SIOUX FALLS – South Dakota Democrats chose Randy Seiler over Tatewin Means as the party’s candidate for attorney general at their statewide convention Friday.
Delegates split approximately two to one for Seiler, the past U.S. attorney for South Dakota.
Means previously was attorney general for the Oglala Sioux Tribe.
He lives in Fort Pierre. She lives in Rapid City.
A record 52 counties had delegates participating Friday, according to Ann Tornberg, chairwoman for the South Dakota Democratic Party. South Dakota has 66 counties.
Republicans hold their state convention next weekend in Pierre.
State Attorney General Marty Jackley wasn’t eligible to seek election to a third consecutive term. Jackley lost to U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem in the June 5 primary for the Republican governor nomination.
State Senate Democratic leader Billie Sutton wasn’t challenged for the Democratic nomination for governor in the June 5 primary election.
Democrats unanimously accepted Michelle Lavallee from Sioux Falls for lieutenant governor, Friday after Kooper Caraway, the AFL-CIO Sioux Falls president, said he wouldn’t accept the nomination. Sutton announced her as his choice Thursday.
“I want to encourage folks to get behind the Sutton campaign,” Caraway said.
Former Gov. Harvey Wollmann of Frankfort nominated Lavallee Friday. He described her as “Micki” and “a friend and a neighbor.” She is a daughter of Bud and Rita Gross from Huron and said she knew how to back in a trailer of cattle at age 7.
Lavallee and Sutton, a former rodeo cowboy, share some of the same traits, she said: “Never quit. Get back up. Keep working hard.”
Lavallee said she re-registered from Republican to Democrat a few weeks ago after she realized how “unbalanced” state government had become during 40 consecutive years of Republican governors.
“He understands the importance of listening,” Lavallee said about Sutton. She added, “We’re all South Dakotans first.”
One of the people speaking Friday for Seiler was Brendan Johnson. The son of now-retired U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson preceded Seiler as U.S. attorney for South Dakota.
Seiler said trading his shingle from private law practice for “a white hat” as a federal prosecutor broadened his understanding of justice.
“The distinction I want to make is knowing the law is not the same as practicing the law,” Seiler told delegates.
He suggested state government needs additional approaches on fighting drug abuse. “Politicians in Pierre continue to treat addiction with incarceration,” Seiler said.
He added, “We must restore our two-party system.”
The 1972 election was the most recent time a Democrat won attorney general.
Means, whose first name is pronounced “tah-tay-wee,” said her candidacy was “fulfillment of a legacy.” Her father, Russell Means, was a famous Indian-rights advocate and actor.
“This is not a selfish act. Rather, it is a responsibility I must honor,” she said.
Means said she understood from her time as a tribal attorney general what it meant to lead an “understaffed” and “underfunded” effort.
“This office doesn’t need a career prosecutor. It needs a visionary leader,” she said.
After Seiler, the ticket got thin and thinner. Several candidates openly said in their acceptance speeches they had to look at the offices' websites to know the duties.
In the other contested race, Democrats selected Wayne Frederick of rural Winner over John Schmidt of Woonsocket as the candidate for a state Public Utilities Commission seat.
Republican Kristie Fiegen, the commission chairwoman, is seeking re-election.
Democrats weren’t able to find a candidate for secretary of state Friday. A party official said it is possible they would suspend the rules when they return Saturday and consider Alex Frederick. She is married to Wayne Frederick.
“The convention’s not over yet,” Nick Nemec, a former legislator from Highmore, said.
State Auditor Steve Barnett, a Republican, is running for secretary of state.
Secretary of State Shantel Krebs finished second behind former Public Utilities Commission member Dusty Johnson for the Republican nomination to the U.S. House seat June 5.
Other Democrats chosen Friday were Woody Houser of Beresford for state school and public lands commissioner; Tom Cool of Sioux Falls for state auditor; and Aaron Matson of Sioux Falls for state treasurer.