The fight for the SDGOP nomination for Secretary of State may be more interesting than the primary battle for the Senate nomination. Just when I thought Assistant Secretary Patricia Miller's announcement and endorsements signaled that the GOP was ready to pick Miller's experience and gentler marketability over Shantel Krebs's fiery ambition, Krebs lands the unexpected and noteworthy endorsement of the last man to do the Secretary of State's job right, Chris Nelson:
Last year Shantel Krebs took a bold step announcing that she was running for Secretary of State in order to provide strong leadership needed for that office. Since that announcement I’ve had numerous conversations with Shantel about her candidacy.
Shantel knows that providing outstanding customer service is one of the most important aspects of being secretary of state. She understands the importance of managing the election process in a non-partisan, unbiased manner while working in a team manner with county auditors across the state. Shantel knows that competent management involves seeking input from others to form the best solutions for the people of South Dakota.
I have become convinced that she is committed to improving the secretary of state’s office and has the passion and ability to accomplish that goal. For that reason I offer my endorsement of her candidacy to be the next Republican Secretary of State for the great state of South Dakota [Chris Nelson, quoted in Shantel Krebs, press release, 2014.04.29].
Nelson's predecessor, Joyce Hazeltine, has weighed in for Miller. Nelson's endorsement is more unexpected since he's still working in Pierre, enjoying his appointment to the Public Utilities Commission. He would find himself sitting at the grown-ups table, at convention and at work next year, with the winner of the race; picking a favorite pre-convention could make things a little more awkward for Nelson than they do for the happily retired Hazeltine.
Nelson's endorsement of Krebs places him in the middle of a hotly contested race. At the Lawrence County GOP dinner Saturday, Krebs and Miller went after each other with arguably more intensity than the Senate candidates. Krebs accused the current Secretary of State's office (which Miller whipped into shape after she replaced Secretary Jason Gant's disgraced deputy Pat Powers in 2012) of failing on customer service and management of corporate filings. Miller followed with a pointed rebuttal on both counts. Krebs said the Custer County auditor had expressed to her concern about the office's ability to manage elections; Miller replied that she had talked to the Custer County auditor as well and had heard nothing but enthusiasm for working with her office.
The Senate candidates' fun will be over on June 3; the marquee battle at convention (June 19–21, Rapid City) will be Krebs vs. Miller, with the Nelson vs. Hazeltine undercard.