The South Dakota Democratic Party has failed to find a lawyer willing to jump at the chance to campaign for the impeachment-opened seat of Attorney General. Marty Jackley will thus re-ascend to the job he held for nine years under Governors Rounds and Daugaard without having to face the judgment of the general electorate.
Democrats convened yesterday in Fort Pierre to nominate candidates for statewide offices. They fielded candidates for all of the other nominatable statewide offices—Tom Cool for Secretary of State, Jeff Barth for Public Utilities Commission, John Cunningham for Treasurer, Stephanie Marty for Auditor, and Tim Azure for Commissioner of School and Public Lands—but no one stood for Attorney General.
I can understand the practical calculation that would deter good lawyers from tackling an experienced Attorney General sitting on a $300K campaign fund (as of May 18; Marty must have spent some of that on postcards and chicken dinners trying to keep Republican convention delegates from nominating another nimrod). But running a Democratic candidate against Marty Jackley would be an excellent opportunity to hold the Republican Party accountable for one of its greatest political failures of this century. Jason Ravnsborg, his incompetence and corruption in office, his killing of Joseph Boever, and his impeachment and conviction all constitute an open wound for the Republican Party. Forcing Marty Jackley to campaign would keep that wound open and weaken the Republican Party. A smart Democratic challenger would find ways to aggravate the dissenters in Jackley’s own party who opportunistically share the concern of many in the middle and left that the candidate endorsed by Queen Kristi Noem is bound to continue to cover up her corruption. A sharp Democratic campaigner could portray Marty Jackley not as the remedy for but another symptom of the chronic cronyism of a Republican Party that puts partisanship and power above public service. Sure, Marty isn’t as dumb as Jason, but he’s just as much a product of the political machine. Now’s the perfect time, a Democratic candidate could say, to escape that corruption and restore public trust by electing someone new as our Attorney General, someone who’s not an insider, someone who’s beholden to nothing but truth, justice, and the people of South Dakota.
But in failing to challenge Marty Jackley, the Democrats give the Republicans what the Republicans want: to let the grave wound of Jason Ravnsborg, his crimes, and his impeachment scab and scar to a faint rough mark that few will notice come November 8.