Harvey Wollman, the last Democratic governor of South Dakota, reflects on changes in state politics

“It’s kind of complicated,” said Wollman, a farmer, irrigator, teacher, sometimes church-addresser at the local Presbyterian, township board member, and former governor of South Dakota (for 162 days). “I hate to tell you this, but when I lost that primary, we lost one half of the Democratic Party because they would not support what the party was doing after that.”

Wollman, at age 43, picked up the state’s top seat after Gov. Dick Kneip became Jimmy Carter’s ambassador to Singapore.

The Democratic Party he led in the 1970s — a time Wollman calls “the golden years” — looks different than today.

That was an era of McGovern and prairie populism. Liberal farm policy and slaughterhouse unions. Wollman served as Senate majority leader. He held monthly meetings at Spink County Courthouse in Redfield for his county Democratic Party.

“These were mostly the older … FDR guys that all went through the Depression,” said Wollman, 86, listing off the Rural Electrification Act, Social Security, and other Rooseveltian, “big government” programs that aided workaday people.

He said the era following the 1970s was different. It was the reign of Gov. Bill Janklow, who

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