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Update: with 100 percent of precincts reporting, Ravnsborg had 55 percent of the vote. Seiler had 45 percent.

A Republican deputy state's attorney, Jason Ravnsborg, has defeated a retired U.S. attorney, Randy Seiler, to become the state's next attorney general.

South Dakota statewide results

Candidate Votes Percent
Governor
698 of 698 precincts
Kurt Evans and Richard Shelatz (L) 4,844 1
Kristi Noem and Larry Rhoden (R) 172,894 51
Billie Sutton and Michelle Lavallee (D) 161,416 48
U.S. Representative
George D. Hendrickson (L) 4,912 1
Dustin "Dusty" Johnson (R) 202,673 60
Tim Bjorkman (D) 121,002 36
Ron Wieczorek (I) 7,322 2
Attorney general
Jason Ravnsborg (R) 179,049 55
Randy Seiler (D) 145,526 45
Secretary of State
Steve Barnett (R) 211,039 65
Alexandra Frederick (D) 112,777 35
State auditor
Rich Sattgast (R) 202,031 64
Tom Cool (D) 113,599 36
State treasurer
Josh Haeder (R) 194,998 62
Aaron Matson (D) 117,729 38
Commissioner of school and public lands
Ryan Brunner (R) 193,412 62
Woody Houser (D) 116,739 38
Public Utilities Commissioner
Kristie Fiegen (R) 206,410 65
Wayne Frederick (D) 108,897 35

At 11 p.m., with 90 percent of precincts reporting, Ravnsborg held a 56 to 44 percent advantage over Seiler, leading by nearly 36,000 votes.

"I think it's a good night for South Dakota, and I'm going to do everything I can to keep South Dakota safe," said Ravnsborg.

Ravnsborg will replace Marty Jackley, 48, who has served as the state's attorney general since 2009, originally appointed by then-Gov. Mike Rounds. 

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Seiler, 71, served as U.S. attorney for the District of South Dakota from 2015 until his retirement in 2017, nominated by President Barack Obama. A native of Herreid in Campbell County, Seiler ran on his track record as a federal prosecutor, flexing his courtroom experience from prosecuting 70 jury trials and directing his office to partner with health-care providers on child sexual abuse cases.

Ravnsborg, 42, the deputy state's attorney for Union County and Yankton attorney, ran a campaign built on his experience as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves, including deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan.

He defeated Hot Springs state Sen. Lance S. Russell and Lawrence County State's Attorney John Fitzgerald in May's Republican primary by leaning on his experience working for the state's Republican Party to defeat four initiated measures.

One telling policy difference between the candidates arose in dealing with the state's drug epidemic. While Ravnsborg proposed a "meth prison" in western South Dakota, Seiler opted to focus resources on prevention and rehabilitation of low-level drug offenders.

The absence of direct courtroom litigation by Ravnsborg — he has pushed back on this claim during the campaign but did not provide specific numbers of trials prosecuted — had become a frequent talking point for Seiler, who earned endorsements from two Republican former attorney generals, Roger Tellinghuisen and Mark Meierhenry. There is no requirement, however, that an attorney general be an experienced trial attorney.

The next attorney general will inherit cases. The state is pushing against Planned Parenthood for allegedly violating a state law requiring medical professionals that provide abortions to recite codified language prior to the procedure. Also, the ACLU is representing five adults and a toddler in a lawsuit against the state's Department of Public Safety, alleging unreasonable searches and seizures for the use of cathertization by local police departments.

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Contact Christopher Vondracek at Christopher.Vondracek@rapidcityjournal.com.

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