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Peters Quits House Before She Starts, Sets Precedent for Foolishness of Circulator Residency Pledge

Dennis Daugaard appointed 18 legislators to vacancies in eight years. He didn’t get to make his first appointment until November of his first year in office.

Kristi Noem gets to start her gubernatorate with two legislators of her own choosing. Deb Peters today renounced the fresh mandate of her District 9 voters and said she’s going to make a tub of money directing communications for the South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations.

According to the cached job listing from KELO-TV, SDAHO advertised the job in October and closed applications on November 9, three days after the general election in which Senator Peters handily won first place in the District 9 House race with 32%. Democrat Michael Saba won the second seat, edging the incorrigibly racist Republican Representative Michael Clark 24% to 23%. Democrat Toni Miller placed fourth at 21%.

I am reminded of the declaration of candidacy which all of us candidates sign when we enter the race way back in the cold petition days three seasons before the election:

I, ____________________________ (print name here exactly as you want it on the election ballot), under oath, declare that I am eligible to seek the office for which I am a candidate, that I am registered to vote as a member of the ________________ party, and that if I am a legislative or county commission candidate I reside in the district from which I am a candidate. If nominated and elected, I will qualify and serve in that office [ARSD 05:02:08:01, “Form of Nominating Petition—Partisan Election,” retrieved 2018.12.03].

That declaration, an oath sworn and signed before a notary public, does not condition the promise to serve on any conditions beyond “if nominated and elected.” It does not say, “unless I get a better job” or “unless I get really sick” or “unless I get sick of the misogynist culture-war crap in caucus.” A lot of life can happen in the eight months between filing a petition in March and winning an election in November (all the more reason to shorten that window and move the primary to September!), but the declaration of candidacy makes no exceptions. If you win a partisan election in South Dakota and then don’t show up to serve, you have violated a sworn oath.

Governor-Elect Noem makes no mention of this violation as she salivates over the opportunity to seed the Legislature with her second Noem-bot. (She has another in the chute for the seat Chuck Turbiville left vacant by dying in October.) The knucklehead we elected Attorney General, Jason Ravnsborg, has mentioned no inclination to prosecute Peters’s oath-breaking (though he’s sure eager to fill up our prisons to make himself look tough).

And that’s fine. A public servant should not face legal punishment for life circumstances that lead her to the rational decision to pursue a path other than elected office.

But Deb Peters’s no-foul violation of an oath sworn to unpredictable future conditions shows the impropriety and unenforceability of the similar future-casting oath that Peters and her fellow Republicans decided this year to demand of ballot measure petition circulators. 2018 House Bill 1196, now etched into SDCL 2-1-1.4, requires people who want to circulate initiative referendum petitions (but not candidate petitions) to sweat under oath before a notary that they intend to remain in South Dakota after the petition circulation deadline. That language includes no conditions and no timeframe, so a straight reading of that new statute would put petition circulators in peril of violating that oath if they ever leave South Dakota, whether a day, a year, or fifty years after circulating that petition.

The state will not punish good Republican Deb Peters for landing a job worth leaving the Legislature for, any more than it punished Tim Rave when he resigned from the Senate in 2015 (for a good job at Sanford Health, which led to his job as exec of SDAHO, where he got to hire his former Legislative colleague Peters). The state should not punish any petition circulators whose life plans change after participating in direct democracy and find themselves led to opportunities outside of South Dakota.

Today was the deadline for submitting nominations to Noem for Turbiville’s District 31 seat. Send your nominations for Peters’s forsaken District 9 seat to by December 12.


  1. Drey Samuelson 2018-12-03 19:15

    You are the master of finding inconsistencies, Cory, and noting the conflict between Peters’ resignation and the petition circulator requirement pledge was perfect!

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-12-03 20:00

    Drey, thank you. I aim for logical consistency in our laws.

  3. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-12-03 20:02

    Good point about that week of smoothing out the announcement, South DaCola! Might they leadership have been trying to figure out if there was any way for Peters to remain in the House and keep her job with the hospital lobby? Or was it a simple matter of not being able to do both jobs… and not wanting to give up two months of what I suspect is a pretty good salary?

  4. Rorschach 2018-12-03 20:06

    Noem and Peters. This state (government) isn’t big enough for the two of them.

  5. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-12-03 20:34

    I can see that from Noem’s end, Ror, but would Peters run from that conflict?

  6. OldSarg 2018-12-03 20:40

    Oh wow, look. . . Cory uncovered another racist “the incorrigibly racist Republican Representative Michael Clark”~ Cory

    You really need to change. I actually don’t believe you even know a member of a minority group much less what racist means.

  7. grudznick 2018-12-03 20:48

    Her beaming face will do doubt be missed by many around the hallways of the Capitol building for a while, but as long as there are dinners and monkeyshines I bet she will still be out and about for all to see.

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-12-03 20:54

    OS, Clark uncovered himself. Follow the link.

    I do need to change.. but you forgot the direct objects. I need to change my state and my country into a more just and inclusive place.

    I also need to change (back to one of the main topics of the blog post!) that silly law forcing mere petition circulators to sign unfair oaths and surrender lots of personal information to the state. Oh, wait, I have a petition coming for that change.

  9. Roger Cornelius 2018-12-03 21:02

    Michael Clark is a racist, Cory doesn’t have to point it out, Clark did that himself on this very blog in the recent past.
    Cory and I have known each other for a number of years and he has visited friends and family on the Pine Ridge Reservation which happens to be my home.
    In the years I’ve known Cory I have never known him to recklessly call someone “racist”. They have had to have said or done something racist, which Clark had done.
    Old Sarge needs to do more nothing more than to do a DFP search to read of Clark’s racism.
    What I don’t understand is why Old Sarge continually comes on DFP and expect Cory to change his liberal commentary. If Old Sarge wants to read rightwing nut jobs he cans go to Dakota War College or another conservative blog.

  10. o 2018-12-03 21:07

    ” . . . but you forgot the direct objects.” Wonderful! A well-placed grammatical quip. The English teacher approves!

  11. Debbo 2018-12-03 21:26

    Yep. Clark is a nasty SOB. He did apologize, mostly for getting caught exposing himself
    as the racist he is.

    Noem will probably appoint him. If she wanted to appoint a first rate legislator who is eager to provide legislative services to her constituents, Noem would appoint Toni Miller. Ah, but Toni is not a Pootiepublican, not even an old fashioned Republican, so that will never happen.

  12. Rorschach 2018-12-03 22:22

    Grudz it’s good to see you on here again. I could be wrong, but didn’t we miss you for a couple of days? I hope all is well.

  13. Rorschach 2018-12-03 22:27

    The Republican Party in SD is big enough to have factions. Big enough to eat its own. Peters was not a Noem supporter, and Noem will never forget it. Peters is wise to retrench. Not retreat. Not stand and take a beating. This is strategic, and Peters is smarter than Noem. Don’t count her out.

  14. Joe Nelson 2018-12-03 22:36

    A woman gets pregnant, but the State and society should not stop her or persuade her from seeking an abortion, lest we make her and her body a slave….

    A woman gets elected, but let’s advocate public shaming and legal action against her for her choice to terminate her appointment….

  15. Dana P 2018-12-03 22:52

    Sounds like the ole Dusty Johnson switch-a-roo. Keep being you, South Dakota

  16. Roger Elgersma 2018-12-03 23:18

    Is there any law about how soon you can become a lobbyist because those jobs that Rave an Peters now have are exactly lobbying positions for healthcare organizations.

  17. Debbo 2018-12-03 23:25

    Joe, you’re equating a woman exercising her legal agency over her body with resigning from an office she campaigned for and was duly elected to before she was even sworn in?

    You might want to rethink your comparison.

  18. Moses6 2018-12-04 00:33

    Will Dusty come home and do both or will switch -a- roo stay in Washington.

  19. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-12-04 05:28

    Ror, on this “strategic” move: will Peters be able to achieve more of her policy agenda from her lobbying position at SDAHO than from her seat in the House? Will working outside the Noem Legislature position her better to run for higher office… like to challenge Noem in 2022 when the house is falling down around the government of incompetents?

    Wouldn’t it be great if Peters and Rave could work their former colleagues to pass Medicaid expansion?

  20. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-12-04 05:30

    Roger E, yes, SDCL 2-12-8.2 prevents Peters from lobbying for two years from the end of her term, which she says will be January 4. As VP of communications, she’ll have to coordinate SDAHO’s lobbyists without actually jumping into the show in person.

  21. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-12-04 05:31

    Joe, Joe, Joe, check the text. I did not advocate legal action against Peters.

  22. o 2018-12-04 08:56

    Joe, I think I may well support your side of the abortion rights debate as soon as women have the ABSOLUTE right of consent to pregnancy — like when running for office.

  23. OldSarg 2018-12-04 08:59

    Look, I don’t know Clark and I don’t really care if I meet him or not. Cory has called so many people racist one can’t tell who is actually a racist or not. Cory trashes a women who changed her career but he himself has changed his career path many times.

    My point is Cory has a nasty habit of calling people nasty names and trashing anyone he has decided to trash on a daily basis. It is all he does. When Cory decides saying things in a more polite manner is to his advantage he will win elections. Until he makes that change he will continue to lose. It is just a choice Cory needs to make.

  24. o 2018-12-04 09:45

    OldSarge, am I reading your post correctly, Cory needs to taper his verbiage to win elections? He ought to refer to his opponents as, “Crooked XXXXXX” and lead chants to “Lock her/him up” because it is civility of discourse that leads to winning elections?

    If you want to take the moral high ground of treating others with respect, I get that; but do not couch that argument in a demonstratively false, passive-aggressive, ad hominem election jab which undermines that moral high ground.

  25. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-12-04 12:54

    I choose to call racists racist and tell them to stop being racist.

    I also choose to laugh at OS’s inability to respond to any interesting, complicated political story that doesn’t fit into his tiny boxes of “Cory and all liberals are evil and I must ruin them!” The Peters story is fascinating, with all sorts of political undercurrents that call into question what Kristi Noem is going to do to Pierre. But OS can’t wrap his brain around those matters. He doesn’t want to talk about the news; he just wants to denigrate the people here engaging in that conversation.

    Just be quiet for a while, OS. You aren’t contributing to the public understanding of important issues. You actually stand in the way of intelligent conversation and learning.

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