South Dakota Senator Troy Heinert is the new Democratic leader in the state Senate. Photo: Troy Heinert

Democrats name Indian lawmaker as leader in South Dakota Senate

Democrats may be vastly outnumbered in the South Dakota Legislature but they are making history as they regroup for upcoming session.

At their party caucus over the weekend, Democrats chose Troy Heinert as their leader in the state Senate. He is the first tribal citizen to hold the position.

"The Democratic Party is proud to be led by the first Native American caucus leader in the State Legislature," an announcement on Monday stated.

Heinert is a citizen of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. He represents Brule, Buffalo, Jones, Lyman, Mellette and Todd counties in the state Senate.

Heinert, who previously served as the Democratic assistant the chamber, won re-election to a third term in the Senate on November 8. He first came to the Legislature in 2012, when he served one term in the House.

"I am a Husband, Father, Cowboy, member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and for the last four years the District 26 State Senator," Heinert wrote in a message before the election."It has been a great privilege representing you in Pierre and I look forward to continuing this responsibility!"

The 2019 session of the South Dakota Legislature starts in January. Democrats hold just 16 seats, out of 105, in the chamber.

Republicans who serve in the House chose their leaders earlier this month. Steven Haugaard will serve as Speaker of the chamber and Spencer Gosch will serve as Speaker pro tem.

Senate Republicans have not yet chosen their leaders.

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