BY SCOTT WALTMAN, firstname.lastname@example.org
1:05 AM PST, January 15, 2012
Editor's note: This story has been edited for clarification.
It's an election year, but the political parties in Brown County are still sorting their lists of potential candidates, local party officials say.
For voters, that means uncertainty, at least for now, about their options in the June 5 primary and the Nov. 6 general elections, though it's still early.
The redistricting process could add some confusion to the mix because many voters in Brown County have changed legislative districts and precinct lines in Aberdeen are being redrawn. Generally, the boundary changes happen after the census every decade. From a legislative standpoint, much of northeast South Dakota is affected. Brown County used to be part of two legislative districts and is now part of three.
Chris Jung, chairman of the Brown County Republicans, said the new boundaries mean there are also some unknowns about who might run in particular districts for the GOP. But, he said, he doesn't know of any potential legislative primaries for Republicans in the region.
With the county divided into a third district, Jung said, Brown County Republicans will try to recruit more GOP candidates from near Aberdeen, even though, for instance, District 1 extends to the Minnesota border and District 2 to the Watertown area.
Roland "Walt" Walter, chairman of the Brown County Democrats, said the first step for the local party is finding a full slate of candidates. But he's not divulging details.
"We'll know more in a month or more," he said.
Jung said he's heard of two potential GOP candidates for state's attorney, but neither has officially declared.
Brandon Taliaferro, a former Brown County deputy state's attorney, has said he plans to seek the Republican nomination for state's attorney. Folks in the local political scene say the other person contemplating a run is Kelly Marnette, who works in the Hughes County State's Attorney's Office.
Taliaferro was fired from the Brown County State's Attorney's Office in September after three years of handling juvenile crime and abuse and neglect cases. He believes he was wrongfully fired and is seeking a grievance hearing with the state Department of Labor. Taliaferro is being investigated, reportedly for witness tampering involving an abuse and neglect case, though no charges have been filed. He's cited his desire to run for state's attorney as a possible reason he was fired.
Kimberly Dorsett, the Democratic incumbent Brown County state's attorney who is not seeking re-election, had denied Taliaferro's claim and said he was fired for ongoing job performance issues.
The prospective GOP state's attorney's race could add spice to what's often a mundane primary season. The primary is June 5 and, locally, can be overshadowed by city and school board elections, on the same date.
Nov. 6 election
As far as the Nov. 6 general election, there's a potentially intriguing legislative race in the region. Rep. Paul Dennert, D-Columbia, is considering challenging incumbent Sen. Al Novstrup, R-Aberdeen in District 3. To do so, though, Dennert would have to get an Aberdeen address because he doesn't live in District 3, which is comprised of the bulk of Aberdeen.
Under the district boundaries in place through this legislative session, Dennert lives in District 2. Under the new borders, which will govern this year's elections, he lives in District 1.
The new District 1 includes northern Brown County and Day, Marshall and Roberts counties. The new District 2 includes a small part of Aberdeen, most of rural Brown County, most of Spink County and Clark and Hamlin counties. The new districts all have roughly 23,000 residents.
If Dennert, who cannot run for state House because of term limits, were to challenge Novstrup, it would be a clash of well-known and well-supported local politicians. Novstrup said he is leaning toward running for re-election. Dennert said that he will not challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Jason Frerichs of Wilmot in a District 1 primary. If he doesn't run for District 3 Senate, he said, he will run for Brown County Commission.
He'll have to make his mind up by March 27, the deadline for partisan candidates to submit nominating petitions. State and county candidates have been able to take out petitions since the start of the year. City council and school board candidates cannot do so until March 1.
A group working on drawing Aberdeen's new precinct boundaries met for the first time Friday. That job will be done by March, said Adam Altman, city attorney.
According to the city charter, precinct lines in Aberdeen are to be done nine months before the election. But, he said, the charter allows those dates to be amended. And that's necessary this year, Altman said, because the state legislative boundaries weren't finalized early enough for it to happen.
No nominating petitions had been formally filed as of Friday afternoon at the Brown County Auditor's Office, said Auditor Maxine Fischer.
On the national scene, Rep. Kristi Noem, South Dakota's lone member in the U.S. House, is seeking re-election. Two Democrats, Matt Varilek and Jeff Barth, have announced plans to challenge her. Varilek has worked for U.S. senators Tim Johnson and Tom Daschle. Barth is a Minnehaha County commissioner.
Important dates on election calendar
March 1: Nominating petitions available for those who want to run for Aberdeen City Council and school board.
March 27, 5 p.m.: Deadline to file primary nominating petitions.
March 29: Deadline for candidates to withdraw from the primary election.
April 20: Absentee ballots available for primary and other June 5 elections.
May 21: Voter registration deadline for primary and other June 5 elections.
June 5: Primary, Aberdeen city and Aberdeen school board elections. Polls open 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.
June 5: Deadline for independent candidates file nominating petitions for all offices but president.
Aug. 7: Deadline for independent candidates for president to file nominating petitions. Deadline for candidates for all offices to withdraw nominations.
Sept. 21: Absentee voting for general election begins.
Oct. 22: Voter registration deadline for the general election.
Nov. 6: General election. Polls open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.
Incumbents whose terms expire this year
U.S. House of Representatives
Rep. Kristi Noem, Plans to seek re-election
South Dakota Legislature
(Under new legislative district boundaries)
Jason Frerichs, D-Wilmot, plans to seek re-election
Paul Dennert, D-Columbia, considering a run for District 3 House or Brown County Commission
Dennis Feickert, D-Aberdeen, plans to seek re-election
David Sigdestad, D-Pierpont, leaning against running for re-election
Susan Wismer, D-Britton, plans to seek re-election
Jim Hundstad, term-limited out of Senate, leaning against running for office
Elaine Elliott, will not seek re-election
Al Novstrup, is leaning toward running for re-election
David Novstrup, plans to seek re-election
Aberdeen City Council
Northeast District: Jim Kraft, leaning toward running for re-election pending new precinct boundaries
Northwest District: Todd Campbell, undecided
Southeast District: Clint Rux, considering running for re-election, Brown County Commission or state Legislature
Aberdeen school board
Mike Miller, plans to seek re-election
Brad Olson, undecided
Burt Elliott, will not seek re-election
Duane Sutton, plans to seek re-election
Kimberly Dorsett, D-Aberdeen, will not seek re-election
Sheila Enderson, D-Aberdeen, plans to seek re-election
Michael Carlsen, R-Aberdeen, plans to seek re-election