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Rhoden, Ravnsborg Chosen At GOP Convention

Lee Strubinger

The nominees are picked and the ticket is set on the Republican side for the election in November.
Kristi Noem’s running mate for governor, Larry Rhoden, is chosen, and  conservatives went with Jason Ravnsborg for attorney general.

STRUBINGER: It should be noted Republicans nominated candidates for all constitutional offices. These were the two high profile races. The others were uncontested.

WALSH: Larry Rhoden had a challenger?

STRUBINGER: Last minute Stace Nelson was nominated for LT Governor by a delegate. During his nomination speech he indicated it wasn’t a office he was seeking, and chose to use that time to remind the 700 or so people there what a conservative and Republican are.

WALSH: Let’s start there with the lieutenant governor pick. Who is Larry Rhoden?

STRUBINGER: He’s a longtime serving legislator from Union Center, which is a small town about 40 miles east of Sturgis.

He’s a rancher out there, was first elected in 2000 to the South Dakota House, served there until 2008, then ran for senate in 2009 where he served until 2014.

That year he ran for US Senate and was edged out by current senator Mike Rounds.

He got re-elected to the House in 2016 where he’s served the past two legislative sessions.

WALSH: Why did Noem decide to go with Rhoden?

STRUBINGER: Just after winning the primary, I asked her who her pick would be, and she said she wanted someone who shared the same vision as her, a conservative who believes in her four pillar platform that we will be hearing a lot about during this campaign.

Almost a year ago, Noem held a townhall in Rapid City in her capacity as a US House Representative. Presiding over the townhall was Rhoden, who kept the townhall structured incase it got out of hand.

That sparked an assumption between me and other journalists at the town hall that he might be the pick.

Leading up the primary election he’d been widely assumed to be the guy for the job.

He says getting this opportunity means a lot to him.

Rhoden: “I’ve said it a couple times now, I think it’s probably the biggest honor that’s been bestowed upon me in my life. As I’ve thought about the possibility of working with Kristi and her agenda. I’ve developed a keen respect for Kristi Noem and her abilities and her work ethic and the type of things she’s got on her heart. For me, I was extremely excited about the possibility and really honored.”

WALSH: What are some key legislative issues Rhoden’s been involved with during his time in the statehouse?

STRUBINGER: Restructuring tax system for ag property. He says he a Kristi worked on that issue together.

He says its never popular to restructure taxes and he says it took a lot of hard work to make happen.
After that, Rhoden says there were several bills he’s proud of.

Rhoden: “We passed a bill to limit the use of eminent domain in the state of South Dakota, it was after a federal supreme court decision that through the doors wide open and we said, ‘Not in South Dakota. We have more limited government than that in South Dakota.’ I carried the bill to repeal the so-called Trucker’s Tax, which is very hard on South Dakota businesses, in-state businesses. It had been tried many times before that to get passed. Those are a few things that I was pretty proud of.”

Rhoden was also very instrumental in passing what’s called the Open Waters Compromise, which was the legislature’s attempt to resolve the non-meandered waters issue in the state… to find a balance between property rights and water rights in the state.

Noem was first elected to the legislature in 2006, so what kind of role did Rhoden play as she came in as a freshman lawmaker?

Rhoden was the majority leader when she got elected to the statehouse.

Noem says they immediately worked together on the property tax issue I mentioned earlier. She got involved in that issue as one of the few farmers and ranchers in the legislature. She says he gave her an important role in crafting that legislation.

Noem: “I appreciated that and was able to watch him in leadership over me and over the house and throughout the years as well in his continued service in the Senate. I knew he was fair. I knew that he didn’t believe all the best ideas came from the top. He was collaborative and that is key for how we’re going to have success in South Dakota. I don’t believe the best ideas come out of Pierre. You need to bring new people to the table to offer solutions that really work. The fact that Larry’s demonstrated that to me was a clear example of why he was a good choice.”

WALSH: Moving on quickly to the republican candidate for Attorney General, Jason Ravnsborg… he was picked out of a three way race we talked about last week.

STRUBINGER: He was. That decision was the high drama choice of the day. You had staunch supporters for all three candidates. John Fitzgerald’s supporters were the loudest. And there was a key demographic for Russell as well. Ravnsborg was chosen on a second ballot between him and Russell. He could secure a lot of votes with both Minnehaha and Pennington County delegates.

There was a lot of talk among attendees and delegates there about Ravnsborg’s experience as a prosecutor.

He’s a deputy state’s attorney for Union County. He’s campaigned on his experience in the courtroom and with jury trials, but as has been reported, there are questions as to whether he’s ever tried a jury trial in the past. I asked him to clear that up for us.

Ravnsborg: I have tried jury trials both criminal and civil. There was a number of misconceptions and things—that tends to happen in a campaign, but we’re looking to move forward. I just look for the best result for my client, no matter if it is a jury trial, a court trial or hopefully just a simple hearing. But, the end result is the main thing in helping victims and helping the people of our state. That also includes not just in criminal but also in consumer protection matters and some of the things that are not as sexy or get as much attention as we talked about on the floor today, a little bit about the tax case that went to the United States Supreme Court.
Reporter: Was that in Union County?
Ravnsborg: No, the tax case I’m referring to is the United States Supreme Court case that Marty Jackley just argued and they had the decision come down this week.
Reporter: I meant the jury trials.
Ravnsborg: Most of my trials have been in other counties. But I’m also licensed in multiple states and have had hearings and trials in other states as well.

STRUBINGE: Ravnsborg says Attorney General’s office is also a managerial role, which he says he’s exemplified as a colonel and commander in the army reserves. In fact, the day after he was nominated he had to head back down to Louisiana for his capacity in the military.

WALSH: Is Ravnsborg a political new comer? Has he ever served in the legislature?

STRUBINGER: He has not, but he’s been around the Republican party for some time. During the last presidential election he campaigned against several ballot measure questions, like Amendment T, the independent redistricting commission question.

He’s also, lately, travelled the state holding town halls about topics like the History of Islam, the Islamic State and the Iran nuclear deal.