The six year term (aka Steve Kolbeck’s seat):
Kristie Fiegen, Governor Daugaard’s appointment to replace Commissioner Steve Kolbeck (D), is considered by many to be “a stronger general election candidate than a convention primary candidate”. In short that statement represents the type of opinion Fiegen needs to change in the next five months. Several people with a broad convention base, well respected in party circles, were giving strong consideration to running for the position before Kolbeck unexpectedly stepped down earlier this year.
A convention primary is a totally different ball of wax than what most candidates and elected officials typically envision when they start this type of campaign. Fiegen, out of inter party politics since she stepped away following the 2001 legislative session, must be cognizant of her lack of familiarity with the party faithful. She will need to get out early and start locking up support. Her number one priority must be to keep anyone else from entering the fray, or she may find herself running against not one but two or three potential challengers — once one person crosses the line as a challenger, it provides cover for those who wish to run but hope to avoid disapproval from the Governor’s office.
There is speculation as to who the candidates will be that come forward, but I have it on good authority that at least one current member of the House of Representatives is leaning toward running. There are also a couple of other names that will be familiar to convention delegates.
Fiegen, comes across as friendly and smart, and if she puts in time getting to know the delegates, she will be a very difficult candidate to defeat for all but the upper tier of challengers. That said, at least one of the potential challengers already has the advantage of knowing delegates across the state.
In both (Nelson & Fiegen) cases, the questions will be 1) Can they make a convention challenge look like an uphill battle, 2) how will the Governor’s office respond if challengers truly do start to emerge, and 3) do the challengers have the star power to pull delegates away against the will of the Governor’s office?