- Associated Press - Saturday, June 23, 2018

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - South Dakota Republicans on Saturday chose Yankton lawyer Jason Ravnsborg to run against Democratic former U.S. Attorney Randy Seiler in the race for state attorney general.

GOP delegates voted to nominate Ravnsborg at their state party convention, where the attorney general contest was the main show for attendees. Democrats nominated Seiler as their candidate at a party gathering last week.

Ravnsborg won out over state Sen. Lance Russell in a second round of voting after Lawrence County State’s Attorney John Fitzgerald was dropped from consideration following his third-place showing in the initial ballot.

“We’ve been working hard,” Ravnsborg said after he won. “I’ve been to every county in our state at least twice.”

Ravnsborg has proposed expanding programs that allow lower-level prisoners to work while serving their sentences and establishing a meth-specific prison and mental health facility in the western part of the state. He said he has leadership and management experience and touted his support among county sheriffs to delegates.

Ravnsborg, 42, of Yankton, is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve. He’s looking to succeed outgoing Attorney General Marty Jackley as the state’s chief lawyer and law enforcement officer.

The high-profile office has served as a frequent springboard for gubernatorial hopefuls and takes on the state’s top legal cases, such as South Dakota’s recent successful push to get the U.S. Supreme Court to allow states to make online shoppers pay sales tax.

Russell, a former state’s attorney and current chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had said he wanted to be attorney general to address rising crime and improve government transparency. Fitzgerald has been the Lawrence County state’s attorney since 1995 and campaigned on his experience.

Veda Church, a Ravnsborg backer who attended the convention, said she started supporting Ravnsborg after sitting by him and talking at a Republican dinner. The Vermillion woman said she believes in him and liked his military background.

“I’m going to do whatever I can to get Jason elected,” Church said.

Seiler, 71, has emphasized his experience 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.

If elected, Seiler has said he would review the lawsuits the state is engaged in and look at “smart justice” initiatives. 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. Ravnsborg and Seiler reported similar campaign cash on hand in May.

GOP delegates also voted Saturday for Larry Rhoden for lieutenant governor; Steve Barnett for secretary of state; Josh Haeder for state treasurer; Rich Sattgast for state auditor; Ryan Brunner for commissioner of School and Public Lands; and Kristie Fiegen for Public Utilities commissioner.

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