COUNTERPOINT | Who's afraid of precinct people?
Guest column by Rep. Scott Odenbach
A bill with the potential to radically change South Dakota’s political landscape has been introduced this session that would throw out our time-tested tradition of choosing statewide candidates. It should be opposed by all those who would preserve our Republican form of government.
Unlike Senate Bill 13 which would change state law to let the candidate for Governor choose his/her own Lieutenant Governor, which most everybody supports, House Joint Resolution 5001 would clutter the November ballot with an unnecessary constitutional amendment requiring all non-judicial statewide nominees to be selected during the primary election, rather than chosen by the convention delegates as has been done since 1917.
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Currently SDCL 12-5-21, states:
“The state convention shall nominate candidates for lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, state auditor, state treasurer, commissioner of school and public lands, and public utilities commissioner and in the years when a President of the United States is to be elected, presidential electors and national committeeman and national committeewoman of the party.”
VIEWPOINT: Who's gonna fill their boots?
Using this tried and true method, we’ve elected Attorneys General such as Bill Janklow, Mark Meierhenry, Mark Barnett and Marty Jackley; Secretaries of State such as Gladys Pyle in 1927, Alice Kundert in 1979, Joyce Hazeltine in the 1980’s; Monae Johnson in 2022, and long-time public servant and good guy Chris Nelson (who may hold the world record for attending Lincoln Day dinners); School and Public Lands Commissioners such as Jarrod Johnson, Brock Greenfield and Ryan Brunner; Auditors like Alice Kundert and Vern Larson; Public Utilities Commissioners like Kristie Fiegen and Gary Hanson; and Treasurers including Rich Sattgast and Josh Haider.
Not a bad record of good public servants in my opinion. And not a system that is broken or needing radical change.
HJR 5001 is a continuation of the outrage expressed by some in the establishment wing of the GOP because too many movement conservatives showed up and caused trouble for their favored candidates at the last convention. To fix the situation, they’d upend decades of grass-roots involvement by “We the People” of South Dakota, replacing it with more expensive, nasty, statewide primaries, cutting off their nose to spite their face while enriching campaign consultants. A never-ending deluge of postcards, ads, robo-calls and signs would follow every two years. All for a bill that had so little support in the legislature last year that it’s now been resurrected this session as a constitutional amendment. If every losing bill is just later referred to the voters, why have session every winter?
A few headlines from the past few years illustrate the high stakes:
“George Soros’ quiet overhaul of the U.S. justice system” (Politico, August 30, 2016);
“How George Soros funded progressive ‘legal arsonist’ DAs behind US crime surge” (NY Post, December 18, 2021).
“George Soros’ prosecutors wage war on law and order” (Heritage Foundation, June 22, 2023);
Who really believes that in a small state like South Dakota, we’re better off letting big corporate donors or out of state interests bankroll and select their favored candidate(s) for our statewide offices rather than local party activists who live here and care about their respective platforms and party principles? Precinct people personify “educated voters,” as they are some of the most involved individuals amongst the electorate. They have put themselves out there to run for office to be able to participate at the convention.
I haven’t spoken to one voter who is asking for this. They want us to protect property rights, balance economic growth with preservation of our land and water, and cut taxes. This is a manufactured crisis by politicos who think they can get their way by buying future elections. Who really thinks that a good candidate for Attorney General should have to raise a minimum of $500,000 just to compete with the favored candidate of an establishment able to raise that kind of money with a few phone calls? Who would ever run for Commissioner of School and Public Lands if they needed to come up with hundreds of thousands of dollars just to get in the ring? Who’s ready for Summit Carbon to spend $2 million against Kristie Fiegen next time so they can force their way through our PUC?
All people who love our South Dakota way of life should call their legislators and demand a NO vote on HJR 5001.