While sad and unfortunate, Jason Ravnsborg’s path forward as Attorney General has reached a conclusion, and a new chapter should begin.

I find this a particularly challenging column to write, because I don’t know anyone involved in the GOP who wishes anything ill for Attorney General Ravnsborg. I and many others have always found him to be a good and decent person.

And like many others, I only want good things for Jason moving forward. He’s an intelligent and thoughtful man who has found success in various aspects of his life, especially in his military career. But I do not think he’s going to find further success in politics.

It has been evident for quite some time, and I think there are others who would agree that his path forward for another term of office as Attorney General in South Dakota is not in the cards.

An almost insurmountable challenge in running for another term as Attorney General was set in his path when he was involved in a traffic accident a year and a half ago which resulted in the death of Joe Boever.  It became even more challenging for him when former Attorney General Marty Jackley – a man who was almost Governor – decided to challenge him for the office, and quickly captured the base of law enforcement which put Ravnsborg in the office.

With the hearing in the House of Representatives this week, Jason finds himself as the only official since the inception of South Dakota as a state ever to be impeached by the House of Representatives.  And now a Senate trial is looming, one which will speak to whether he should be removed from office entirely, and has been scheduled to be held the very week of the Republican Convention.

Jason is not walking the path of someone who is destined to return to that office in January of next year.

There have been challenges for incumbents in the past at the Republican convention. Some successful. Some not. Delegates are recruited by candidates with aims of having them committed and feeling some sense of fealty to the people who have recruited them. You can count on some of those people being loyal. Maybe.

It’s said you can tell how a delegate will vote. Until they do. When it comes down to brass tacks in a GOP Convention fight, the argument has always come down to the successful candidate’s electability in the fall election.

When they choose who their candidate will be, in each and every convention I’ve been at since I started going in 1988 I’ve seen the delegates ponder one question in their minds: “Can this person win as our candidate for this office in the general election this next November?”  Because while the party nomination is among the GOP, the fall election isn’t just among Republicans. It’s among Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and the others who are registered to vote.

And in this instance, when Republican delegates look at the choice for the two current Republican contenders for Attorney General, Jason Ravnsborg and Marty Jackley, and question which one they have a better chance of winning the election with, I suspect most of them are not going to go with the person who was involved in a traffic accident where a person lost their life, and who was the only person in state history to be impeached in the House of Representatives for “certain crimes and malfeasance” in office.

The thing about the political life is that for 99% of people involved in it, it really isn’t forever. It will end at some point, and there will be another chapter that has nothing to do with being elected to something.  A person might try to drag it out as long as possible and get 2 more or 4 more years somehow. But, it’s going to come to an end eventually.

It’s at this point I suspect the Attorney General finds himself and is doing some soul searching on how best to proceed.

I’d say “change is hard.” And people avoid change. But I’d argue that if you see that change is coming like a freight train; if you can see that the end is coming no matter what you do, you might also do some soul searching as to “why are you prolonging something that you know is going to end?” Because sometimes it’s just better for a person’s own mental and spiritual health to just begin that next chapter.

You can’t control what other people think. But you can control what you do for yourself. Jason should find a path where he’s able to do what makes him happy and brings him success. I hope he is able to do that for himself and his own peace of mind.

But I don’t see that his path will have him appearing on the November ballot as the GOP’s nominee for Attorney General.

46 thoughts on “While sad and unfortunate, Jason Ravnsborg’s path forward as Attorney General has reached a conclusion, and a new chapter should begin.”

  1. Thanks for sharing, very well-written and reasoned. I pray Mr. Ravnsborg will also read it, and I wish him well.

    1. I agree. Well said, thoughtful and kind.

      I believe Jason would not have been impeached if he had resigned or said he wasn’t running again.

      1. He would not have been impeached if one conservative out of 3-4 didn’t flip.

        It was only one vote

    1. Jason says he wasn’t distracted. He says he looked at the speedometer, and Boever was in the roadway.

  2. PP, this is very well written and very true. This is just a chapter in his life. And as much as he and his closest advisors want to cling to the office (or power or paycheck or whatever), the reality is that even if not removed by the Senate, the climb is likely insurmountable. As I’ve said to others over the years when bad things happen… “This too shall pass.” And it will. Jason will eventually move on one way or another and hopefully find peace in his next chapter. There is life after politics and much of it is better and more rewarding. In my opinion, he has placed too much of his value and identity in being Attorney General. It’s the first thing he tells law enforcement when he’s pulled over. He wants to run for reelection and won’t even consider resigning. He wouldn’t show up for his own court appearances, or stand up in front of a camera and tell the public what happened and offer an apology to the victims. Instead, he seeks self-preservation and in his words ‘vindication’ — and he clings to the office.

    If I was advising him and he would seriously listen, I would tell him to call a press conference, apologize to the victims and the public, and then resign so as to not put the public through an impeachment trial. Be bigger than the moment even though you feel people are picking on you. They’re not – a man is dead and there is plenty of evidence that you were distracted. Own your mistakes. This too shall pass.

    1. Agree, and well said. He seems way too concerned about the criminal and legal aspects of the case, and overlooks he was responsible for the death of another human being. Sure you tactfully walked through the situation without giving evidence to the state to convict you on a higher charge. We all know the general public wouldn’t have had this same privilege, but to make that worse, after winning the round of criminal charges, you keep up the antics that this isn’t your fault. Show remorse and empathy, and it would be a very different perception of the public.

      1. “Sure you tactfully walked through the situation without giving evidence to the state to convict you on a higher charge.”

        That’s a funny way of spelling “lied.”

        1. This is pretty much how law works though. If you are trained in criminal law, it is all about evidence, the police are trying to gather it to use against you (anything you say or do will be used against you). Consider our SD code of 1st degree murder:

          22-16-4. Homicide as murder in the first degree.

          Homicide is murder in the first degree :

          (1) If perpetrated without authority of law and with a premeditated design to effect the death of the person killed or of any other human being, including an unborn child; or

          (2) If committed by a person engaged in the perpetration of, or attempt to perpetrate, any arson, rape, robbery, burglary, kidnapping, or unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or explosive.

          Homicide is also murder in the first degree if committed by a person who perpetrated, or who attempted to perpetrate, any arson, rape, robbery, burglary, kidnapping or unlawful throwing, placing or discharging of a destructive device or explosive and who subsequently effects the death of any victim of such crime to prevent detection or prosecution of the crime.

          The state is going to try and connect this to premeditation, or that you did it while committing another felony. If you know they caught you red handed shooting someone, to get the lesser charge, one would lead them down the path of just randomness, or heat of the moment decision. It could be 100% a lie, but if they don’t have the evidence for murder 1, you don’t need to give it to them (5th amendment). The country would be a very different place if people were educated in these issues.

  3. According to the South Dakota Constitution under the section “Officers Subject to Impeachment”, the first sentence in part, states “The Governor and other state and judicial officers, except county judges, justices of the peace, and police magistrates, shall be liable for impeachment for drunkenness, crimes, corrupt conduct, or malfeasance or misdemeanor in office…”. So I’m going to pull a “Slick Willy” and ask the question, “What is the definition of ‘in office’?”. He was on his own time and out of his office when this accident occurred. I don’t know all of the details other than what I’ve read in various newspapers. Did ALL evidence come out in yesterday’s House hearing? There are unfounded rumors that some evidence was withheld, but I don’t know why that would be the case if both sides want to win! He wasn’t drunk, (well we don’t know for sure because a DUI test was not done by the arriving officer), an accident is not a CRIME so no crime committed, corrupt conduct? (well no BUT I believe he at first “misspoke” to North Dakota LEOs, but then corrected himself), malfeasance and misdemeanor are questionable because of those two words ‘in office’. NO, I am not an attorney, but I read a lot AND have watched Law and Order for years.
    I do not KNOW General Ravnsborg or former General Jackley, but have met them at a few political events and as mentioned above, have found them both to be approachable, affable and seemingly genuinely interested in input I had for them. We would not be considered ‘first name basis’ friends.
    While knowing that ALL OF US are infallible, I want the person of the highest ethical and moral character in the office of Attorney General.
    From 2007-2017 Californians were stuck with Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown, Kamala “The Cackler” Harris and Xavier Becerra (the current nincompoop U.S. Secretary of H.H.S.) as their Attorneys General.
    South Dakota, y0u are fortunate, so far, to not have had persons of those calibers holding the state A.G. office.
    In closing, the Governor should also keep her nose out of the Legislative branch’s business and stay in her Executive branch confines. It is not ETHICAL that she has continually tried to interfere throughout this process. I’m not a lawyer so I don’t know if there is something similar to the military’s Unlawful Command Influence, Article 37 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice where superiors in their legal systems threaten junior lawyers under the color of authority. As much as some of your readers will object, the legislature reports to their own constituents…NOT to the governor…and I salute those legislators who have the backbone to stand up to ANY governor.

      1. Good points except for the absurd mental gymnastics around the meaning of the term ‘In Office.’

        1. Why was the phrase included? It would be grammatically awkward and completely redundant if everything the “officers” ever did were considered “in office.”

        2. I think he was relating that to the absurd mental gymnastics of Bill Clinton when the slickster responded during testimony, “That depends on what the definition of “is” is.”

          1. You are correct. Perhaps the previous respondent is not old enough to have known this. What my point was is to open the door to ALL that has happened during this entire, but not yet completed episode. We moved here because of the research we had done on three states; ID, WY and MT. South Dakota wasn’t even on our map until a buddy in Casper asked if we had ever seen Mt. Rushmore (we had not) and during that visit, we found ‘our spot’ and were fortunate to have been a position to buy our current home immediately. The only political thing we knew about this state was the complete reversal of Dem-to-Rep representation in Pierre and how EVERY COUNTY voted in the previous two general elections. Even though we escaped from a more conservative district (relative to the rest of the state) we did not move to a state with politics similar to what we were escaping from. We were fortunate to have two of the top true conservative Republicans in CA and congress; Doug LaMalfa and Tom McClintock who is a top fiscal conservative.
            So now we have to wait until June to see what happens and hope that the Senate gets to see ALL evidence available for the trial.

  4. How brave to write this now, after the writing is on the wall and he’s actually been impeached. Many of us were saying this a year ago. Where were you then?

    Waiting to see where the wind blows, as usual.

    1. A year ago the case had not gone to court and I don’t think there was any investigation by the legislature even started. How brave of you to claim you wanted to hang ‘em high way back then without a trial.

      1. The case didn’t need to go to court to know that he was done politically and should have resigned.

  5. Ravnsborg needs to resign. He needs to salvage what is left of his reputation by doing the right thing and step down immediately. If he does not resign he will be convicted in the Senate by 2/3rds and removed from office. He needs to save himself from the embarrassment and save the office of Attorney General the embarrassment.

      1. Because I am curious – what, exactly, would his grounds be to sue the state?

        He pled No Contest for the criminal charges, so there would be no grounds for a lawsuit against them for that.

        The state legislature has broad powers to impeach ” The Governor and other state and judicial officers, except county judges, justices of the peace and police magistrates, shall be liable to impeachment for drunkenness, crimes, corrupt conduct, or malfeasance or misdemeanor in office, but judgment in such cases shall not extend further than to removal from office and disqualification to hold any office of trust or profit under the state.” (South Dakota Constitution Article 16, section 3)
        The fact that he pled no contest pretty much would cut the legs out from under any attempt to say that they didn’t have the right to try him for impeachment.

        I’m not saying he SHOULD resign, but what, exactly, would his lawsuit against the state be based on?

        1. Invasion of privacy
          1983 violation of his civil rights

          What Noem and Price did was appalling. They shredded the law and his rights for their political purposes.

          I have talked to many attorneys and 100% of them think he has a case.

          1. I talked with many attorneys as well, and they think he’s an embarrassment to the State and should resign.

          2. Please state, in the clearest terms possible, how you believe the attorney general has met the elements required for a successful 1983 claim under the theory of a privacy violation.

          3. Well…he could try to sue, but he would lose.
            He is a public figure – specifically an elected official. He has, in many many ways, surrendered his right to privacy. He did so when he ran for office and won. If you don’t believe me, ask the US Supreme Court. (New York Times v. Sullivan – 1954) They group public figures into two classifications – Elected Officials and basically everyone else. Elected officials have even less protections than famous sports stars or celebrities.
            Unless something that the Governor or the state said was KNOWINGLY a lie – and he’d have a hard time to prove that – he wouldn’t have a case.
            Literally all they need to do is point out that what was released was in the public interest in any way and they get a free pass unless it can be proven that they knew that it was false.
            Anything involving the state’s top law enforcement officer and allegations or statements of fact regarding breaking the law would be considered in the public interest.

            I am not, in any way, saying that what the Governor did and said wasn’t a crappy way to treat someone. It was.
            I am not saying that Governor Noem may not have some sinister motive for wanting him out of office. She absolutely could.
            I am saying that legally he doesn’t have any leg to stand on. He’s a public figure so his privacy rights are nothing like yours or mine. And as a lawyer he either knew that when he ran for office or he should have.

            1. You’re mixing causes of action. Sullivan was a defamationcase, not a 1983 claim, which arises against state actors. But again: this person appears to be completely full of it under the theory they provided.

              1. But this was an early case where they established in case law that public figures do not have the same expectation of privacy as a private citizen.

                Yes, it was at its heart a defamation case, but it also enshrined the theory that that because public figures voluntarily seek public attention, they have less protection. They also specifically stated that this applies to the AG specifically because he is an elected official.

                1. But the elements of a defamation claim are not the same as a 1983 claim. Just because privacy was mentioned in both doesnt mean they are the same. But again, it doesnt matter, because the person arguing he has such a claim is absolutely full of it.

            2. Like the 10 lies she told about him and the members of appropriations committee?

              She lied on tape.

              Or discussion of his private text messages. That had nothing to do with investigation.

              Thoughts on those 2 items

    1. I think it’s clear he’s ok with embarrassing himself and all of his employees.

  6. So let’s assume there are legitimate investigations of Noem. He has seen the evidence we have not.

    I then would not resign either.

  7. While it is in dispute as to whether Ravnsborg traveled outside of his lane the night of the accident, there is no doubt that Noem has repeatedly gone outside the executive lane over this.
    Right now it seems difficult for the Senate to punish one without rewarding the other.

    1. Consequences won’t apply to Noem, do you really think her judges would side against her on appeal? We have seen they will do whatever she tells them to do. The cronyism chain has been going on since 75′ with Janklow. This was probably the last time the state had checks and balances in government as well.

    2. There’s no serious dispute about whether Jason Ravnsborg traveled outside his lane. The dispute is about whether he traveled outside his lane before or after Joe Boever’s body was riding on the hood.

      1. Craig Price insists that the leg amputation on the shoulder of the road happened before Boever’s body had ridden on the hood, not after it slid off, but the blood was on the bottom right side of the car, with none on the hood.

        That’s in case the supposed coincidence of Jason having all four wheels outside the rumble strip at the exact spot where Boever was supposedly “walking” wasn’t preposterous enough.

  8. I don’t personally know Ravnsborg, but after watching this all unfold for the past year and a half, I fail to see the “good and decent person” you mention.

    1. Same here. A good and decent person would realize the office is bigger than the holder and sometimes bad things happen that change the expected course of one’s life and career. This guy seems like a true narcissist and the anti-Noem gang gathering around him is not looking much better. Seems like this group abides by the enemy of my enemy is my … enemy? South Dakota seems to have a history of chopping down its own when they get too big. I was glad to see it when it finally happened to Daschle, but this is Republicans taking out their own and it is odd to see.

      1. Unless Noem is guilty of something… we skip over we don’t know what he knows on all these scandals of hers….

            1. That may be, but it seems like a naive over-involvement in the same manner as having her daughter at a meeting about the appraiser licensing program. She’s either an evil political genius corruptin’ everything she can corrupt, or, a naive native South Dakotan that believes in the goodness and on-the-level involvement of others that we used to be able to trust. I don’t see the former, but I can see quite a bit of the latter. But maybe I’m the naive one.

              JR is a clown in clownshoes that can’t keep off the gas pedal, and he is using these “investigations” as his own cover to save his own job, but what kind of pyrrhic victory would that be? No one wants him in the job except those that are out to get Noem. So he’s actually just a useful idiot who isn’t that useful.

              1. Maybe Jason has been cited 12 times since he was a teenager, and smeared in the media, and you and Kristi Noem are *both* naive.

  9. One other thing I just remembered. I read an article regarding his Army career and it stated that his promotion to colonel depends on the outcome of this upcoming trial. I voted for Ravnsborg only because I was told he would retire if he won…obviously, he did not. I then found out, from a retired Army officer, that he was assigned to an “undeployable” unit and that’s how he got around that issue. Now if Ravnsborg is convicted, we will have an UNELECTED person as State AG and do any of you believe that the cases Ravnsborg is working on with regards to the governor will be pursued? A French economist, Frederic Bastiat once said, “When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of losing his moral sense of duty or losing his respect of the law”.
    THAT is the place where the governor’s UNELECTED replacement may be.

    1. Wow, go find some Xanax…

      “… we will have an UNELECTED person as State AG…”

      For all of 6 months. Do you think she is going to lose her election, or that JR could possibly win a state wide election after this? He’s using the investigations as cover to save his own butt in a position that he’ll be voted out of anyways, especially now, as he shouldn’t even be on the ballot in November.

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