Judicial elections don’t usually draw much interest. But Judge Kevin Krull’s withdrawal from the ballot has drawn lots of interest to the Fourth Circuit bench he’ll leave open.
Noem-appointee Krull pulled out of the Fourth Circuit election on July 5. At the time, Krull was one of four candidates for four positions in that Circuit, which keeps lawful and orderly the northwestern quadrant of the state—Butte, Harding, Butte, Lawrence, Meade, Perkins, Corson, Dewey, and Ziebach counties. Krull and the other three sitting Fourth Circuit judges—Michael W. Day, Michelle K. Comer, and Eric J. Strawn—all filed for another term, and no one filed petitions to challenge any of them, so there was no need for a primary or a general election.
Judicial elections are non-partisan, so when a candidate withdraws, no party has a right to name a replacement for that ballot slot. Aspiring jurists have until the second Tuesday in August to file nominating petitions with at least 50 signatures from voters in the circuit to take over ballot slots vacated after the primary.
And aspire they have! Magistrate Judge Chad R. Callahan, the judge who tried to keep Senator Gary Cammack’s drunk driving secret, filed to run for Fourth Circuit position D on July 7. Then this week, three more candidates filed: Jennifer Tomac on July 25, David V. Natvig on July 27, and Tina M. Hogue on July 29.
Jennifer Tomac practices law with her husband Jerad in Rapid City. Tina M. Hogue practices law solo as Monument Law in Rapid City. And David Natvig is the guy who got fired June 29 by Attorney General Mark Vargo because his only qualification for directing the Division of Criminal Investigation was kissing the keester of now-impeached killer Jason Ravnsborg. Radical Republican convention insurgents came within seven votes of nominating Natvig for Attorney General instead of GOP mainstay Marty Jackley. Now apparently to find work, Natvig has to move from Pierre and Kimball out to West River to rally his radical right-wing crony base to give him a judgeship.
Natvig appears to be leading his three opponents in campaigning for the job. He’s purged and retooled the Facebook page he used for his unsuccessful A.G. campaign in May and June, and he already has a photo of himself up sitting in Vale talking up voters on Thursday. Casual Googling produces no immediate hits for Callahan, Tomac, or Hogue.
That early campaigning could easily pay off: judges, like everyone else on the November ballot, are elected by plurality. In a four-way race at the bottom of the ticket, Natvig just has to get a few partisans who think scumbags like Ravnsborg should have been left in office to help rig the next election for Trump to keep his name at the top their minds when they get to the bottom of their ballots and move his cote count up a few ticks from the default 25% of chance to win the black robe.
If Hogue, Tomac, and Judge Callahan aren’t crony-partisans, if they want the Fourth Circuit to have judges more honest than a political climber who lied to legislators to protect a killer Attorney General, they might want to have a confab to decide which two of them are going to withdraw and endorse the remaining candidate to keep Natvig from carpetbagging his way onto their circuit’s bench.