Hunt, a Republican from Brandon, was speaker of the House in 1999-2000. He didn’t seek re-election that fall after five consecutive terms in the House.
That’s because he was ineligible to run for another under the limit of four consecutive terms that South Dakota voters adopted to our state constitution in 1992.
Instead, the man known generally at the Capitol as just “Roger” ran for the Republican nomination to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002. The seat was open because U.S. Rep. John Thune, a Republican, was running against Democratic U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson.
A lot of men got left at the wayside in the subsequent Republican and Democratic primary elections for the House seat.
By the time then-Gov. Bill Janklow made up his mind a final time and entered, the contest had turned into a five-way battle for the Republican nomination.
The Janklow presence discouraged state Sen. Larry Diedrich of Elk Point sufficiently enough that Diedrich, deeply disappointed by Janklow’s decision, didn’t run that time.
Instead, there was former U.S. Sen. Larry Pressler, whom Johnson had defeated in 1996, trying to come back. Beside Janklow, Pressler and Hunt there also were former state Lands Commissioner Tim Amdahl and Bert Tollefson.
Janklow won the Republican nomination with nearly 55 percent of the vote, followed by Pressler at about 27 percent. Not much of the pie was left. Hunt got 7 percent.
On the Democratic side the winner of that four-way primary was a now-famous candidate running for the first time named Stephanie Herseth, whose grandfather Ralph had been a governor and whose father, Lars, was the 1986 Democratic nominee for governor.
Janklow beat Stephanie Herseth that fall. The next summer came the crash in which Janklow ran a stop sign and motorcyclist Randy Scott died. Janklow eventually was found guilty of manslaughter and resigned the U.S. House seat. Herseth won the 2004 June special election, defeating Diedrich.
In that same set of June elections, Roger Hunt began his return to the Legislature. He and Shantel Krebs won a three-way primary for two Republican state House nominations.
Hunt has served a total of 18 years, all in the state House. He never tried to extend his legislative career by running for the Senate, and thereby going around the constitutional limit of four consecutive terms.
Such crossovers are allowed and often are attempted.
This year, for example, Rep. Val Rausch of Big Stone City was out of time in the House and challenged for the Republican Senate nomination in his district. He lost to Sen. Tim Begalka of Clear Lake.
And Rep. Paul Dennert, a Democrat, being term-limited in the House, has moved from his farm at Columbia into Aberdeen, so that he can run for a Senate seat in a new district against Sen. Al Novstrup, R-Aberdeen.
It is accurate to say Roger Hunt left a deeper and possibly longer lasting mark on South Dakota than most legislators through his work and leadership in the anti-abortion cause.
The fate of several major pieces of legislation he sponsored and co-sponsored on abortion during these eight most recent years he spent in the House, including the key issue of recognizing an unborn child as a human being,, depends on what the federal courts eventually decide.
Hunt’s work went much farther, however. In his first career he was a lawyer for 22 years in the U.S. Navy. In 18 years as a legislator, he brought a mental discipline and procedural knowledge to many matters especially in regard to legal processes, including criminal, business and family law.