S.D. Democrats elect first Native American legislative caucus leader

PIERRE, S.D. -- The South Dakota Democratic Party announced Monday, Nov. 19, that the legislature's Democratic caucus for the first time will be led by a Native American senator.

Sen. Troy Heinert of Mission was voted by fellow party members to lead the caucus as the party's Senate Democratic Leader. He will replace former-Sen. Billie Sutton, who led Senate Democrats before giving up his seat for a gubernatorial bid in South Dakota's midterm election.

Heinert was first elected senator in District 26 in 2014. He was promptly put into party leadership by his peers when he was chosen assistant minority leader in 2015.

Before serving in the state Senate, Heinert served in South Dakota's House of Representatives for one term.

Also in the state Senate, Sen. Craig Kennedy of Yankton will serve as assistant Democratic leader and Sen. Reynold Nesbia of Sioux Falls will be minority whip.

Rep. Jamie Smith of Sioux Falls was elected by fellow party members to serve as House Democratic leader, along with Rep. Steven McCleerey of Sisseton as House assistant Democratic leader. Rep. Erin Healy of Sioux Falls and Rep. Oren Lesmeister of Parade will both serve as House minority whips.