PIERRE — A state lawmaker from Pennington County asked Friday that South Dakota’s political parties hold primary elections for all statewide offices, rather than solely for governor and Congress.
Sen. Stan Adelstein, R-Rapid City, wants the primaries to replace the nominations decided at the political parties’ state conventions.
He found strong support, at least for the time being.
The Senate State Affairs Committee voted 7-1 to send it to the full Senate for debate next week.
“This is a game-changer. I really do think it may be ahead of its time,” Senate Republican leader Russ Olson of Wentworth said.
He added that the average person could be able to better understand what is occurring in primaries rather than the convention process.
Democratic Sen. Larry Lucas of Mission said it would help rejuvenate the primary process. He said some counties don’t have Democratic organizations and therefore aren’t directly included in his party’s nomination process.
“I’m intrigued by the idea,” Sen. Corey Brown, R-Gettysburg, said. He wanted to spend time over the weekend thinking about it. “It certainly is worthy of discussion and I appreciate the senator bringing this forward."
Adelstein “makes a good choice for changing times,” Sen. Craig Tieszen, R-Rapid City, said, because communications and transportation are better now.
“I think this is an appropriate change. I think the costs are minimal,” Tieszen said. “It just merely adds candidates to a process we already have.”
Adelstein’s plan would affect the offices of secretary of state, attorney general, auditor, treasurer, lands commissioner and public utilities commissioners.
Candidates for those offices would run in the June primary elections for their parties’ nominations, rather than be selected at the summer state-party conventions.
No one other than Adelstein spoke on the bill.
Brown, prior to voting to move the bill to the full Senate, suggested the secretary of state would have additional costs for conducting more primary elections if the change was made.
The secretary of state is South Dakota’s top election official.
Adelstein said he couldn’t think of any additional expenses other than having more names on the ballots.
Brown responded there could be more costs for verifying candidates’ petitions. “I don’t know if it is substantial or not. I was curious whether you looked at that,” he said.
Adelstein’s original legislation, Senate Bill 82, called for secretary of state to be converted to a nonpartisan office, similar to state judicial elections. But on Friday, he asked for the change to primary elections instead.
The senator called last year for the Legislature to impeach Secretary of State Jason Gant, a Republican, over his management of the office.
A formal investigation by state Attorney General Marty Jackley last summer found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.