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Jackley, Rhoden Nearly Lose Nominations; SDGOP Tosses Barnett, Picks Less Qualified Monae Johnson for Secretary of State

Jason Ravnsborg is gone, but the kakistocratic spirit that led his party to nominate him in 2018 (not to mention Trump in 2016 and 2020) over far more sensible choices remains. And the results of yesterday’s Republican convention in Watertown show that Kristi Noem, quite the kakistocrat herself, is the weakest South Dakota Republican Governor since Walter Dale Miller.

Four months ago, Noem endorsed Marty Jackley, a man who served nine and a half years as Attorney General and is widely recognized as the best man in his party to do the job. One month ago, impeached twit and killer Jason Ravnsborg announced the sudden candidacy of his crony David Natvig, who got his job directing the Division of Criminal Investigation with no law enforcement experience because he donated big to Ravnsborg’s 2018 campaign. Just four days before the convention nominations, we learned in Ravnsborg’s impeachment trial that Natvig lied to the House last February about his pal Ravnsborg’s abuse of office.

Jackley’s experience and the imprimatur of the sitting Governor and nearly every sensible prosecutor and cop in the state, as well as Natvig’s association with the most disgraced politician in South Dakota history, should have resulted in Jackley’s swift and easy third nomination for Attorney General. Yet the 687 delegates to the South Dakota Republican convention almost picked Natvig. Under the byzantine vote counting rules of South Dakota political conventions, Jackley squeaked onto the November ballot with 52.7% of the vote.

Noem then had to fight to protect her Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden from a challenge by Representative Steven Haugaard. Noem crushed Haugaard in the June primary 77% to 23%. Haugaard proved himself a lackluster campaigner who, like all the fringe right radicals of the past decade who have attempted to upset mainstream Republicans in statewide primaries (Gordon Howie, Lora Hubbel, Stace Nelson, Neal Tapio, Taffy Howard, Bruce Whalen) have proven unable to get past Fox News karaoke and organize effective campaigns. Haugaard jumped into the race for Lieutenant Governor the day before the nominations.

Haugaard backers claimed that the party needed Haugaard as LG to mend fences in the party, but you don’t get to storm into convention and demand concessions when your candidate pulled less than a quarter of the primary vote. Rather than mending fences, Haugaard would stoke division in the campaign: Noem is not a “team of rivals” kind of leader. She doesn’t handle disagreement well. Plus, Haugaard’s primary performance shows he’s just not that great a candidate. Slow-witted and brutish as he may be, Rhoden at least looks good in a hat next to Noem and affirms the West River Marlboro manliness to which her corn- and steak-fed male supporters aspire. Haugaard is a Sioux Falls lawyer, the opposite of the branding Kristi wants for her posters. Haugaard would also hand Democratic candidate Jamie Smith a heaping plate of primary-season criticisms to recycle for easy campaign material. The Republican Party isn’t about to admit that Larry Rhoden participated in the under-the-rug-sweeping of two Senators’ drunkenness on duty (not to mention the drinking itself), so replacing him mid-stream with Steven Haugaard is both unnecessary and unwise.

Yet even with Kristi Noem herself taking to the podium yesterday at the Watertown Ramkota to speak for Rhoden’s nomination, 44% of the weighted delegate count thought Haugaard would be a better running mate for Noem than Rhoden will be.

In the final rebuke to both mainstream authority and care for qualifications, the insurrectionist delegates scored one clear victory in throwing aside incumbent Secretary of State Steve Barnett and nominating likely Trumpist election rigger Monae Johnson. Barnett, perhaps the least robust scion of the politically powerful Barnett family, came to the Secretary of State’s job four years ago after two quiet terms as State Auditor. His management of the Secretary of State’s office has been inferior to that of his predecessor, the energetic, helpful, and alas-one-term Shantel Krebs, but his incompetence hasn’t risen to anything like the constant failure to perform that led the GOP to shove lazy one-term bumbler Jason Gant aside for Krebs in 2014 (back in the good old days when South Dakota Republicans still clung to some expectation of job performance, not just Election Day id-scratching). Barnett hasn’t done anything to scandalize Republican voters. Good grief, he even helped prevent Indians from registering to vote! Republicans ought to love that disenfrachisement!

Yet Monae Johnson, who claims to have worked for three previous Secretaries of State but who seems not to have done any serious management on the Second Floor, was able to oust Barnett yesterday with 61% of the weighted delegate vote. Barnett seems to have coasted on his incumbency and SDGOP mainstreamery and not whipped his delegates. Johnson seems to have tapped the vote with her talk of “election integrity” and nonexistent “voter fraud”, which we know is code to the insurrectionist crowd for, “The elections we lose are all rigged, so I promise to rig the next election to make sure we win!”

Steve Barnett let a Trumpist insurgent with far fewer qualifications for public office beat him out of a second nomination for Secretary of State. Kristi Noem let the Haugaardian mugwumps in her party oust a reliable party boy from the field and place a less-qualified liability on the November ballot. Rather than consolidating her power, Kristi Noem has let the South Dakota Republican Party descend further into a mad detachment from the seriousness of winning elections and running state government.

Four years ago, South Dakota Republican delegates put impulses over qualifications and picked Jason Ravnsborg over two qualified and experienced prosecuting attorneys. That choice of the least qualified candidate led Republicans to the shame this year of having to conduct South Dakota’s first impeachment.

Noem and the Republican mainstream barely beat back those kakistocratic impulses yesterday in two contests that should not have happened, let alone have drawn over 40% for the challengers. Noem and the mainstream lost the Johnson-Barnett battle, which now puts South Dakota at risk of seeing its elections run by an ill-informeddistracted ideologue rather than an effective technocrat willing and able to focus on the practical business of running fair elections.

We cannot rely on Kristi Noem and her Republicans to nominate their best candidates for office… but we also can’t rely on Noem to say so and tell Republican voters to reject her convention’s substandard choice. As we saw with Ravnsborg in 2018, an R is an R, And Republicans will rally behind the worst of candidates.

Democrats, it’s now up to you to nominate a qualified candidate for Secretary of State and pour a million dollars into that campaign to protect the honest and accurate conduct of South Dakota’s elections.


  1. grudznick 2022-06-26 08:57

    Mr. H for State Secretary?

  2. grudznick 2022-06-26 08:59

    That announcement would come like a Rhoden gut punch to the exposed belly of the GOP. Do it! Show the overgodders what comes of their shenanigans! Do it!

  3. Amy B. 2022-06-26 09:14

    Can I just say that I think I would have laughed a bit if they had picked Haugaard to replace Rhoden. He is a terrible candidate but the dynamic between him and part time governor Noem would have been entertaining. Personally I have never seen Rhoden say or do really anything… but that seems to be what Kristi wants…. silent “yes” men.

  4. larry kurtz 2022-06-26 09:16

    It is a surprise that the Earth hating SDGOP delegates would reject Barnett even after he called our leadership communists.

  5. P. Aitch 2022-06-26 10:51

    When you analyze the appearance of Republicans gathered it’s nearly impossible not to see people who weren’t good in school, especially history.
    – It’s because this national political group of the undereducated haven’t learned from the past that they now want “states’ rights”.
    – This isn’t the first time in USA that states’ rights have come forward.
    – The same result will manifest.
    – Poor states, like South Dakota, will swell with pride because they now have power to institute policy that doesn’t equally serve all citizens.
    – After that false pride diminishes what always happens is poor states are isolated and quickly become run down and worn out.
    – The rich states now have zero obligation to spend tax money trying to “raise the boats” of poor states and that certainly doesn’t harm rich states.
    – In short, poor states like South Dakota eventually realize that America at its core is a group project and equality has fundamental purpose.
    – Until that realization poor states just wallow and swallow within their mud puddles of inequality.

  6. Bob Newland 2022-06-26 13:07

    It’s internecine wafare. The blunt-headed frogs are eating the naked mole rats. It’s what happens when you allow natural habitats to be destroyed.

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-06-26 13:41

    There’s a tricky thing about this story, Amy B. I totally buy the Haugaard faction’s argument that Noem surrounds herself with yes-men and that South Dakota would benefit from having a group of leaders with more diverse opinions. So had I been a GOP delegate, I’d have beens trongly inclined by that argument to vote for Haugaard. But I don’t think the Haugaard faction is after a real team of rivals or better public policy. They threw Haugaard into contention as a monkeywrench, a signal of their willingness to hijack the convention to try to assert their power rather than any real political/philosophical motivation.

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-06-26 13:41

    Grudz, I would love to be Secretary of State, and I’d be darn good at it.

    However, I am not able to accept the nomination this year.

  9. Mark Anderson 2022-06-26 17:11

    All you have to do is listen to Kristi Noem on This Week today. She read from her script and did not answer one question. It was ridiculous and ridiculously inane. Listen to AOC on Meet the Press for forceful and intelligent answers. Particularly after the Governor of Arkansas was playing down the Republican rhetoric in a particularly dog catches the tire moment. Noem needed a much better “performance” than that to attract the eye of Trump.

  10. Curt 2022-06-26 18:21

    It appears Ms Monae Johnson has spent some time carrying Elephant Water for the GOP as a leader in the Republican Women’s organization and has been employed as the receptionist in Chris Nelson’s SOS Office. Google says she is currently employed as a receptionist at the Gunderson-Palmer Law Firm in RC. Oh, and the mother of six and grandmother of four claims to have been a Life Member of the NRA since age 18. Seems to be highly qualified.

  11. Bob Newland 2022-06-26 20:01

    Larry, and other interested parties: The SDLP would have nominated Kurt Evans for AG had he had a law degree. While knowledge of the law is obviously not necessary, the degree is. So, Jackley,, who is the scion of a miserable PoS former Meade County SA, and a PoS in his own right, is unopposed. And so it goes.

  12. Bill Steinlicht 2022-06-26 20:06

    Is there any way to get the elections results from each county for the Republican convention and who were the delegates from each county casting ballots?

    bill steinlicht

  13. Bob Newland 2022-06-26 20:06

    Ms Johnson will likely require a loyalty-to-her pledge from salaried staff prior to their continued employment next January.

  14. grudznick 2022-06-26 20:20

    My good friend Bob is righter-than-right. The loyalty pledges are already circulating in the dark alleyways. At least two of the makers-of-rain are running shreaking into the woods of Ft. Pierre. Ms. Monae is going to have a lot of turf to hoe all by herownself, I suspect.

    Bob, it is time for you to announce as a Libertarian, in the General. Convene another convention, get Lar to annoint you.

  15. Kurt Evans 2022-06-26 20:59

    Cory writes:

    Under the byzantine vote counting rules of South Dakota political conventions, Jackley squeaked onto the November ballot with 52.7% of the vote.

    An anonymous commenter on another blog writes:

    Actually, I believe Natvig got more singular votes than Jackley. It was the weighted voting that tipped it to Jackley.

    It would be interesting to see those numbers.

  16. Kurt Evans 2022-06-26 22:00

    Bob Newland writes:

    The SDLP would have nominated Kurt Evans for AG had he had a law degree. While knowledge of the law is obviously not necessary, the degree is. So, Jackley … is unopposed.

    I left a voice message for Mike Moore on Thursday asking him to run as a Democrat. It’s kinda funny because I hated that guy 20 years ago when he was prosecuting Nathan Barton rather than the cop who attacked him.

  17. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-06-27 07:53

    Michael Moore, the guy who ran interference for Ravnsborg? No—I’d vote for Jackley again in that contest, same as I voted for Jackley when Libertarians nominated conman Chad Haber in 2014.

  18. DR 2022-06-27 08:14

    The Drew Dennert wing of the republican party did its job Saturday. Basically anyone who voted Steve Haugaard in the primary was a delegate to the convention. As one delegate pointed out to me, they didn’t vote they way the people the represent would have wanted to. Its unfortunate, and if the dems want a shot at a statewide office, SOS is it.

  19. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-06-27 08:18

    Bill, SDGOP has released those raw vote counts to Dakota War College, which publishes the numbers in these hard-to-read screen caps. (Open each in a separate tab, and you can zoom in for legibility.)

    Straight vote counts:
    —Rhoden 389 (59.2%), Haugaard 268 (40.8%)
    —Jackley 366 (53.7%), Natvig 316 (46.3%)
    —Johnson 410 (60.2%), Barnett 271 (39.8%)

    The weighting thus did not differ substantially from the raw counts.

  20. John Dale 2022-06-27 08:19

    I spoke with both candidates and vetted them personally. I’m not sure Johnson is “less qualified”.

    She could be very good for election integrity in SD, which we all want.

  21. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-06-27 08:21

    Curt, I’d like more detail on Monae’s work background. Did she ever do anything other than receptionist in the SOS office? Did she eveer handle any actual election duties?

  22. Dicta 2022-06-27 13:33

    If she’s elected, whats the over under betting line on number of lawsuits she causes?

  23. Dennis R Wagner 2022-06-27 17:23

    The SD state Democratic Party ought to nominate, at its upcoming state convention, Shantel Swedlund Krebs, a universally-respected, competent, experienced candidate for secretary of state.

  24. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-06-27 17:34

    Dennis, do you think Shantel would (a) leave her gig as Miss America pageant CEO to run South Dakota’s elections again and (b) accept the nomination of Democrats to do so?

    While we’re considering the prospect, would Democrats nominate rock-star candidate Shantel Krebs over a loyal, willing, but likely less known and less electable Democrat?

  25. Dennis R Wagner 2022-06-27 17:40

    Cory- I have no idea whether Shantel would accept a convention draft. But even if she wouldn’t, nominating her would prove to the SD electorate that competence and integrity is more important than party loyalty especially when it comes to administration of our elections.

  26. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-06-27 17:41

    DR, I am concerned that Johnson’s resume on the Gunderson Palmer website indicates she didn’t get any management experience working for Nelson or Krebs. Plus, her campaign website says “I have had the privilege to serve under 3 Secretaries of State, and worked with 3 Governors and 3 Attorney’s General,” but the Gunderson Plamer profile says she worked for Nelson and Krebs but doesn’t list the third SOS.

  27. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-06-27 19:29

    Dennis, you make a fair point about the statement the SDDP and Krebs could make about the importance of real election integrity taking priority over the coded partisan fantasies motivating Monae and her “concerned citizens” (where “concern” is code for “worried brown people are going to get elected”). I am open to a Krebs nomination.

  28. Kurt Evans 2022-06-30 21:23

    I’d written:

    I left a voice message for Mike Moore on [June 23] asking him to run [for attorney general] as a Democrat.

    Cory writes:

    Michael Moore, the guy who ran interference for Ravnsborg?

    No, the guy who defended consistent application of the law in the face of intense political pressure from both major parties.

    I’d vote for Jackley again in that contest, same as I voted for Jackley when Libertarians nominated conman Chad Haber in 2014.

    I also voted for Marty Jackley in 2014, but that was before his corrupt cronies flagrantly abused their power trying to silence Laura Kaiser by arbitrarily delaying her $1.5 million payout until after the 2018 primary.

    Democrats would have to nominate a really bad candidate to make me do it again.

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