PIERRE -- Most of the Republican members of the South Dakota Senate rejected an attempt Wednesday to hold primary elections for all state executive offices.
The proposal from Sen. Stan Adelstein, R-Rapid City, would have ended the practice of nominating candidates at political party state conventions for the offices of attorney general, secretary of state, auditor, treasurer, lands commissioner and public utilities commissioners.
“The time has come for broader representation,” Adelstein said. He asked senators “to take my word” that he wasn’t aiming at any specific office or situation. The bill had started in different form as an attempt to make the office of secretary of state a nonpartisan post.
Adelstein had called last year for impeachment of Secretary of State Jason Gant over political behavior by Gant and his former top administrative aide, Pat Powers.
Powers resigned amid an investigation by state Attorney General Marty Jackley, who found no evidence of criminal activity. Powers had often criticized Adelstein on his political blog.
The Senate vote was 22-11 Wednesday against the revised form of the bill, Senate Bill 82. All of the opponents were Republicans. None spoke against it.
Tony Post, the South Dakota Republican Party’s executive director, lobbied against it Wednesday morning. Powers argued against it on his blog last weekend and predicted Tuesday night that Adelstein’s bill would be killed.
The common arguments made outside the Senate against the bill were that the change would weaken participation in the state conventions and Republicans hold all of the offices that would be affected.
Last week, the Senate State Affairs Committee had endorsed Adelstein’s proposal 7-1. Four of those senators -- Russ Olson of Wentworth, Corey Brown, Tim Rave and Mark Johnston -- changed sides Wednesday and opposed it.
Adelstein received support Wednesday from three Republican senators and all seven Democrats.
Senate Democratic leader Jason Frerichs of Wilmot offered an amendment seeking to elect a state secretary of agriculture rather than be appointed by the governor as a member of the cabinet.
The Frerichs amendment was shouted down on a voice vote.
Frerichs said there’s no intention to surprise or criticize Secretary Walt Bones. He said about a dozen states elect their secretaries of agriculture.
“I urge you to resist the amendment and do whatever you want with the bill,” said Rave.
He is the previous state chairman of the South Dakota Republican Party.
How they voted:
Voting yes -- Adelstein, Bradford, Buhl, Frerichs, Jones, Lederman, Lucas, Maher, Sutton, Tieszen and Welke.
Voting no -- Begalka, Brown, Ewing, Heineman, Holien, Hunhoff, Jensen, Johnston, Kirkeby, Monroe, Novstrup, Olson, Omdahl, Otten, Peters, Rampelberg, Rave, Rhoden, Soholt, Tidemann, Vehle and White.
Excused -- Krebs, Van Gerpen.