At least 5 candidates seeking AG’s office

SIOUX FALLS (AP) – Several current or former federal, state and tribal prosecutors are seeking to replace outgoing state Attorney General Marty Jackley as South Dakota’s top law enforcement officer.

Former South Dakota U.S. Attorney Randy Seiler formally announced Thursday he would seek the office as a Democrat, setting up a contest for the party’s nomination with Tatewin Means, a former Oglala Sioux Tribe attorney general.

Among Republicans, Lawrence County State’s Attorney John Fitzgerald, Yankton lawyer Jason Ravnsborg and state Sen. Lance Russell are seeking the office. Each party’s candidate will be selected at conventions in June.

Here’s a look at the candidates vying for the job:

John Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald, the Lawrence County state’s attorney since 1995, is campaigning on decades of experience as a prosecutor, saying that officials must be vigilant to keep South Dakota “safe and secure.” The 62-year-old who lives near Spearfish noted methamphetamine as a key problem that must be addressed through education, rehabilitation and law enforcement.

“It’s skill. It’s understanding. It’s insight. It’s knowledge that comes with years of doing things,” said Fitzgerald, who has also been Butte County state’s attorney. “I’ve had in excess of 250 jury trials.”

Jason Ravnsborg

A deputy state’s attorney for Union County and partner at a Yankton law firm, Ravnsborg says he has a strong background to address the drug problem in South Dakota. Ravnsborg would make changes to criminal and juvenile justice overhauls approved by lawmakers, including removing presumptive probation policies that currently apply to lower-level offenders to “give the power back to the judges.”

He’s also proposing to expand programs that allow lower-level prisoners to work while serving their sentences and establish a meth-specific prison and a mental health facility in western South Dakota. The 42-year-old Yankton resident ended 2017 with a campaign bank balance of nearly $32,000 – significantly more than his two Republican opponents.

He is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve.

Lance Russell

Russell, a longtime Republican lawmaker and former state’s attorney, says he’s running for the attorney general post to address rising crime and improve government transparency. The 48-year-old lawyer from Hot Springs says South Dakota should have a broader public records law similar to the federal Freedom of Information Act. He says the aim is to stop problems like South Dakota’s GEAR UP scandal involving embezzled funds and a dead family.

Russell is also pushing to reverse presumptive probation policies to give judges more discretion in sentencing. But there’s one wrinkle in Russell’s campaign: he’s running to keep his state Senate seat in a primary election held just weeks before Republicans’ state party convention to select their attorney general candidate.

Tatewin Means

A former Oglala Sioux Tribe attorney general, Means declared her candidacy late last month in an open letter saying she would lead the state in a new direction. In her campaign biography, the Democratic candidate cites a dedication to reducing recidivism rates and says she would work to build a state where every child can thrive, every trauma survivor can find healing and people with mental health issues have enough support.

Means, now the chair of graduate studies at Oglala Lakota College, says in the letter her determination has grown through experiences as a lawyer, educator, mother and indigenous person. Means’ campaign didn’t immediately return a telephone message seeking comment from The Associated Press.

Randy Seiler

Seiler served as South Dakota’s U.S. attorney from 2015 through 2017. He says he would make fighting methamphetamine abuse his main priority if elected attorney general. The 71-year-old Seiler says there’s “no better training ground” to become attorney general than his more than two decades of experience in the U.S. attorney’s office. He touted that experience heavily in the announcement, also citing his work with Native American tribes in South Dakota.

Seiler says addressing the meth epidemic will require prosecution, prevention and treatment.

“I believe I have the experience, the leadership and the vision to serve as the state’s top law enforcement officer and also to serve as the lawyer for the people of the state of South Dakota,” Seiler said.


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