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SB 40: Governor Picks LG; Conventions No Longer Nominate AG and SOS

Boy, South Dakota Republicans are really mad about the mugwumps who hijacked their convention last summer. Not only is the SDGOP Central Committee meeting this Saturday in Pierre to yank the convention voting privileges of the precinct committeepeople who raise a ruckus at convention but then don’t do their campaign duties in the fall, but now Republican legislators are proposing a bill to make sure the radical fringe can’t usurp key statewide offices by stacking the convention vote.

Last summer, radical right-wingers at the Republican convention replaced sitting Secretary of State Steve Barnett with underqualified election denier and theocrat Monae Johnson as the Republican nominee for that office. Those radicals also nearly upset the party favorites for nomination as Attorney General and Lieutenant Governor.

Senate Bill 40 would eliminate the possibility of such convention upsets by removing lieutenant governor, attorney general, and secretary of state from the offices subject to nomination at party convention. Under SB 40, candidates for governor would unilaterally pick their running mates. Candidates for attorney general and secretary of state would circulate petitions to make the ballot, just like candidates for governor, U.S. House, and U.S. Senate. SB 40 does cut those AG and SOS candidates some slack: they would need to collect half as many signatures as those required for the marquee statewide candidates. Practically speaking, given the turnout for the 2022 gubernatorial election, Republicans running for AG or SOS would have to collect 1,086 signatures; Democrats, 616; and independents, 1,751. If more than one member of a given party files for AG or SOS, those candidates would duke it out in a partisan primary.

Evidently, the mainstream Republican sponsors of SB 40 believe they have a better chance of securing the nomination of their party favorites in a statewide primary than in the Ramkota ballroom. Based on the poor organizing skills and primary performance of radical right-wingers challenging GOP favorites in primaries, I’d say they are right.

And I say hooray to any measure that gives more voters more chances to vote on more offices. Why should we let party insiders have exclusive say over who gets to be on the ballot for these vital statewide offices? Requiring candidates for attorney general and secretary of state to face the voters from the start instead of focusing their early efforts on lobbying party delegates will make for a more open, democratic process… and it may help us prevent the ascension of more kakistocrats like Monae Johnson and Jason Ravnsborg to statewide offices for which they are not qualified.

Letting the Governor pick her own running mate may seem to violate my “let the people vote” principle, but in this case, I’d say a governor ought to be able to choose her own running mate. The current system of nominating LG at convention only opens the door to insider troublemaking at convention and isn’t democratic to start with. Let the governor run with an ally as running mate, and let the voters have more say on those other two independent offices.


  1. larry kurtz 2023-01-09 08:27

    Well maybe. Watching the SDGOP eat its young makes me happy.

    Primaries are expensive so the South Dakota Democratic Party should end them and choose candidates at their state conventions. In my home state of South Dakota, Democrats total 151,029, unaffiliated voters tally 144,106 but the Earth haters have registered nearly 300,000. So, not running someone, anyone, against Republican At-large US Representative Howdy Doody Dusty Johnson in 2020 and again in 2022 are more embarrassments for the South Dakota Democratic Party who hasn’t won a statewide race since 2008.

  2. Jad 2023-01-09 09:00

    If it is a primary to pick PARTY candidates, why do taxpayers foot the bill? This seems to be a PARTY expense.

  3. Mark Anderson 2023-01-09 09:10

    Why bother with the general election? Just jerrymand everything in America and let it be a party vote. The technology is there. Save money, save on endless court cases. Of course then stop blue states from funding the red rural states.
    Unfortunately that is already how nearly everything is decided in primaries and the general election.

  4. buckobear 2023-01-09 09:52

    Sure would make sense that these offices were subject to a non-partisan election.

  5. O 2023-01-09 12:10

    I’ll go one step further than Jad, why do we have ANY laws on the books about ANY actions parties can take? They are not public entities.

  6. P. Aitch 2023-01-09 14:08

    If the “radical right-wingers” outsmarted the dullards at their last convention, it’s a pretty safe bet the “radical right-wingers” will outsmart the dullards at their next convention, too. Any forward thinking among the “dulls”? What do you think?

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2023-01-09 19:20

    P, I think the mugwumps didn’t so much outsmart the mainstreamers as briefly outmuscle them against the weakest of the three party favorites. Haugaard wasn’t going to beat Noem’s LG Rhoden no matter how smart he played the game. Natvig appears to be a feckless butt-kisser like his patron Ravnsborg; neither of them would ever beat Jackley in a fair fight. Monae lucked out in throwing the core Trump slogan (“Elections are rigged!”) at the weakest of the contested GOPers, the lackluster Steve Barnett who seems to have assumed keeping his sinecure would not require major effort and who just happened in the course of his reasonable policymaking to step on the landmine of suggesting South Dakota could use technology to improve voter registration. Monae didn’t think up a brilliant campaign strategy; she just copied and pasted Trumpist baloney and happened to have an opponent who didn’t fight hard enough against her.

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2023-01-09 19:22

    Buckobear, yes! Secretary of State, as chief elections officer, ought to be nonpartisan. Attorney General as chief law enforcement officer ought to be nonpartisan (sheriffs, too, for that matter). Actually, why not make all of the elections non-partisan? Stop carving out a special place for any political party on the ballot, in the organization of the Legislature, or in state law.

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