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MERCER: Pay attention; delegates matter

PIERRE -- If you care how elections are conducted in South Dakota, or how political money is tracked, or how businesses are registered, or how public notaries are supervised, or other duties of the secretary of state, then you might want to pay attention to an important contest that will be decided in a roundabout way by Republican voters in South Dakota's primary elections Tuesday.

Yes, that's a convoluted sentence — on purpose, to make a point. In South Dakota we follow a convoluted process for selecting candidates for six statewide offices.

The Republicans and Democrats use party conventions to nominate their candidates for secretary of state, attorney general, auditor, treasurer, school and public lands commissioner, and public utilities commission.

That differs from the direct primary elections where voters get to decide the two major parties' nominees for governor, U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate.

There are five Republicans running Tuesday for their party's nomination for U.S. Senate. There are two Democrats seeking their party's nomination for governor, and there are two Republicans running for their party's nomination for governor.

There are single candidates for the Democratic nominations for U.S. House and U.S. Senate and one candidate for the Republican nomination for U.S. House.

The process that is used for the six other statewide offices relies on delegates to the conventions. Democrats select their delegates at local meetings in the counties. Republicans choose their delegates by putting them on the primary ballot and letting Republican voters decide.

I haven't seen a Democratic candidate announce yet for any of the six nominations available. The Republicans have candidates for all six and in one case — secretary of state — they have two people competing.

So if you're a Republican, you might want to take a bit of time before you vote Tuesday to learn who's trying to represent you at the convention, and then contact them to learn which candidate for secretary of state they are supporting.

Many of the people running for spots at the Republican convention already have committed to backing either state Sen. Shantel Krebs of Renner or deputy secretary of state Pat Miller of Fort Pierre.

Four years ago, three candidates sought the Republican nomination for secretary of state. Then-state Sen. Jason Gant of Sioux Falls prevailed. He defeated Democrat Ben Nesselhuf of Vermillion (a senator too then) in the November 2010 general election.

Gant's first term has been sufficiently troubled that he decided last fall he wouldn't seek re-election.

At that time Krebs had already declared her candidacy.

This spring Miller decided to run for the opening too.

The victor between Krebs and Miller at the Republicans' June 19-21 convention in Rapid City likely will win the office in the November general election.

That's because of current voter registration numbers and that Republicans have held the office nearly all of the time since 1889 statehood.

Delegates matter. They were decisive at least twice in denying the governor's nomination to the top finishers in Republican primary elections when she or he didn't get at least 35 percent.

So please, pay attention.

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