More on Senate Bill 40: Primary versus Convention – a comparison

As I got thinking about it in debating the merits of Senate Bill 40, which proposes to put the constitutional offices (except Lt Gov) to a vote of their party members at large, I thought it would be interesting to look at the public offices in South Dakota where we select the partisan candidates in a primary election process to represent those parties in the November election, and those we select at the Republican or Democrat State Conventions.

US Senate – Primary
US House – Primary
Governor – Primary

Lt. Gov – Convention
Atty General – Convention
Secretary of State – Convention
State Auditor – Convention
State Treasurer – Convention
School & Lands – Convention
Public Utilities Commission – Convention

State Senate – Primary
State House – Primary
Circuit Court Judge – Primary (if more than 2 for each seat)
County Commissioners – Primary
State’s Attorney – Primary
Sheriff – Primary
County Auditor – Primary (and/or county finance officer)
County Treasurer – Primary
Register of Deeds – Primary
Coroner – Primary (appointment after 2023 per HB 1057)

Did I miss any?

For public offices, we select around 15 or more in a primary process, depending on how many commissioners and judges are up in a given year.  The parties (party offices, not public) also select a National Committeeman & Woman at their respective conventions. But, the party’s Precinct Committeemen and Women, and at-large convention delegates may also be selected at primary.  And only from 1 PUC member (as we will in 2024) up to around 7 or 8 in 2026 are selected as part of the convention process.

If you think about it, the argument against the constitutional offices being decided by the voters in a primary is largely being made by precinct people.. who themselves are chosen in a primaryI imagine they would be the first people against precinct committee positions being chosen and filled by a small group of party insiders.  So we’ll see the arguments that are made when the debate is to put some statewide officeholders on the same playing field as they are. 

Food for thought.

25 thoughts on “More on Senate Bill 40: Primary versus Convention – a comparison”

  1. Amen, PP! If a candidate can’t hold up in a primary, should they really be on the general ballot?

    1. It’s why I think Democrats objections are a bit disingenuous. They want to be able to fill open positions with a convention. Either they want to be a major political party, or a third party.

      If they actually are a major political party, run a candidate. They’ve managed it before. Not so sure why it represents such a hurdle now.

      1. I wouldn’t say you don’t make good points Pat but it’s a SD tradition. We don’t have to do things like everyone else.

        And a private organization should be able to nominate how they want.

        1. In the past, we voted for all on these in a primary election.. and at times national committeeman, committeewoman, and even state party chair.

  2. The last batch of precinct committee men and women made it clear they don’t believe the primary voters nominated the correct people, that’s why they voted against the resolution of support for the top of the ticket. One woman even said she had tried voting in the primary, “and it didn’t work.”

    Weibel testified that the majority of primary voters are too ignorant to correctly nominate candidates for these statewide offices.

    It’s interesting that our current secretary of state secured her nomination by recruiting a lot of delegates who believe the voters are choosing the wrong people, including themselves.

    1. Our current Secretary of State secured her nomination by working her tail off crisscrossing the state and campaigning in a way to reach and speak with as many voters as possible. And that’s how you win elections.

      1. no, Monae secured the nomination by hiring Dave Roetman to recruit the most disaffected, angry people he could find to fill precinct committee positions.

  3. Great points, PP. The point about precent committee people being elected in a primary is right on. Hope the Legislature gets this right.

    1. The precinct committee persons are elected to their positions at the same time other candidates are nominated by primary. The June event is not a primary for committee persons. It is their election. The primary candidates (state, local and US) are nominated at the same time the committee persons are elected to save time and money. Nominees for state, local and US offices must advance to the general election and be elected by eligible voters of all parties. This sequence puts the party structure in place to support party candidates leading up to the general election. Its a sound system that works. Getting these grass roots committee persons elected and involved in the very powerful duty of nominating Constitutional officers at the Party Convention later in June is critical to keeping the base fired up and active. Divorcing them from this process as Senate Bill 40 does is a huge political error that will further divide and weaken the party and cause many of our best and most dedicated members to become disenchanted. We are much better served by a wild demonstration of democracy attended by hundreds than a 2026 convention held in a booth in the back of Murphey’s Bar. Passage of SB40 would be great news for any viable Democrat candidate in the 2026 election cycle. Vote No on Senate Bill 40!

  4. I will still win my precinct race, no matter who David “28%” Roetman puts against me. Looking back, the people claiming that other people are “RINOs” don’t often win their contested precincts, and if they do, it is typically by a slim margin. Shawn Tornow only won by 23 votes. Tonchi Weaver lost her race. Taffy Howard only won because it was a 4 way race, her neighbors voted for Rep Johnson for 2 more years. Very interesting to see who the voters closest to these candidates think the RINOs really are.

  5. You are going to make it a lot harder financially for a person to become a party’s candidate for a constitutional office. It will cause them to have to probably raise twice as much money because they have to buy ads for two campaigns. And as you know Pat the constitutional candidates don’t raise very much money.

    This past convention we had a contested Lt Gov race, according to your post that wouldn’t change. Why not include Lt Gov too if the primary is the best way of picking a candidate? We also had a contested race for SOS where an incumbent got booted out which made a lot of his supporters mad and want to change the system. If you recall a few years ago at convention, Shantel Krebs challenged an incumbent SOS who was doing an inept job in office. She was a very good choice.

    Are the proponents of this bill saying that Marty Jackley was not a good candidate because he was chosen at convention? How about other former AGs like Janklow or Mark Mierhenry, Larry Long or Mark Barnett? Or past SOSs Joyce Hazeltine, Alice Kundart, Chris Nelson, were these not good at their jobs? Is not Rich Sattgast, Josh Haeder, Gary Hanson, Kristie Fiegen and Chris Nelson doing good jobs?

    Then why change the selection process because some people got mad when their candidate lost?

    1. That’s a lot of scare tactics for something that hasn’t happened.

      If all Republicans got to vote, candidates would have to run better campaigns at the worst, and as always, the best candidates would win. Plus, they couldn’t wait until the day before the vote to jump in.

      Not much of an argument to demand that they be continue to be chosen by so few.

      1. Pat, would you please tell me what the all the “scare tactics ” are that I used? Sounds to me that you are just trying to muddy the waters. I named off a lot of people who I consider competent and were all nominated at convention. Don’t you think they were?

        If you have an issue with somebody jumping into a race at the last day before convention than change the by-laws to have them announce earlier. Btw, at the 2022 convention, those individuals who jumped in at the last minute all lost. It did make for a little excitement though.

    2. anonymous at 11:33 people are not mad that Steve Barnett wasn’t nominated. It was the way Monae’s Insane Clown Posse behaved at the committee meetings and during the report of the resolutions committee. They wanted to raid the party treasury, weaponize the platform, and then declared they would not support the top of the ticket. In front of the media, almost half the convention’s delegates stood up to declare they were not supporting the election of Thune, Noem and Johnson.

      In 2020, the same cohort led by Taffy Howard voted AGAINST a resolution celebrating the Republican Party’s origins in the abolitionist movement and its ownership of the Emancipation Act.

      In 2018, Lance Russell’s Insane Clown Posse was obnoxious and disrupted that year’s convention, littering the venue and the Governor’s Dinner with negative campaign materials and complaining about the rules.

      In 2014, the insaner wing of the Republican Party voted for a resolution calling for the impeachment of President Obama, without cause. The press couldn’t wait to report on that display of idiocy,

      The topic of how to deal with these people who go to conventions just to cause trouble has been discussed for years. It didn’t come up only this year, it just got a lot worse. It needs to be fixed.

      1. Sorry Ann, they were mad and responded by saying “we have to change how we pick our candidates.” Your definition of people causing trouble and them working for their candidates and ideals are very different. Your candidate just got out worked and you are miffed about it.

  6. A little bit of irony in this bill being the fact that a small number of delegates at the convention aren’t allowed to voice their opinions, but a small body of elected people, 6-3 vote in a committee are able to voice their opinions? Yet the 6-3 vote gets a pass? We all understand the issue behind this bill, but the State Central Committee voted in January fairly about this bill.

  7. Help me out here Pat. The Governor candidate must pick their choice for Lt Gov and run in the primary as one on the ballot?
    And what exactly would we ever need another SD GOP convention for if SB40 passes?

    1. Charlie, reducing the convention to a 3 day campaign rally and fundraiser would work for me.
      That’s what the national convention is, and it’s a really good time.

      1. Yes though a huge change it would morph into exactly that in time.
        The general consensus is to change the rules for Lt. Governor picked by Gubernatorial candidate only so we wait and see what happens.

    2. Charlie – I would agree that the convention would become more of a rally and more specifically, an endorsement convention, as North Dakota has. All while opening up the process to MORE Republicans.

      Many of the reform proposals drastically reduce the number of participants at convention, and cutting people out of the process is not acceptable.

  8. Unintended Consequences
    The proponents of SB40 are trying to focus everyone’s attention on talking points they think will draw support, currently attempting to create a perception that some candidates for office (constitutional officers) are being given an unfair advantage that others are not allowed. YET, the bill as proposed blatantly discriminates against only some while letting other political parties select candidates for the same positions as before. That in itself should be a fatal flaw deserving a no vote.
    But I think this entire discussion is a misdirection, not the real problem or the real reason this is happening. It is a power struggle, and one side is trying to win by changing the rules.
    While I use Republican examples, all potical entites would have the same mechanisms.
    The individual elected Precinct people, by and large in most counties, do not run the county organizations for the two years between conventions..I disagree with that talking point on this thread. They do not plan the Lincoln day dinners nor run the booths at the fairs. Often the convention is the only time you see them. The County Committees work and input is being ignored by the proponents.
    This action will snowball into unintended conseuences that will likely cripple the party…with a likely outcome of completely changing the political landscape.
    The existing party setup and convention rules do add a layer of volunteer leaders (the County Committees) that play a vital role in recruiting and screening candidates for office…especially constitutional offices. Constitutional office candidates do run a different campaign than a legislative candidate. By having to woo the political leaders of each county we those candidates spend much more time with us and we get to vet them on a much deeper level than a campaign stop or a crackerbarrel…often they return several times to monthly meetings…and occasionally cracks in their armor surface and support can be gained or lost as the process matures. We are conducting a job interview and take that job seriously. Turning these races into media events will not necessarily draw quality candidates, Sometimes you need workhorses not movie stars.
    I believe SB40 disincentives’ those county leaders…We care and want a place to represent our constituents. We have taken the time to learn the issues and candidates.
    And frankly, when the theatrics happen is it better they be at the last minute in front of all the cameras where the uninformed voter can be misinformed….or at the convention where a grain of salt may exist to question the claims being made? This is another unintended consequence we would then face. Look at the recent national races in Pennsylvania or Georgia…poltical campaigns do not always produce good leaders.
    There is time to fix this right. A Knee jerk reaction is almost always wrong…this one is a mistake.

  9. in a large share of the elected county races in this state, the party primary winner ends up being the winner, through the poor performance of the sddp and/or lack of a challenger.
    what seems to be at stake in this fight, is whether the large-scale disinterest in participation we see in this state’s generally low turnouts, is validated with a low turnout primary OR sliding their proxy over to convention delegates who they also probably didn’t vote for.
    democrats push for the sdgop to copy them and have primaries open to those outside the party.
    what the gop should adopt is a more bicameral party governance. formalize a body of super-delegates who can officially adopt, reshape or discard what bubbles up from the delegate deliberations. it seems more efficient to me, and it quietly sets aside this or that delusion about sweeping mandates in a state that doesn’t seem to have any.

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