- Associated Press - Thursday, June 14, 2018

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - South Dakota Democrats choosing their candidate for state attorney general will decide between a highly experienced former U.S. attorney and a past Oglala Sioux Tribe attorney general who could become the first Native American woman in the country to hold the post.

Former U.S. Attorney Randy Seiler has emphasized his experience and dominated in fundraising as he seeks to cast himself as Democrats’ best hope of ending Republicans’ decades-long grip on the attorney general’s office. Tatewin Means, who previously served as the Oglala Sioux’s chief law enforcement officer, says she’s the only candidate who has been an attorney general.

Delegates at the Democratic Party’s state convention Friday in Sioux Falls will weigh those resumes before voting to nominate their party’s candidate for the office, which a Democrat hasn’t held in South Dakota since the 1970s. The party last fielded a candidate for the position in 2010.

“We have two great candidates running for attorney general that have activated our base all across the state,” Democratic Party Chairwoman Ann Tornberg said, noting that party delegate attendance is set to be up from 2016.

Republicans are set to choose their attorney general candidate at a state party convention in Pierre later in June.

In the Democratic contest for attorney general, Seiler said he’s the most qualified candidate. He served as South Dakota’s U.S. attorney from 2015 through 2017, leaving after more than two decades at the office.

“I’m the best qualified and most experienced,” Seiler said ahead of the convention. “I have the background in public service at all levels, and, at the end of the day, I think I have the best chance of winning the seat for the Democrats in November.”

Seiler has said he would make fighting methamphetamine abuse his main priority if elected attorney general. He said officials should also review the state’s public corruption laws and ethics and transparency in state government.

He noted South Dakota’s Republican-dominated government, saying that democracy works best when there are “checks and balances.”

Former South Dakota U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson hosted a fundraiser for Seiler shortly after his formal campaign announcement, and Seiler has brought in more than $90,000 in the race. Means had raised about $6,000 as of mid-May.

“He’s the most qualified candidate to run as a Democrat for attorney general in my lifetime,” Johnson said. “Having Randy in Pierre at this point in our state’s history would be beneficial to the entire state - Democrats and Republicans both - who just want a career prosecutor who’s going to help keep them safe and hold politicians accountable.”

Means declared her candidacy in April in an open letter saying she would lead the state in a new direction. As attorney general for the Oglala Sioux Tribe from 2012-2017, Means said she oversaw an office that handled thousands of cases each year. She now works as the chair of graduate studies at Oglala Lakota College.

Means said she offers a fresh perspective, calling herself an inclusive leader who considers the voices of marginalized communities. The Sioux Falls AFL-CIO endorsed her earlier this month, saying that working families need a “champion in Pierre.”

She said South Dakota deserves more from the attorney general’s office and said officials’ approach toward longstanding issues such as addiction and mental health has been ineffective.

The Democratic Attorneys General Association says the group believes she’s the first Native American woman to run for a state attorney general post. Means said her entire life has been about overcoming obstacles.

“This is just another boundary that I see that as indigenous people and as an indigenous woman that we need to break through,” she said. “This has never been about myself or personal accolades. It’s about what it means to my family, to my ancestors, to my children.”

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