The selection of former US Attorney Randy Seiler of Fort Pierre as the Democratic candidate for state attorney general Friday raised the stakes for Republicans when they convene for their state convention this weekend in Pierre.
According to some Republican insiders, Jason Ravnsborg of Yankton was the frontrunner among delegates. He hasn’t tweeted about his candidacy since June 9, however. He has the least prosecuting experience in the field, serving as a volunteer in neighboring Union County. He has continued to campaign, sending flyers last week.
Ravnsborg (pronounced rouns-berg) previously announced endorsements from Republican National Committeeman Ried Holien, a former legislator from Watertown; current lawmakers Jordan Youngberg of Madison, Nancy Rasmussen of Hurley and Art Rusch of Vermillion; state’s attorneys from Haakon, Kingsbury, Brule, Fall River, Oglala Lakota, Yankton and Union counties; and sheriffs from many counties.
John Fitzgerald of Spearfish is the Lawrence County state’s attorney. His campaign slogan is, “Because experience matters.” He last tweeted Sunday about his candidacy. It showed a mailer listing endorsements from state’s attorneys for 29 counties, including Aaron McGowan of Minnehaha, Mark Vargo of Pennington, Christopher White of Brown, Kevin Krull of Meade and Jim Miskimins of Davison.
During the weekend Fitzgerald posted on Twitter: “Fitz v Seiler ~ Now that’s a Race.” He has recently highlighted photos of his family, his father a retired circuit judge, his grandchildren and his record of consecutive victories in state’s attorney elections starting in 1980.
State Sen. Lance Russell of Hot Springs, a former state’s attorney for Fall River County, is the third candidate. He recently won a primary election for his Senate seat and has to choose this week whether to continue seeking the Republican nomination for attorney general.
If Russell goes forward Saturday, he would have to relinquish his Senate candidacy. However, it’s unclear whether Republican leaders from his three counties of Pennington, Custer and Fall River could re-select him for the Senate seat if he doesn’t win the Republican candidacy for attorney general.
The fourth candidate was Charles McGuigan of Pierre. He is chief deputy to state Attorney General Marty Jackley, who lost June 5 to U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem for the Republican nomination for governor. Jackley can’t seek a third consecutive election for attorney general. McGuigan suspended his campaign for attorney general in March.
Noem hasn’t made publicly known her preference for attorney general. She also will declare her choice this week for lieutenant governor. Her campaign treasurer, Ted Hustead of Wall, is listed as a $500 contributor to Fitzgerald.
In 1986, Republican primary winner and later Gov. George S. Mickelson influenced Republican delegates to select Roger Tellinghuisen, the Lawrence County state’s attorney, rather than Michael Jackley, the Meade County lawyer (and father of Marty) and pre-convention frontrunner.
Pre-primary reports on campaign finances showed as of the mid-May filing deadline:
Fitzgerald raised $25,210 this year including a personal $10,000 loan to his campaign and spent $12,385;
McGuigan began the year with $4,707.55, raised zero this year and spent $1,196.50, including $850 to other candidates’ committees;
Ravnsborg began with $31,965, raised $50,480 this year and spent $19,189;
Russell began with $13,664; raised $10,515 this year and spent $16,066; and
Seiler raised $90,254 this year and spent $29,034. Seiler subsequently reported supplemental contributions of $4,500 through June 4.
Republican delegates officially meet Saturday to choose their candidate.
FIRST UPDATE: As of Monday morning, according to Noem campaign spokeswoman Brittany Comins, “Kristi has not weighed into the attorney general’s race at this point.”