KSFY’s Austin Goss got the scoop last night when he reported Ravnsborg’s confirmation that his pal and Division of Criminal Investigation director David Natvig will seek the Republican nomination for Attorney General. Just as importantly, Ravnsborg told Goss that he is “still weighing his options” with respect to his own bid for the nomination.
That’s a remarkable turnaround from actively recruiting convention delegates and sending zero signals that he would consider anything other than seeking the nomination at the June convention. Ravnsborg’s campaign website and online donation page remain active, but his personal announcement that Natvig will seek Ravnsborg’s job and that Ravnsborg is not committed to seeking the nomination himself, Ravnsborg’s first public comment since his impeachment and suspension, suggests he doesn’t want to risk a crushing defeat at the hands of Marty Jackley at convention and is looking for a way to save face.
But could this also be a desperate ploy to save his gainful employment? If Ravnsborg signals that he won’t seek reëlection, he takes some of the pressure off the Senate to convict him, remove him from office, and permanently disqualify him from future public office. He provides all those Trumpist delegates he’s lined up a way to campaign for their convention seats without having to defend their support for killer Ravnsborg. Instead they can pivot neatly to Natvig, who himself can take up the line Ravnsborg tried out in his eleventh-hour argument against impeachment: impeachment is a political put-up job weaponized by Governor Kristi Noem to stifle the Attorney General’s investigations into her corruption, and the A.G.’s office must remain independent of the Governor—i.e., not be handed to her chosen insider nominee Marty Jackley—to ensure those investigations continue. Natvig can campaign hard for the job without mentioning Ravnsborg, whose name Natvig does not mention in his campaign announcement.
Remove Ravnsborg as a voting issue, give delegates a clean alternative to Sanford-defending Jackley—if that gambit works, and if Natvig wins the general election, Natvig can take office next January and save Ravnsborg from having to move back to Yankton and write wills. Remember that Ravnsborg elevated Natvig from state’s attorney for Brule and Buffalo counties to DCI chief after Natvig and his wife poured $4,000 donations into Ravnsborg’s 2018 campaign. Natvig could move fellow Ravnsborg crony Tim Bormann into the DCI chair and name Ravnsborg his chief of staff, a position Ravnsborg created for donor and campaign staffer Bormann. Chief of staff would be ideal: Ravnsborg wouldn’t have to do anything important, and he wouldn’t have to do any lawyering and lose any more cases for the state. As chief of staff to Natvig, Ravnsborg could just sit and edit memos and keep pulling down $118,140.12 a year. He could hang around Pierre, travel to meetings and political events with Natvig, keep tabs on party players, and find ways to carry GOP water, all in hopes that, after eight years of quiet service, the party might forget all this nasty highway killing and sniveling malarkey and impeachment (which, he will remind those 2030 voters, ended in acquittal after he graciously bowed out of seeking reëlection) and nominate Jason for something else.
But that gambit’s success is a big if. Even if Natvig can keep shift the conversation from Ravnsborg, he still has to beat the well-connected, well-funded, widely endorsed Jackley machine. Jackley likely has more resources (i.e., money and friendly campaigners in each town and precinct to get out the primary vote) to help his delegates win their primary elections and claim their seats at convention.
Whatever the machinations, the good news remains: Jason Ravnsborg is sending his first clear signal that he recognizes he cannot win the Republican nomination and probably cannot win the general election with the death of Joseph Boever and his dishonesty afterward hanging around his neck.