Democrats have a ballot slot to fill in District 19. Surprisingly, it’s not the Senate seat, where political newcomer Russell Graeff faces a tough battle against the Fulton Fulminator, the Marine Monster, the biggest Red pain in the SDGOP’s tuchus, Stace Nelson. No, the vacancy is on the House side, where soybean producer Ardon Wek has withdrawn from the race. The withdrawal must have just reached the Secretary of State’s office, which appears to have just today updated its candidate list (and frequent clickers, make sure you’ve updated your bookmark to SOS Page 178, the general election list, and not Page 177, the old primary candidates’ list!).
Wek’s withdrawal surprises me, because Wek’s campaign for the House seat promised to be an easier climb than Graeff’s high hill against Nelson. Wek is the lone Democrat against two young, mild-mannered Republicans, Rep. Kyle Schoenfish and Rep. Kent Peterson. Wek has been out campaigning around District 19, looking like a serious candidate. He could easily have used his connections with the Soybean Processors and area producers, his age and life experience (Wek will be 59 on Election Day, while Peterson is 36 and Schoenfish will be 29), and frustration with Peterson’s big-CAFO-fronting for gubernatorially aspiring Rep. Mark Mickelson and dismay with Schoenfish’s failure to notice corruption at the Mid-Central Educational Cooperative to win one of the two House seats by being everyone’s second choice.
On the bright side, it may thus be easier to convince a new Democrat to jump in and fill that vacancy than it would have been to find a replacement for Graeff. Peterson and Schoenfish both have weaknesses that a smart campaigner could use to her or his advantage. Then again, if a Democrat rises to the challenge, the GOP establishment is far more likely to pour money into helping pliable party boys Peterson and Schoenfish keep their seats than they ever would ride in to help Stace Nelson return to Pierre. (Dang, Russell! Maybe you could even get Republicans to give you some money to beat Stace! Just don’t let them turn you to the Dark Side!)
Graeff himself tells this blog that he is still a candidate and is eager to find a replacement for Wek. District 19 Democrats have apparently already begun some conversations with possibilities, but the door is open for any new, ambitious Democrat to step up, fill the gap, and maintain the opportunity for a little synergy between the remaining Democratic Senate candidate and a good House candidate.
The deadline District 19 county party leaders to name a replacement for Wek is August 9.
Note that Wek is not required to publicize any reason for his withdrawal. Had the 2015 Legislature had its way, District 19 Democrats would not have been able to replace Wek unless he gave the Secretary of State a note from his doctor saying he was too sick to serve, was appointed to or nominated for some other conflicting office or job, or moved out of District 19. Luckily, our successful referral of that law (Senate Bill 69; now Referred Law 19 on the ballot) spared Wek and his fellow District 19 Democrats that intrusive hassle. You’re welcome!
Also withdrawn and awaiting replacement: Democrat Chuck Groth from the District 22 Senate race and Democrats Betsy Lang of 12 and Tony Pier of 14* from their House races…*Correction 2016.07.23 10:32 CDT: Pier has been replaced, of course, as Ken Santema reminds us below, by J.R. LaPlante, whom I should have remembered from Convention in Sioux Falls and who is out campaigning hard! Sorry to leave you out, J.R.! So that leaves three Democratic Legislative race vacancies to fill.