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     DynastyA powerful group or family that maintains its position for a considerable time. — Merriam Webster Dictionary

When Lars Herseth ran for governor in 1986, he was attempting to achieve something unusual, even rare, in politics. His father, Ralph, had been governor in 1959-1960, and for a son to follow in his father’s footsteps at such a high political plane was the stuff of novels and celluloid film.

It was not to be, and by the narrowest of margins the job went to George Mickelson, also the son of a previous governor.

For South Dakota, it was a choice between two highly qualified and gifted public servants. Either would have been a fine governor, and one of them was, though he died tragically in office in an April 1993 plane crash.

Now, something even more exceptional is happening. The son of Gov. George Mickelson is running for his dad’s old office.  If George Mark Mickelson is successful, it will be, as far as I have been able to find out, the rarest of accomplishments. To label it a “three-peat” is to trivialize the challenge, and indeed, the young Mickelson, who goes by Mark, cannot rely on his name or pedigree to win the race in 2018.

He will have at least one primary challenger in Attorney General Marty Jackley, and possibly Congresswoman Kristi Noem, though I believe that is unlikely. And the
Democrats will also have something to say about who will be this state’s 33rd governor.

Still, contemplating three governors from the same family in generational succession is politically and historically fascinating. When this discussion occurs, conversation often turns to Rhode Island, where John Chafee served as the 66th governor. His son, Lincoln, was the 74th governor, and John Chafee’s great-grandfather, Henry Lippitt, was 33rd governor of the Ocean State.

Similar to what might be, or could be, in South Dakota, but not the same.

If Mark Mickelson is to win the governor’s race, he will have to show the people of South Dakota that his vision is better than that of his competitors. He has already shared one goal: Expand value-added agriculture to broaden and better our state’s employment opportunities.

“Political dynasty” is a term that is somewhat misleading when referring to the Mickelsons. It’s been 23 years since George Mickelson was governor – a generation. And in South Dakota, names by themselves aren’t enough. Yes, name ID is helpful in politics, but Mickelson’s success will depend not on his name, but on his abilities.

April 6, 2016