South Dakota Governor Noem wins decisive victory with AG removal

PIERRE, SD (AP) – South Dakota Senate Decision This Week remove Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg the removal from office was a decisive victory for Gov. Christy Noah, whose dogged efforts to topple his fellow Republican likely sealed his fate, even as some GOP lawmakers backed him.

Noem, who rose to national prominence in the party and is widely considered a potential 2024 White House candidate, began pushing for Ravnsborg to resign days after he hit a pedestrian with his car in September 2020. He refused, but was removed on Tuesday. through impeachment proceedings, when the Senate voted to convict the Republican in his first term, and then – unanimously – banned him from holding public office again.

Noem pushed for impeachment through the Republican-controlled Legislative Assembly, giving decisive support to efforts that at times faced narrow popular votes. While her aggressive approach has angered some lawmakers, Ravnsborg’s firing allows Noem to name her replacement, discredit a former adversary who investigated her, and declare political independence as she brought her Republican counterpart to justice.

On Tuesday, Noem celebrated his impeachment conviction on Twitter, saying the “dark cloud” over the attorney general’s office had cleared.

“It’s time to move on and start rebuilding confidence in the office,” Noem said.

She backed Ravnsborg’s predecessor, Marty Jackley, for the Republican nomination for attorney general, but it’s unclear whether he will be her choice to fill the position temporarily until the nominee, elected in November, is sworn in. Noem and Jackley ran a bitter primary campaign for governor in 2018, and their mutual approval came as a surprise as the House of Representatives was weighing the merits of impeachment earlier this year.

Noem may wait to nominate an interim attorney general until Saturday, when the South Dakota Republican Party nominates its nominee in the November election.

Votes against Ravnsborg in the Republican-dominated Senate showed that senators did not believe his story of the disaster. Ravnsborg told an emergency dispatcher on the night of the crash that he may have hit a deer or other large animal and said he didn’t know he hit the man – Joseph Bover, 55 – until he returned to the scene. next morning.

Noem’s campaigning for the removal of Ravnsborg and his refusal to resign has roiled the state’s overwhelmingly Republican politics.

After Ravnsborg was quiet under pressure to take a “vacation” from Chief of Staff Noem three days after the crash, and later faced with public calls for the governor to resign, he showed a growing willingness to undermine the political establishment by launching an investigation into the governor and his supporters. with her.

In an April letter to House lawmakers on the eve of the impeachment vote, Ravnsborg said he would not resign in part because his office has “several ongoing investigations into alleged activities of the governor and people associated with it.”

Ravnsborg made a couple of complaints to the State Government Accountability Board, which evaluates ethics complaints against state government officials. The council is set to meet on Monday to decide whether both Noem’s use of government aircraft to attend political events and her intervention in a government agency which denied her daughter a real estate appraiser’s license.

“Disagreements between the governor and Ravnsborg may have led to Ravnsborg becoming a more diligent watchdog of the governor’s office,” said John Schaff, a political science professor at Northern State University who closely follows Statehouse’s politics.

Even the impeachment proceedings gave Ravnsborg a reason to investigate Noem’s circle. When an organization set up to advance the governor’s agenda sponsored billboards attacking lawmakers for not supporting Ravnsborg’s impeachment, he the office investigated if the organization was broken campaign finance laws.

Prior to the accident, the Attorney General’s office also launched an investigation into the state’s richest man, T. Denny Sanford, for possible possession of child pornography. While Noem refused to distance herself from Sanford and accepted several donations from him on behalf of the state totaling more than $100 million, Ravnsborg continued to evaluate the allegations against Sanford.

Attorney General last month indicated that he would not bring state charges against Sanford.

The timing irritated Republican legislators who supported Ravnsborg, and pointed out that it was when Ravnsborg was forced to take a leave of absence pending an impeachment trial in the Senate.

“The Denny Sanford case has mysteriously disappeared,” said Republican Speaker Spencer Gosh, who had a run-in with the governor during the impeachment trial.

The governor was heavily criticized by some Republicans for inciting the impeachment inquiry committee and for releasing in 2021 videos of Ravnsborg interviews with criminal investigators while awaiting trial.

“She doesn’t want anyone who doesn’t obey her will,” said Ghosh, who recently lost the primary race to the legislature when the governor backed his opponent, Senator Brian Breitling. “It cost the state of South Dakota and the Republican Party.”

The House Committee, which Ghosh was in charge of, recommended against impeachment, but this did not stop Noem. Her administration pushed for lawmakers to vote in favor of impeachment, and two articles of impeachment were passed unanimously in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

The Senate vote on the first impeachment charge – the crimes that led to Bover’s death – passed on Tuesday without an extra vote. The Senate convicted him on the second charge by a comfortable margin and then voted unanimously to permanently ban him from public office.

Schaff, a professor of political science, said the vote showed both a “victory of facts” brought by the prosecution and a “political victory” for Noem.

Nick Nemec, Bover’s cousin, who also pushed for Ravnsborg’s removal from the Legislative Assembly, where he once held a seat as a Democrat, said he was grateful to Noem, who fought for Ravnsborg’s removal.

“Gov. Noem is a controversial figure,” he said. “She says and does a lot of things that I completely disagree with, but I’m glad she was on our side on this.”

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