South Dakota Gov. Noem wins emphatic victory with removal of AG

PIERRE, SD (AP) — The South Dakota Senate’s decision this week to oust Attorney General Jason Ravensborg from office was an emphatic victory for Gov. Even as the GOP sealed its fate. MPs supported him.

Noem, who has risen to national prominence within the party and is widely considered a potential contender for the 2024 White House, asked Ravensborg to step down within days of hitting and killing a pedestrian with his car in September 2020. began to inspire. He refused but was turned away on Tuesday. Through impeachment proceedings, with the Senate voting first to convict the Republican and then – unanimously – preventing him from holding public office again.

Noem pressed impeachment through the Republican-controlled legislature, providing significant support on an effort that sometimes suffered from razor-thin vote margins. Although his aggressive approach angered some lawmakers, Ravensborg’s expulsion allowed Noam to name his replacement, discrediting a one-time adversary who had investigated him and claimed political independence because he was a partner. Republicans were held accountable.

Noem celebrated the impeachment sentence on Twitter on Tuesday, saying “a dark cloud” had been lifted from the attorney general’s office.

“Now is the time to go ahead and start restoring confidence in the office,” Noem said.

He has endorsed Ravensborg’s predecessor, Marty Jackley, for the Republican nomination for attorney general, but it is unclear whether he will be his choice to fill the job temporarily until the chosen candidate is sworn in in November. Noem and Jacquely ran a biting primary for governor in 2018, and their mutual support came as a surprising development as the House evaluated the merits of impeachment earlier this year.

Noem could wait to name an interim attorney general until after Saturday, when the South Dakota Republican Party decides on its candidate for November’s election.

Votes against Ravensborg in the GOP-dominated Senate showed that senators did not believe his account of the crash. Ravensborg told a 911 dispatcher on the night of the accident that she may have hit a deer or other large animal and said she did not know it struck a man – 55-year-old Joseph Bower – until he returned to the scene. . Next morning.

Noam’s advocacy for Ravensborg’s removal – and his refusal to step down – sparked state politics, which is heavily dominated by Republicans.

Ravensborg was quietly pressured by Noam’s chief of staff to take a “leave of absence” three days after the accident and later faced public calls for the governor’s resignation, an investigation he sought to disrupt the political establishment. Showed growing desire. Governor and those in alliance with him.

In an April letter sent to House lawmakers on the eve of the impeachment vote, Ravensborg said he would not resign in part because his office is “undergoing several investigations into the governor’s alleged activities and those associated with him.”

Ravensborg made some complaints to the state’s Government Accountability Board, which evaluates ethical complaints against state government officials. The board is set to meet on Monday as it weighs in on Noem’s use of state airplanes to participate in political events and his interference with a state agency that denied his daughter a real estate appraiser license. Had given.

“The friction between the governor and Ravensborg probably led Ravensborg to be more diligent of the watchdog of the governor’s office,” said John Schaff, a political science professor at Northern State University who closely tracks statehouse politics.

Even the impeachment proceedings gave Ravensborg reason to investigate Noam’s circle. When an organization sponsored billboards designed to promote the governor’s agenda attacking lawmakers for not supporting Ravensborg’s impeachment, his office investigated whether the organization broke campaign finance laws. Is.

Before the accident, the Attorney General’s office also launched an investigation against the state’s richest man, T. Denny Sanford, for possible possession of child pornography. While Noam declined to distance itself from Sanford and accepted multiple donations of more than $100 million on behalf of the state, Ravensborg continued to evaluate the allegations against Sanford.

The attorney general’s office indicated last month that it would not pursue state charges against Sanford.

Timing ranked Republican lawmakers who were supporters of Ravensborg and reported that it came as Ravensborg was forced to take a leave of absence pending a Senate impeachment trial.

“The Denny Sanford case went mysteriously,” said Republican House Speaker Spencer Gosh, who clashed with the governor during impeachment proceedings.

The governor received sharp criticism from some Republicans for pushing the impeachment inquiry committee, as well as the release of videos of Ravensborg’s interviews with criminal investigators in 2021, pending a trial.

“She doesn’t want anyone who doesn’t succumb to her will,” said Gosh, who recently lost a primary legislative race when the governor backed his rival, Sen. Brian Breitling. “It’s costing the state of South Dakota and it’s costing the Republican Party.”

The House committee that Gosh oversaw recommended against impeachment, but Noem didn’t budge. His administration pressured lawmakers to vote for impeachment, and two articles of impeachment were passed by a vote in the Republican-controlled House.

The Senate vote on the first impeachment charge – committing the crime that led to Bower’s death – passed Tuesday without a vote. The Senate convicted him with a comfortable margin on the second charge, then voted unanimously to ban him permanently from holding state office.

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

Bower’s cousin Nick Nemec, who has also pushed for Ravensborg’s removal in the Legislature, where he once held a seat as a Democrat, said he was grateful that Noam fought to remove Ravensborg. fought.

“Sarkar Noem is a polarizing person,” he said. “She says and does a lot of things that I wholeheartedly disagree with, but I am sure she was on our side on this issue.”

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