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Lawyers in AG's office won’t rule on boss’ election opponents

PIERRE (AP) — Lawyers in Attorney General Marty Jackley’s office won’t rule on whether a Libertarian candidate can run against their boss in the November election, citing a conflict of interest.

Secretary of State Jason Gant is considering whether Chad Haber and Ryan Gaddy were legally nominated as Libertarian candidates for attorney general and public utilities commissioner, respectively.

Both men were Republicans who filled out forms to change their party registration to Libertarian just hours before each won the state Libertarian Party’s nomination last Saturday. Those forms weren’t filed with county auditors until Monday, leaving it uncertain if the two qualified with state law requiring candidates to be members of the party nominating them, the Argus Leader newspaper reported.

The attorney general’s office has recused itself from the matter, citing a conflict of interest.

Democrats did not nominate a candidate for attorney general, and a ruling against Haber would remove Jackley’s only opponent in the November election and give him a second full term unopposed. It’s unclear where Gant will turn for legal advice.

Chris Nelson, a current PUC commissioner who previously served as secretary of state, said he couldn’t recall a time when the secretary of state wasn’t able to use the attorney general’s office for legal advice. However, he also said Jackley “made a very smart decision” by removing his office from the case.