Plus: Herseth Sandlin versus Huether in November 2018?
Multiple conversations this weekend found my interlocutors asking me whether voters will approve Amendment V, the open non-partisan primary proposal. Beats me—let’s ask you, the smartest blog readers in South Dakota!
The latest Dakota Free Press poll asks a simple question: “Do you support Amendment V, for open non-partisan primaries?” Click your answer in the near-right sidebar. I opened the poll Sunday morning; I’ll take votes until breakfast time Wednesday, when we’ll discuss the results and try to extrapolate your responses to the general South Dakota electorate. (Aaron! Send me some formulas on non-probability polling!)
As you mull your position, consider these two aspects of how Amendment V could alter our election process.
Last Tuesday, Sioux Falls mayor Mike Huether used the words “independent” and “Libatarian” (that’s his exact and regular pronunciation) a lot before choking up and shaking over the prospect of no longer being mayor. Mayor Huether then said he’d love to be President and Governor. Scott Ehrisman speculates that Huether could be trial-ballooning an independent run for Governor in 2018 to avoid a bruising Democratic primary. But if Amendment V passes, Huether wouldn’t avoid having to go head-to-head with Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, Billie Sutton, or Joe Lowe. Instead of a free pass to the general, he’d have to fight other Democrats, the aspiring Republicans (G. Mark Mickelson, Marty Jackley, Kristi Noem… and maybe Shantel Krebs?), and any indies, Libertarians, and Constitutionalizers, all on one big, fun June ballot that everyone would get to vote on.
Of course, Huether wouldn’t have to win that primary; he’d just have to place at least second. That brings up another interesting possibility. Suppose the GOP fields four candidates. Suppose the Dems field just one, the biggest gun possible, Herseth Sandlin. Suppose Huether runs indy (the new Amendment V nonpartisan ballot won’t say “indy,” but suppose he focuses on those voters). If the four GOP candidates fight a hard battle and split their base while SHS and Huether split the rest of the electorate, the two candidates receiving the highest primary vote and advancing to the general could be Herseth Sandlin and Huether.
While you contemplate that more-possible-than-you-think outcome, note that the gubernatorial candidates would not have the primary field to themselves. Amendment V applies the open nonpartisan primary to “all federal, state and county elective offices except for the election of President and Vice President of the United States.” Right now, candidates for six state offices—Secretary of State, Attorney General, Treasurer, Auditor, Public Utilities Commissioner, and Commissioner of School and Public Lands—are nominated by their party conventions in the summer, after the primary. Amendment V would require candidates for those offices to collect signatures, file nominating petitions, and run in the primary. Amendment V doesn’t specify how many signatures an Attorney General candidate would have to collect to make the primary ballot; it just says, “The signature requirements established shall be based on the total votes cast for that office in the previous general election and shall be the same for all candidates for that office, regardless of party affiliation or lack of party affiliation.” That clause alone leaves the door open for different signature requirements for different statewide offices. It would be up to the Legislature to decide if it wants AG and SOS candidates to collect the same number of signatures as gubernatorial candidates or set the threshold lower for those less well-known offices.
Whatever the signature requirements, Amendment V certainly creates more work for candidates who right now can simply roll into convention and ask, “Is this seat taken?” Adding these six offices to the primary process also creates more work for the Secretary of State, who would have several more statewide petitions to validate in March, before the primary. But hey, that’s why we pay the Secretary of State the big bucks, right? (Secretary Krebs gets $89,700.04, equal to Auditor, Treasurer, and SPL Commish. AG Jackley gets $112,096.28; PUC members Nelson, Hanson, and Fiegen each get $104,611.95.)
A Huether/Herseth Sandlin general election fight? More statewide candidates petitioning? Consider those implications, and vote in the DFP Amendment V poll today!