PIERRE, S.D. — A top Republican lawmaker resigned from the South Dakota Legislature on Tuesday to lead the state’s chapter of Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group backed by billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch.
Former House Speaker Pro Tempore Don Haggar will take over as state director of the organization’s local chapter, putting him at the helm of a group that has taken on high-profile political fights in South Dakota.
Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard said he expects to appoint a new lawmaker to fill the vacancy in Haggar’s Minnehaha County district by the end of the summer.
Haggar, who was first elected to the South Dakota House in 2012, said he ran for the Legislature to push for limited government, holding the line on taxes and working to prevent the overregulation of people’s lives and businesses.
“It was easy for me in that sense to work for an organization that reflected the kind of values that I hold,” he said. “The real difference, if there is one, is that I’ll be able to work 365 days a year promoting those sorts of ideas.”
Americans for Prosperity-South Dakota opposed Daugaard’s now-defunct plan to expand Medicaid. It also campaigned against a government ethics ballot measure that voters approved in 2016, but helped convince Republican lawmakers to repeal the law this year.
Democratic Party Chairwoman Ann Tornberg said the group has an “extreme far-right agenda that doesn’t represent the average South Dakotan.” Tornberg also said the state’s system of gubernatorial appointments should be re-examined.
Haggar takes over as state director from Ben Lee, who was promoted to regional director for the Dakotas, Colorado, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The chapter also hired Andrew Curley as deputy director. The Argus Leader first reported the hires.