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Fitzgerald Says AG Contender Ravnsborg Has Never Tried a Case in Front of a Jury

John Fitzegerald doesn’t need to catch up with Jason Ravnsborg in campaign finance to push Ravnsborg aside in the race for the Republican nomination for Attorney General; he just needs to make this argument to every delegate he meets:

…they don’t have the experience that I have as a prosecuting attorney. I think the one from Yankton has never actually tried as a prosecutor a jury trial… and so I think that it is difficult to be the lawyer elected by the state to lead the fight against crime if you’ve never actually sat in the front row and prosecuted to a jury a felony or a misdemeanor [John Fitzgerald, video posted to Facebook, 2018.06.08].

Fitzgerald vs. Ravnsborg: which one do you think coudl put the fear of God into a jury?
Fitzgerald vs. Ravnsborg: which one do you think coudl put the fear of God into a jury?

Last year I reviewed court records from Union County, where Jason Ravnsborg, from two counties away in Yankton, somehow secured an appointment as a special part-time deputy state’s attorney in 2016. Out of 220 cases on record in the first half of 2017, Ravnsborg was listed as participating in the prosecution of three cases. I don’t know how many cases Fitzgerald has tried, but he has been a state’s attorney for 38 years.

Fitzgerald and Ravnsborg are on deck to vie for the nomination at convention in Pierre two weeks from today. So is Lance Russell, but before he can seek nomination, he has to withdraw from the District 30 Senate race, and he hasn’t pulled out yet.


  1. John 2018-06-10 07:57

    Cory, I went back through his endorsements and some of the people that have endorsed Ravnsborg have said he has done jury trials though….

  2. Kelly 2018-06-10 08:36

    Ravnsborg has never done a trial as a prosecutor. Not a felony or a misdemeanor.

  3. Angie 2018-06-10 11:47

    If the GOP Delegates don’t think the Democrat’s will exploit Ravnsborg’s lack of experience in November and win- their lack of foresight is alarming.

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-06-10 11:56

    John, can you link us those endorsement statements? Do they refer to criminal or civil trials?

  5. Stace Nelson 2018-06-10 12:40

    Looks like the kid gloves are
    Coming off on lifelong Iowa Democrat Dan Lederman’s Iowa plant Ravnsborg.

    Delegates should separate fact from four years of nonstop campaigning fluff. Anyone who can campaign for 4 years? Is a part time everything. Fitzgerald & Russell are successful family men, accomplished prosecutors, and Senator Lance Russell has 10 years of legislative experience.

    if and when the delegates nominate Senator Russell as the GOP AG nominee, he would have to pick one race or the other to pursue. Not before.

    Stand by for some bad news for the lifelong Iowa Democrat Dan Lederman cabal.

  6. mike from iowa 2018-06-10 14:05

    You can read endorsements here. I don’t believe many if any specific cases got named.

    While I am at it, what’s with the Dakota Stock Ticker page that pops up now and again when I try to read someone’s (no particular someone’s) comments?

  7. mike from iowa 2018-06-10 14:09

    Relevant endorsements start with Brule Co, States Attorney then Hot Springs SA, Yankton Co SA and Bon Homme Co SA. There are probably others.

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-06-10 18:04

    Stace and I agree that Ravnsborg is not qualified for this job.

    Stace and I disagree about the legal timeline. Russell must choose before nominations. Review statute and my May 11 analysis: SDCL 12-1-3(1) says a candidate is “a person whose name is on the ballot or who is entitled to be on the ballot to be voted upon for nomination or election at any election….” Stace wants Lance’s name to be on a ballot that will be voted upon for nomination at the election his party is authorized by statute to hold at its convention. SDCL 12-6-3 says, “No person may be a candidate for nomination or election to more than one public office except for the office of President of the United States or vice president of the United States….” Russell cannot be a candidate for nomination for Attorney General at the same time that he is a candidate for District 30 Senate.

  9. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-06-10 18:20

    For precedent on my analysis, see SDCL 12-6-3.2 and its application to the 2010 Democratic convention and the 2014 Libertarian convention. SDCL 12-6-3.2 says, “No person may sign a declaration of candidacy or be nominated as a political candidate for a party unless that person is a registered voter with that party affiliation.” In 2010, Democrat Scott Heidepriem wanted to nominate Republican Ben Arndt as his Lt. Gov. Heidepriem said he was confident the law would not prohibit such a bipartisan ticket, but rather than take a chance of a Republican challenge, Arndt registered Democrat before the nomination.

    In 2014, the Libertarian Party nominated Ryan Gaddy for PUC. Gaddy did not register Libertarian before convention. (Well, he filled out the registration card, but it didn’t go on the books until after convention.) Secretary of State Jason Gant rejected the nomination, and a federal judge upheld the rejection, which tells me SDCL 12-6-3.2 had more legs than Heidepriem let on.

    Party membership must be in effect before the nomination can be made. The same is true of the criterion that a candidate not already be a candidate for another office. An active candidate, one who has already secured one place on a ballot, cannot be nominated for another office until he is no longer a candidate for the first office.

  10. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-06-10 18:24

    And remember, this nomination is for Attorney General, the state’s top legal eagle. You don’t want to screw this up by illegally nominating your candidate. Remember, Democrats are going to nominate their own legal eagle, and that legal eagle will read the law, see that a Russell nomination is illegal, and take Russell to court as quickly as 2010 Republicans would have taken Arndt to court. And if Russell tees us up for that challenge, we will knock him out of the park, and the Democratic nominee will walk on to this state office.

    You have twelve days to decide: do you want a nominee or ignominy?

    Ranvsborg is unqualified. Russell is legally barred from seeking the nomination. At this moment, Fitzgerald is the only candidate with both experience and legal standing to run.

  11. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-06-10 18:26

    [Oh! Mike! Sorry about that! I’m having some Menu bar issues. I’ll try tinkering with that this week to get it out of your way.]

  12. Roger Cornelius 2018-06-10 18:47

    “Stand by for some bad news for the life long Democrat from Iowa Dan Lederman cabal”.
    Okay Stace, you have my interest.

  13. grudznick 2018-06-10 19:23

    Mr. mike, because you are from Iowa, there is a South Dakota stock ticker you must endure. The rest of us don’t.

    Mr. H, your readings and musings of the laws are always entertaining, but Mr. Russell is a lawyer and 10 year politician. I bet he has a reading of his own. He’s an obnoxious, pernicious and devious little mutant, but handsome devil that he is you know he has some really swell tricks up his pant leg.

  14. Stace Nelson 2018-06-10 21:26

    @CAH I am unaware of any legal
    Challenges to the AG & SOS rulings on this matter. I concur with their understanding of the statute. One is not a candidate for AG until one receives the nomination. Democrats would be hard pressed to find a court of law to disqualify a candidate after receiving the nomination, when no timely legal challenge exists now.

    Interesting enough, Mr Ravsnborg’s usual excess of social media activity, has gone silent in regards to answering legitimate questions about any actual prosecutorial experience.

  15. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-06-10 22:16

    What SOS & AG rulings on this matter? Gant threw out Gaddy’s nomination because he did not satisfy a legal condition set under Chapter 12-6 prior to receiving the nomination. Russell cannot be placed on the convention ballot for the Republican nomination for AG until he satisfies all legal conditions set under Chapter 12-6, including not being a candidate for another public office. When Russell steps onto the convention floor and asks you to enter his name in the convention election for the AG nomination, he must be clear of any other candidacy. He cannot wait until after the vote for AG nominee on the floor, because that’s an election. Russell can’t stand in that convention election as an AG nominee candidate and in the general election as a Senate candidate any more than I can file a petition to run as a Democrat for State Senate in March and then file a petition to run as an independent for Governor in April. The second candidacy is invalid unless the first candidacy is annulled prior to the attempt to initiate the second.

    If Attorney Russell has a different interpretation of the law, I look forward to reading it.

  16. grudznick 2018-06-10 22:17

    Mr. Ravnsborg is to being the Attorney General what Mr. Nelson would be as the head of Mr. Russell’s DCI: Incompetent, ineffective, and dangerous.

    Hey, that’s 2 of the 3 things they are in the legislatures!

  17. John Teupel 2018-06-10 22:35

    Finally, someone in the press actually does some research and tells the truth about Ravnsborg’s lack of prosecutorial experience. Nice job Corey

  18. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-06-10 22:49

    (At peril of straying too far afield from the main topic, which is Ravnsborg’s unfitness to serve as Attorney General, I’ll note that whatever else Stace Nelson might do as head of DCI, he would not retaliate against a female agent who reported sexual harassment.)

  19. Lora Hubbel 2018-06-10 23:40

    so..wasn’t Delstra BOTH a sitting District 9 State Rep (on the Local Government Committee) AND was an elected “local government” councilman for Hartford, at the same time. I asked Jackley’s office about that and I was told there was no conflict of interest….what am I missing?

  20. Lora Hubbel 2018-06-10 23:44

    I realize i may be referring to a different code…but doesn’t SDCL frown on being elected to more than one position at a time? (maybe that is a Party rule and being councilman is party-less and doesn’t apply.)

  21. John Teupel 2018-06-11 00:25

    Corey. I agree with your analysis on SDCL 12-6-3 as it relates to Lance Russell’s situation but disagree on when the violation actually occurs. I don’t believe it violates the statute for him to place his name into nomination. However, the moment Lance a majority of the votes and the preciding officer announces “We have a winner! Lance Russell is the nominee for Attorney General and drops the gavel”, at that moment Lance is in clear violation of SDCL 12-6-3. Even if he had a prepared letter which he signed and handed to the Secretary of State resigning for the District 30 Senate Seat, for the period of time it took him to resign before going to the podium to give his acceptance speech, Lance would be in clear violation of the law. His first act as the Rrpublucsn Nominee for Attorney General would be to break the law. Therefore, you are correct in stating that if Lance chooses to stand for Attorney General, he will have to resign his Senate seat in advance of placing his name into nomination.

  22. Debbo 2018-06-11 00:43

    I have no legal opinion, just one observation based solely on the photos. Ravnsborg’s image does not inspire confidence. He looks kind of dopey and I prefer an AG who appears alert and aware. Is that Ravnsborg’s campaign photo?

  23. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-06-11 08:35

    John T, thank you for thinking through the statute. We appear to agree that Russell has to withdraw at least before the vote on the convention floor takes place. I agree that it is clear that Russell would be in violation the moment the chair drops the gavel on the vote and declares Russell the winner over whoever else is nominated.

    We still have some unclarity on whether the violation could happen earlier. Are you saying that Russell could hand the SOS his withdrawal letter after his nomination is moved and seconded but before the floor vote takes place?

  24. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-06-11 08:38

    Lora, Chapter 12-6 apparently does not apply to municipal offices (see Tom Nelson and Chuck Turbiville for examples in addition to Deelstra)… although I’m not sure which statute excepts those offices. SDCL 12-6-1 says this chapter “shall apply to the election to party office and for the nominations of political and nonpolitical candidates for public offices except as may be otherwise provided.”

  25. John Teupel 2018-06-11 09:16

    As I interpret the statute, I don’t believe he has actually violated the law until the gavel drops and he receives the nomination. Placing his name into nomination and being nominated as the Republican nominee for the office are two different things. I don’t think the first violates 12-6-3. The latter definitely violates the statute and even if it takes less than a minute for him to resign his District 30 Senate seat after receiving the nomination, he has still violated the statute, which is prohibited. Ironically, the way the statute originally read “Candidate for two offices at one election prohibited” would have allowed Lance to be nominated for AG and then resign from his Senate nomination. It’s the “Exception” language the Republican party added to allow Thune to be potentially be nominated as VP that prohibits Lance from being nominated as AG without first resigning from his Senate nomination. If Lance wanted to run for AG and for the Senate at the same time, he should have sponsored legislation this spring to amend the statute.

  26. Lori Stacey 2018-06-11 17:44

    Since Russell has a campaign committee for Attorney General, he already is an official candidate for 2 offices at the same time but he can’t be on the SAME ballot for 2 different offices. That could be interpreted as State Senate on general election ballot and AG on state convention ballot. If that is how Krebs is interpreting, then Russell is fine until or if he wins nomination. He would definitely have to decide BEFORE his nomination is submitted. If he doesn’t quickly withdraw from Senate race, then Krebs would have every legal right to refuse his nomination as he can’t be places on the same ballot (general election ballot) for more than one office.

    I would bet Russell has already clarified this with SOS office. The bottom line is how is Krebs interpreting the statute!

  27. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-06-11 22:13

    Lori, the existence of campaign committees ought to satisfy the definition of “candidate,” but the formal SDCL 12-1-3 definition of “candidate” does not agree. All that matters is whether he is “on the ballot or… entitled to be on the ballot to be voted upon for nomination or election at any election.”

    One problem in discussing this issue is the word “nomination.” We use the word “nominate” to describe the statement that will formally enter Russell’s, Fitzgerald’s, and Ravnsborg’s names into consideration for the position at convention; we then use it to describe the vote that will pick one of them to appear on the November general election ballot. The statutes in question appear to refer to “nomination” in the second sense. By that interpretation, I contend that Russell cannot be placed into consideration for the nomination at convention unless he has withdrawn his Senate candidacy.

    Maybe if convention nominates Russell, Ravnsborg will get a chance to challenge Russell in court. Of course, that challenge would be handled by a judge, I imagine, so Ravnsborg still wouldn’t get to add a real jury trial to his résumé.

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