capitol on Sept. 29, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Rounds, Thune show courage with Scott endorsement

By: - May 28, 2023

At this point in the presidential election cycle, all we have is speculation. With eight months before the first caucus in Iowa and nine months until the first primary in New Hampshire, all any of us can do is read tea leaves if we’re trying to predict the political future. Fortunately, tea leaves abound. Plenty […]

Florida Governor-elect Ron DeSantis sits next to President Donald Trump and South Dakota Governor-elect Kristi Noem during a meeting in the Cabinet Room at the White House on Dec. 13, 2018, in Washington, D.C. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Noem, DeSantis and pugnacity as a political strategy

By: - May 24, 2023

It’s apparent there are some journalists in Sioux Falls who are being punished. These are the reporters and anchors assigned to the morning shows that start at 5 a.m. and drag on for hours until the network talkathons start. With so many hours of airtime to fill, these local early morning shows play the same […]

(Getty Images)

Ballot petition efforts alive and well, despite the Legislature

By: - May 15, 2023

Despite the attempts by some legislators to quash the will of the people, ballot petition drives in South Dakota seem to be thriving. Well before the next election in 2024, the secretary of state’s website already lists four measures that are circulating for petition signatures. These include constitutional amendments for open primaries, abortion rights and […]

U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-South Dakota, attends a February 2023 congressional committee hearing in Washington, D.C. (Rep. Dusty Johnson/Twitter)

Johnson shouldn’t let conservative credentials get in the way of statesmanship

By: - May 11, 2023

In South Dakota, there’s a reasonably easy process for changing your name. You fill out a form, pay a fee, publish a public notice and get the OK from a judge. Do that, and you can call yourself anything you want. Or, if you’re a congressman running in a primary, just buy a bunch of […]

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem speaks to guests at the 2023 NRA-ILA Leadership Forum on April 13, 2023, in Indianapolis, Indiana. The forum is part of the National Rifle Association’s Annual Meetings & Exhibits. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Maybe we love the Second Amendment a little too much

By: - May 1, 2023

When she spoke at the National Rifle Association Leadership Forum, Gov. Kristi Noem said that South Dakota is setting the standard as the most Second Amendment friendly state in nation. If it’s true — and why would anyone lie to the NRA? — it’s worth noting how we got that designation.  In the five legislative sessions […]

A Sioux Falls election polling place on the morning of Nov. 8, 2022. (Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)

Without open primaries, taxpayers are shut out of elections they pay for

By: - April 23, 2023

If there is a growth industry in South Dakota politics, it’s the primary election. Specifically, the Republican primary election. Incumbent Republicans are facing frequent, often grueling, intra-party challenges. In the 2022 election, Gov. Kristi Noem, Sen. John Thune and Rep. Dusty Johnson all faced challengers from within their own party. In the Legislature, there were […]