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Bengford Throws Residency Flag at Renter Johnson and Non-Resident Haggar in Minnehaha County State’s Attorney Primary

South Dakota Republicans are concerned about candidate residency, but only when it involves non-Republicans. They are willing to go to court to claim that the fact that independent Rick Knobe owns property in District 9 disqualifies him from running for District 25 House. But to the best of my knowledge, the SDGOP has not taken any legal action to throw Daniel Haggar (son of former legislator and local Koch Bros don Don Haggar) or interim Minnehaha County state’s attorney Crystal Johnson off Tuesday’s primary ballot.

The third Republican in the Minnehaha County state’s attorney contest, Paul Bengford, thinks Haggar and Johnson should quit over false residency claims:

“Crystal Johnson and Daniel Haggar have broken faith with voters by filing petitions falsely claiming each has a primary residence in Minnehaha County,” Bengford said in a news release Wednesday.

…Johnson’s family resides in Lincoln County near Lennox. However, she told the Argus Leader Thursday that she began renting a residence in Minnehaha County when she was appointed to serve as State’s Attorney by the Minnehaha County Commission following the firing of Aaron McGowan last year.

“That’s where I’m registered to vote and where I reside,” she said. “I made the choice of not moving my family when receiving the temporary appointment.”

She said she intends to relocate her family to Minnehaha County if elected.

Haggar, who works with Bengford in the Sioux Falls City Attorneys Office, called the accusations a “distraction” and said when he filed his candidacy at the same time he applied for the open State’s Attorney’s, he began renting a property in Minnehaha County in order to be considered and eligible for the position by the County Commission.

When the job went to Johnson, he moved back to his home in Lincoln County. Should he be victorious in next week’s primary election, and by default in November’s election because no Democrats are pursuing the office, he’ll relocate his family to Minnehaha County, he said.

“We’re looking for (a home) right now,” Haggar said. “But I will absolutely follow the law” [Joe Sneve, “State’s Attorney Candidates with Homes Outside of County Say They’ll Move to Minnehaha County,” USA Today, 2020.05.28].

Two laws pertain:

SDCL 7-16-31 indicates that state’s attorneys must live in the county they serve, unless that county has fewer than 5,000 people, in which case they may live in an adjoining county (speaking of which, as Marty Jackley moved to Fort Pierre yet?). Johnson admits that, under the SDGOP’s Knobe standard, she might be breaking that law: she’s serving as state’s attorney, but her family lives in Lennox, while she is only renting and registered to vote in Minnehaha. But, as with the Knobe standard, challenging Johnson’s residency would require challenging the residency of RVers who do far less living in Minnehaha County but rent a mailbox to support their registration to vote there. Haggar is not violating SDCL 7-16-31, because he’s not state’s attorney yet.

SDCL 22-11-28.1 says filing a false instrument in a public office is a Class 6 felony. Candidates Johnson, Haggar, and Bengford each had to file nominating petitions at the Minnehaha County Courthouse to run for state’s attorney. Their partisan petitions included header statements of their mailing address and principal residence address. All three candidates gave mailing addresses in Minnehaha County. If any of them listed principal residence addresses where they did not principally reside on the day they , they filed false instruments and can be fried n court just like Annette Bosworth was for filing false petitions.

We need to see the principal residence addresses that Johnson and especially Haggar wrote on their petitions to judge whether they broke the law. If Johnson wrote her rental address in Sioux Falls, and if she is living their most of the time while her family languishes in Lennox (and doesn’t everyone languish in Lennox?), a court is unlikely to fry her. If Haggar put some Minnehaha County address for his principal residency address, well, he just told the paper he lives in Lincoln County, so he’d be toast. But if he wrote his Lincoln County address for his principal residency address, he’s fine: petition law only requires Legislative and county commission candidates to live in district where they plan to serve at the time they declare their candidacies.

Republicans express great concern about the residency of non-Republican candidates when they really need to protect one of their own. But when residency questions arise about their own people, especially one of their power players’ kids, such legal concerns go silent.


  1. Loren 2020-05-31

    Do I understand Crystal correctly? You have to elect her, first, in order to know where she will live? Cue Arte Johnson, “Berrrrrry interesting!” ;-)

  2. Donald Pay 2020-05-31

    I’ve been concerned about the issue of residency, because it seems to have a large socio-economic component that no one talks about. Residency issues affect opposite poles on the wealth spectrum differently, and there are cultural issues about residency that don’t get factored in.

    Let’s start with the rich. The wealthy elite often have two or more residences. The really rich, like Trump, will have residences in multiple states and even other countries. Even the moderately wealthy have vacation homes or work residencies. I don’t know how it is now, but well-off East River residents owned property in the Black Hills area. When you are wealthy, you get to choose your residency. You can vote wherever you decide to register to vote, and you can run for office anywhere you register. You don’t even have to be a resident to buy the politicians out from under their own constituents. For the wealthy, there is no such thing as “residency.” A rich businessman can buy himself a seat at the table, and can run for office even if he lives elsewhere most of the year.

    For the middle class, it’s pretty clear. You don’t think much about residency for voting because you live in your home and that is the address you use to register to vote. You might move once or twice in your life, and each time you register to vote where you live. Your residency is determined largely by what the bank says you can borrow.

    For the poor, it’s much more complicated. Poor folks often move a lot. The average poor person moves every year or two. The lucky poor might hit on a good landlord and cheap housing and stay five years or longer. Others live with relatives for a few months, find a roommate or sweetie and move in there, have a problem and move back to family, then rent an apartment. All this might happen in a year. What does “residency” mean to that person? It’s a dream that he ain’t living.

    There is a lot of movement between reservations and communities because of jobs and cultural issues. A white person might consider his work residence his “residence.” If you live for a time in Denver or Rapid City because it’s where your job is currently, you might actually consider your “residence” to be on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

    Then, of course, there are the out-of-state residents who are South Dakota residents for tax purposes. They might live in a van down by the river, but the river is called Rio Grande.

    My daughter has lived in Beijing for over a 14 years, Her voting residence is South Dakota, though she is much like me in despising the state’s politics. I don’t think she votes for much there, other than for President. I’m not sure if she has a South Dakota photo ID anymore, and she gave up her account in a South Dakota bank recently. But she has attachment to the land and issues in South Dakota, which is why she considers South Dakota “home.” That’s why she votes there, even though I tell her she should “move” to Wisconsin so her vote would mean more to the electoral vote.

  3. grudznick 2020-05-31

    Where do homeless people register to vote? What if you are homeless right near the line between Pennington and Lawrence counties? This is kind of a question in line to what Mr. Pay is saying. I guess home is where the heart is, and nobody’s heart is in a van down by the river except young Dr. Boz.

    In what precinct are homeless people registered to vote? Perhaps whatever one they want to register in, just like those RV people. I’m just askin…

  4. John 2020-05-31

    Some, few, public jobs should have a residency requirement. Those are jobs that act, in whole or in part, on community policing – whether cops, prosecutors, or major civil administrators (mayors, council members, county council representatives, elected officials. There is no other way to achieve a community relevance than by living within. A residency requirement for those merely performing ministerial functions is unnecessary – treasurer, auditor, snow plow driver.

    Here’s the antithesis. Only 8% of Minneapolis cops live in Minneapolis. 8%. Lowest ratio of any major city. One cannot establish community policing when virtually the entire force does not live in the community.

  5. Donald Pay 2020-05-31

    There’s a Congressman from Wisconsin named Grothman (R-Mommy’s Basement) who lives, as indicated, in his Mom’s basement. No, kidding. He’s gotta be in his late 40s with a big beer belly, and he’s Single, Girls!!!! I guess I haven’t checked his address or marriage status lately. You would think he’s gotten a step up in life now with his fancy federal government job, but he was living with Mommy through much of his state legislative career. This guy us what you get when having an R is all you need.

  6. grudznick 2020-05-31

    Mr. Pay, I realize this might come as a shock. There are some fellows like that in the South Dakota legislatures today. You can clutch your head and gasp “nooo” all you want but I’m telling you. Yes!

  7. Donald Pay 2020-05-31

    Oh, Grudz, I believe you, believe me, I believe you. Can you let us know who’s still sucking from his Mommy’s teat, or would that violate some commonsense conservative ethics code? This Grothman guy has a haircut kind of like Cory’s nemesis in Aberdeen. He’s blonde, though, and when he gets his panties in a bunch he turns red. But now I’m getting catty.

  8. Curt 2020-05-31

    Cory – Would you like to reveal those members who fit Grudznick’s profile of 2020 SD Legislators? I know, you know, even Grudz knows.

  9. Debbo 2020-06-01

    It seems that many years ago, perhaps when I was here for grad school in the 90s, Minneapolis decided they had to give up the residency requirement for cops or they couldn’t fill positions. Or else it was to get them to accept less pay. I don’t recall. Whatever the reason was, it was a really bad idea.

    I’m sure that’s one of the many things that are going to be looked at as part of coming police reform. AG Ellison and Public Safety Director (forgot) conducted a several months long series of sessions across the state getting suggestions for law enforcement reform from citizens. They had drawn up plans based on that and plans to present, then COVID-19. Pfffft.

    Now it’s back in play. It’s going to be interesting.

  10. Donald Pay 2020-06-01

    I’m not arguing here that everyone has to have a different address than their parents. I actually think extended families that live together is just fine. Sometimes rural folks do that. There are religious and cultural groups that tend toward extended family living in close proximity. Poor folks often have to do that out of necessity. I don’t mean to make light of how people choose to or have to live.

    When such arrangements are used for political expediency, it is a bit galling.

  11. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr., 2020-06-01

    The first sign of a banana republic is when the rule of law is only used to the advantage of the establishment. The second sign of a banana republic is when the rule by men, or a few, is used to protect the establishment. When it comes to the GOP in South Dakota, I think it is fair to say that we have now advanced to the second sign.

    So now, I know why a president of the state senate can also serve as the state ag secretary, RV owners from Texas can vote in South Dakota elections, and state’s attorney candidates from Lincoln County can run in Minnehaha County.

    I find it also fascinating, that our Republican leadership in this state is worried about out-of-state protesters coming to our state, but don’t fear out-of-state citizens voting in our state’s elections. Perhaps, this is an other example of the rule of a few helping to protect the establishment.

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