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MERCER: Marty Jackley wins the first impression

PIERRE — The lawyer turned on his fire hose in the past week.

That's one way to describe the burst of activity South Dakota saw from state Attorney General Marty Jackley.

We'll know sometime after dark when the votes are counted on June 5 whether it worked.

Jackley definitely stepped up the pace in the race for the Republican nomination for governor.

In the span of a few days, his campaign's publicity machine revved from a fast idle to freeway speed. He issued more news releases. He received serious play in "earned media," such as a television station's story on a woman who might not be blind. His office staff turned a piece of legislation into a directive to open an opioids investigative unit. His campaign staff released multiple broadcast ads featuring endorsements by locally significant people. He announced the U.S. Supreme Court would hear South Dakota's case against recalcitrant companies based outside the state's borders that don't want to pay state and local sales and use taxes.

He announced his office would be joining other states in several new or renewed legal fights at the federal level, including battling Obamacare. His campaign/office distributed many more Twitter messages. Some showed Jackley hosting K-12 and higher-ed students at the state Capitol and state law enforcement center.

His main opponent in the Republican primary is U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem.

Noem might be the first member of Congress to seek South Dakota governor. And she might still lead Jackley among likely Republican voters. But her campaign seemed left behind as Jackley aggressively pushed forward.

Noem didn't build on publicity she earned a week ago with her city-to-city tour announcing her candidacy. This past week she went back to Washington, D.C., where she is South Dakota's only member in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Her voice in the House is both important, because she speaks for South Dakota, but it also is tiny, amid 434 other representatives and the 100 members of the U.S. Senate.

During the day she spent catching flights back to our nation's Capitol, Jackley was busy building his reputation up in South Dakota.

It was one more day neither campaign gets back.

His office turned every advance of some piece of Jackley-sponsored legislation into an achievement.

Inevitably, some of those releases turned into news among radio, TV, newspapers and Twitter.

Meanwhile, state Sen. Billie Sutton, the Democratic candidate for governor, seemed left behind, too.

Sutton had relied on legislative activity and a blend of campaign releases to promote his campaign.

But as the closing weeks of the legislative session arrived, Sutton smacked up against the inherent political wall in the state Capitol. The wall faces every Democrat running for statewide office in a Republican-dominated South Dakota. That wall gets higher each election cycle.

The eighth-year legislator might be the best-qualified Democratic candidate in a very long time.

It's why many remain curious about Sutton's potential.

But Marty Jackley clearly won the battle for the first impression in this campaign in the past week. Now we wait to see how Kristi Noem and Billie Sutton fight back.

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