Any idiot can get a leak from a political schemer and blog it. My I-told-you-so of the week comes from much more serious analysis of state law.
When an eager reader asked me how Lance Russell could be a candidate for both District 30 Senate and Attorney General, I reviewed state law and came to the conclusion that he could run in the District 30 GOP Senate primary and talk all he wanted about seeking the A.G. nomination, but that come convention time, he’d have to officially withdraw from the Senate race to pursue the A.G. nomination.
Evidently the Secretary of State and the Attorney General agree:
State Senator Lance Russell, who is vying for those two seats, currently, says he consulted with the attorney general and secretary of state about running two campaigns.
Russell says if he feels he has a good shot at clinching the nomination in next week’s convention, he will withdraw from his Senate race.
“The local Republican Party, the precinct people from my district would be able to select my replacement,” Russell says. “If I feel like I have a good shot at being attorney general, then I would do that. If not, I will continue in the Senate.”
Russell needs to make the decision by next Friday [Lee Strubinger, “AG Candidate Must Drop at Least One Campaign Next Week,” SDPB, 2018.06.14].
But wait! Seth Tupper maintains that Russell’s timeline is unclear:
Secretary of State Shantel Krebs said her office has advised Russell that if he wants to be legally nominated for attorney general, he will have to withdraw from his Senate race prior to the nomination. But when does a nomination officially occur? Is it when the convention delegates vote, or when the nominee accepts, or when official paperwork is submitted to the Secretary of State’s Office? Krebs declined to opine about that and said there is nothing in state law that defines exactly when a nomination becomes official.
Krebs added that Russell could potentially withdraw from his Senate race before the convention, lose the attorney general nomination, and then seek to be appointed as his own replacement in the Senate race [Seth Tupper, “Democrat Leads Fundraising in Unusual SD Attorney General Race,” Rapid City Journal, 2018.06.15].
Dang—maybe I need to run for Secretary of State so we can get clear answers on points of election law.
To be absolutely clear, we must recognize two definitions of the word “nominate”:
- Nominate is the action of one person, in this case, a delegate to the Republican convention, who says from the floor, “I nominate Lance Russell for Attorney General!” (Note: all such nominations should include an exclamation point, as they are to be made with ringing enthusiasm and clarity that can be heard in the farthest reaches of the assembly hall, without the assistance of a microphone.)
- Nominate is the action of an entire body, in this case, the Republican convention as a committee of the whole, which holds a vote, picks a winner from among all nominees, and then, through its officers, certifies to the Secretary of State that the victorious candidate is the party’s nominee for the office in question.
State law forbids being a candidate for two offices. Lance Russell will satisfy the legal definition of “candidate” for Attorney General the moment a Republican delegate nominates him on June 23. At that moment, for that nomination to be legitimate and for Lance Russell’s name to be included among the names delegates will vote on for the nomination, Russell must have formally withdrawn from the District 30 Senate race by notifying the Secretary of State. If Russell accepts nomination and wins nomination and then goes to the Secretary of State’s office to withdraw his Senate candidacy, the lawyers who also got nomination but are beaten by Russell for nomination can run to a judge, argue that nominations  and  are illegal, and keep Russell from being certified for the ballot.
By the way, Secretary Krebs is wrong when she says Russell could withdraw, lose nomination, then seek to have his name put back on the District 30 Senate ballot. I made this clear last month: withdrawal from the Senate race is irreversible. SDCL 12-6-55 says, “No name so withdrawn shall be printed upon the ballots to be used at such election.” Russell has to pick now and take his chances.
Democrats will be picking their own Attorney General nominee this afternoon as well as other constitutional officers. I’ll be watching to make sure we don’t nominate any standing candidates. If the situation arises, I’ll point them to the above articles and statutes and move for a recess while we see if we can fax a sworn statement to the Secretary of State to make sure we can nominate and nominate a willing but currently ballotly committed public servant.