- Associated Press - Friday, June 15, 2018

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - South Dakota Democrats on Friday chose former U.S. Attorney Randy Seiler to be their candidate for state attorney general in November, but the longtime federal prosecutor won’t know his Republican opponent for another week.

The attorney general contest decided in Seiler’s favor was the top event for delegates at the state Democratic party convention in Sioux Falls. He won out over former Oglala Sioux Tribe Attorney General Tatewin Means for the party’s nomination.

Republicans are set to choose their candidate at a state party convention in Pierre on June 23. Lawrence County State’s Attorney John Fitzgerald, Yankton lawyer Jason Ravnsborg and state Sen. Lance Russell are the Republicans seeking the office.

Seiler, 71, has emphasized his experience and dominated in fundraising as he casts himself as Democrats’ best hope of ending Republicans’ decades-long grip on the attorney general’s office. Seiler served as South Dakota’s U.S. attorney from 2015 through 2017, leaving after more than two decades at the office.

“I have spent most of my professional career preparing to stand before you today,” Seiler told delegates ahead of the vote. “I am confident that I am the most qualified candidate in this race. I’m confident that I can win this race.”

If elected, Seiler said he would review the lawsuits the state is engaged in and look at “smart justice” initiatives. Seiler said drug dealers deserve to go to jail, but said he wants to work across party lines and agencies to try to address problems with drug treatment.

“People in crisis who turn to drugs don’t deserve to go to the penitentiary,” Seiler said. “They should be able to seek other options and seek treatment.”

Jean Magnuson, a Seiler campaign chair, said she became a delegate for the first time because Seiler was running. The 56-year-old preschool teacher and business owner from Sioux Falls said she hasn’t felt this excited about politics in years.

“I can’t put it into words,” she said.

After Seiler won the nod, Means wished him luck outside the convention hall. She could have been the first Native American woman nationwide to hold a state attorney general post.

Means had touted that she was the only candidate in the race who has previously been an attorney general.

“The time has come for a new generation of leaders,” she told convention attendees.

A Democrat hasn’t held the attorney general’s office in South Dakota since the 1970s, and the party last fielded a candidate for the position in 2010.

Democrats on Friday nominated gubernatorial hopeful Billie Sutton’s choice for lieutenant governor, Sioux Falls businesswoman Michelle Lavallee, to run alongside him.

Delegates also chose former Rosebud Sioux Tribal Council member Wayne Frederick to run for Public Utilities Commission, Beresford real estate agent Woody Houser for commissioner of School and Public Lands, former legislative candidate Tom Cool for state auditor and party communications director Aaron Matson for state treasurer.

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