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Judge orders state's attorney candidates be removed from ballot for filing in two separate counties

CHAMBERLAIN -- The candidates for state's attorney who filed suits against their opponents heard a favorable response from the court earlier this month.

CHAMBERLAIN - The candidates for state's attorney who filed suits against their opponents heard a favorable response from the court earlier this month.

At an Aug. 1 motions hearing at the Brule County Courthouse, Judge David R. Gienapp ordered Dedrich "Deach" Koch's and Theresa Maule's names be taken off the ballot in Buffalo County and Lyman County, respectively.

Koch and Maule were sued by opponents Casey Bridgman, Steven R. Smith, David Natvig and David J. Larson for attempting to run for state's attorney in two separate counties.

The plaintiffs - Bridgman, Smith, Natvig and Larson - asserted that filing for candidacy in a state's attorney in two counties violation of South Dakota Codified Law 12-6-3, which states "No person may be a candidate for nomination or election to more than one public office except the office of President of the United States or vice president of the United States."

In testimony included in court documents, Smith offered his interpretation of the statute.

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"It does not say you can run for two part-time offices. What it says and what is the only limiting, only limiting statement in there is that: No person may be a candidate for nomination or election to any public office, unless one of them include the President," Smith said. "And as much as I like to say I think I could win, I don't think I'm going to run for president this fall."

Gienapp said SDCL 12-6-3 applies in theses cases and ordered Koch's name be removed from the Buffalo County ballot and Maule's be removed in Lyman County, as these were the second counties in which each candidate filed their petitions.

"It's the finding of the Court that the wording in that particular statute refers to a general election and that the fact that there are separate general elections in both counties is not an appropriate argument; that it refers to the overall general election just as it would with the overall primary election," Gienapp said, according to court documents.

Gienapp also opined that the statute was enacted to combat the loss of attorneys in the lowest populated counties, claiming the state faced situations where there were not sufficient attorneys in certain areas. While he could not pinpoint a reason the statute hasn't been changed, Gienapp speculated it was intentionally not amended or possibly an oversight.

But Gienapp rejected the idea that their names should be removed to the races in the other counties where they filed ballot petitions. Koch will attempt to retain his seat in Jerauld County versus Bridgman, and Maule will duel Natvig for the Brule County state's attorney position.

If the ruling is upheld, Smith and Larson will cruise to victories unopposed in races in Lyman and Buffalo counties, respectively.

In defense of his actions to file petitions in two counties, Koch referred to the 2013 South Dakota Supreme Court case of Bridgman v. Koch, which first pitted the political rivals against each other. In the case, Bridgman attempted to bar Koch from serving as the Jerauld County state's attorney while simultaneously holding the same seat in Buffalo County.

Koch would resign from the second state's attorney post prior to the Supreme Court ruling, but the court ultimately ruled Koch had not violated the law by serving in two different counties.

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