A former South Dakota legislative leader from Rapid City has died suddenly.
Republican David Lust is remembered by colleagues as a tough lawmaker who was involved for the right reasons.
David Lust was first elected to the state legislature in 2006. He worked his way up the caucus, becoming the majority leader in 2011 and holding the position for four years.
When U.S. Representative Dusty Johnson was former Governor Dennis Daugaard’s chief of staff, he worked with Lust daily during legislative session. Johnson says Lust was a fierce leader for the House Republicans.
“He was a guy who knew how to stand his ground,” Johnson says. “He was also a guy who understood you don’t measure success by how many fights you have. You measure success by how much better you make your state. Unlike other politicians, David just never fought for the fun of fighting. He fought because the battles were important.”
Lust is also remembered as a good lawyers. Republican Representative Will Mortenson, of Pierre, interned for Lust in Rapid City after his second year of law school. Mortenson says he tries to emulate Lust in both the statehouse and his law practice.
"He had a iron spine," Mortenson says. "I remember him taking on tough issues and contentious issues and he never flinched. He was one of the best I've ever seen do it. Boy, I'm going to miss him."
Lust returned to the state legislature in 2016 as a Daugaard appointee, replacing late-Representative Dan Dryden who was posthumously re-elected.
Mark Mickelson was speaker of the House during the years Lust returned to the legislature. He and Lust had several debates on the House floor. Mickelson says those debates were challenging and fun and intellectually stimulating.
“It’s just tremendously sad,” Mickelson says. “MY heart goes out to his family. He was a great man. He went way too young.
The Argus Leader is reporting that Lust died of a suspected heart attack overnight on Friday. He was 53 years old.