Word travels fast across this state in political circles. And the word right now is that the PUC appointments of Chris Nelson and Kristie Fiegen made this past year by Governor Dennis Daugaard are very much still up in the air when it comes to potential rivals choosing to get in or stay out and the likelihood of delegates to the 2012 GOP convention in Sioux Falls staying uncommitted for an extended period of time.
The four year term (AKA Dusty’s seat): In Chris Nelson’s case the talk is that he is very concerned about facing a strong challenger from the delegate rich Minnehaha/Lincoln County area. The convention delegates have changed quite a lot since he won the nomination for Secretary of State in 2002. Ten years is a long time in politics, and last year he lost a congressional primary race to a relatively unknown Kristi Noem. In that race, Nelson showed a lack of direction early on and gave the appearance that his hand was forced by announcing his candidacy the day after Blake Curd had officially announced he was running for the nomination.
At the 2010 convention in Huron, then state senator Jason Gant hailed from Sioux Falls and was able to garner an insurmountable percentage of delegate support from his home area. Of the 61 delegates representing Minnehaha at the 2010 convention, Gant received support from 49 for the GOP nomination for Secretary of State, representing over 30,000 of the 38,000 votes from that one county. That is an incredible number when a candidate only needs to receive about 100,000 votes to win. This advantage is even more striking when Lincoln County delegates are factored in, totaling nearly 50,000 votes between the two Sioux Falls counties.
The hard part for Nelson’s opponent would be to capitalize on that potential.
This is why talk around the state in political circles makes a potential run by state senator, Shantel Krebs, the perfect storm confronting Chris Nelson at the convention in 2012. When you factor in her very outgoing personality, she could make Nelson’s habitually low profile campaign a weakness in the race once again. The possibility of a credible challenge starts to look very real.