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SD Democratic Chair, former US Attorney for South Dakota Randy Seiler dies

Randy Seiler
Randy Seiler

The chairman of the South Dakota Democratic Party has died days after suffering a heart attack.

Randy Seiler passed away Tuesday, according to party officials. He was 76.

Seiler went into cardiac arrest Friday while jogging near Pierre, according to his wife, Wanda Seiler. He was taken to a Sioux Falls hospital where he was placed in a medically induced coma.

Seiler had been chairman of the state Democratic party since 2019. He did not seek reelection this year. His term ended later this month.

Jennifer Slaight Hansen, who was set to replace Seiler, is now serving as acting party chair, according to a press release from the state Democratic party.

“I am in shock. We have lost one of the great leaders of our Party," Slaight-Hansen said. "I personally have lost a mentor and friend. I fall short of words to express my sadness on his sudden passing. I pray his soul rests in peace. I wish Wanda and his family immense strength as they move forward.”

Final arrangements are pending.

Seiler previously served as U.S. Attorney for the district of South Dakota. Seiler led Project Dakota Flyer, a two-year investigation into bird trafficking of about 250 eagles and feathers that brought federal charges to 15 individuals in 2017. It was one of the largest bird trafficking cases to date.

He ran for South Dakota Attorney General in 2018, but lost to Jason Ravnsborg, who was later impeached and removed from office.

Former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jaime Smith said Seiler was very helpful during his 2022 campaign.

“Just nothing but good experiences," Smith said. "I think that’s what other people that dealt with Randy found as well. No matter what side of the political aisle you’re on he was a good guy.”

Smith said Seiler was a statesman who stepped into the role of Democratic Party chair when it needed him most.

Several Republican state leaders, including Sen. Mike Rounds and Attorney General Marty Jackley, have posted tributes to Seiler, noting his dedication to South Dakotans.

"Randy Seiler was not only my neighbor but a good friend. I always appreciated our candid conversations about issues facing South Dakota. He cared deeply for our state and our citizens," Rounds said on Twitter. "Our neighborhood will not be the same without Randy. I'm praying for Wanda and his family."

Seiler was a resident of Fort Pierre.

Republican Representative Will Mortenson is the House Majority Leader who has a law practice in Fort Pierre. He said Seiler was funny and full of vigor.

“I guess that’s what I remember about him is every time I got done talking with him, I had a smile on my face,” Mortenson said. “When I remember him, it’ll be the same way.”

Mortenson also remembered Seiler as a tough, but tender prosecutor who was focused on justice both in and out of the US Attorney’s office.

Josh Chilson is the news director at South Dakota Public Broadcasting. A Florence, S.D. native, Josh graduated with a journalism degree from South Dakota State University. He has worked as a newspaper reporter and videographer, and most recently as managing editor for Dakota News Now. Josh is based out of SDPB's Sioux Falls studio.
Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.
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