PIERRE, SD (AP) — The South Dakota Senate decision this week to remove Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg His removal from office was an emphatic victory for Governor Kristi Noem, whose tough attempt to oust her fellow Republican likely sealed his fate, even as some GOP lawmakers backed him.
Noem, who has achieved national acclaim within the party and is widely regarded as a potential candidate for the White House in 2024, began pushing Ravnsborg to resign within days of hitting a pedestrian with his car in September 2020. and killed. He refused but was removed on Tuesday. through impeachment proceedings, in which the Senate voted to convict the Republican to the first term and then — unanimously — ban him from running again in public office.
Noem pushed for impeachment by the Republican-controlled legislature and provided crucial support for an effort that sometimes faced razor-thin voting margins. Though her aggressive approach startled some lawmakers, Ravnsborg’s ouster allows Noem to appoint his replacement, a one-time opponent who had investigated her to discredit and demand political independence for holding a fellow Republican accountable.
Noem celebrated the impeachment sentence on Twitter on Tuesday, saying that “a dark cloud” had lifted over the attorney general’s office.
“It is now time to move on and restore confidence in the office,” Noem said.
She supported Ravnsborg’s predecessor, Marty Jackley, for the Republican nomination for attorney general, but it’s not clear whether he will be her choice to fill the position temporarily until the November candidate is sworn in. Noem and Jackley ran a caustic primary campaign for governor in 2018, and their mutual approval came as a surprising development when the House evaluated the merits of impeachment earlier this year.
Noem could wait to appoint the interim attorney general until after Saturday, when the South Dakota Republican Party decides its candidate for November’s election.
The votes against Ravnsborg in the GOP-dominated Senate showed that senators did not believe his account of the crash. Ravnsborg had told a 911 dispatcher the night of the crash that he may have hit a deer or other large animal and said he wasn’t aware he hit a man — 55-year-old Joseph Boever — until he returned to the scene. of the accident. next morning.
Num’s advocacy for Ravnsborg’s removal — and his refusal to step down — shattered state politics, which are largely dominated by Republicans.
After Ravnsborg was quietly pressured To take “leave” from Noem’s chief of staff three days after the crash and later faced public calls from the governor for his resignation, he showed an increasing willingness to disrupt the political establishment by opening investigations into the governor and the like-minded with her.
In a letter sent to House lawmakers in April on the eve of the impeachment vote, Ravnsborg said he would not resign in part because his office has “several ongoing investigations into the alleged activities of the governor and those associated with her.” are connected”.
Ravnsborg made a few complaints to the state Government Accountability Board, which evaluates ethical complaints against state officials. The board of directors will meet Monday as it considers whether Nums will use state jets to attend political events and interference in a state institution who had refused her daughter an appraiser’s license.
“The friction between the governor and Ravnsborg may have caused Ravnsborg to become more zealous as a watchdog of the governor’s office,” said Jon Schaff, a political science professor at Northern State University who closely monitors Statehouse politics. keeps an eye on.
Even impeachment proceedings gave Ravnsborg reason to investigate Noem’s circle. When an organization created to promote the governor’s agenda sponsored billboards attacking lawmakers for not supporting Ravnsborg’s impeachment, office investigated whether the organization broke? campaign finance laws.
Before the crash, the attorney general’s office had also launched an investigation into the state’s richest man, T. Denny Sanford, for possible possession of child pornography. While Noem refused to distance himself from Sanford and accepted several donations from him on behalf of the state, totaling more than $100 million, Ravnsborg continued to evaluate charges against Sanford.
The the attorney general’s office last month indicated it would not prosecute the state charges against Sanford.
The timing confused Republican lawmakers who supported Ravnsborg, pointing out that it came when Ravnsborg was forced to take a leave of absence pending the Senate impeachment trial.
“The Denny Sanford case has mysteriously disappeared,” said Republican Speaker of the House Spencer Gosch, who clashed with the governor during the impeachment process.
The governor has been sharply criticized by some Republicans for instigating an impeachment inquiry, as well as releasing videos in 2021 of Ravnsborg’s interviews with detectives while a trial was underway.
“She doesn’t want anyone who won’t bow to her,” said Gosch, who recently lost a primary legislative race when the governor backed his opponent, Senator Bryan Breitling. “It cost the state of South Dakota and it cost the Republican Party.”
The House committee overseen by Gosch advised against impeachment, but Noem was not deterred. Her administration urged lawmakers to vote impeachment, and two articles of impeachment were passed by one vote in the Republican-controlled House.
The Senate vote on the first impeachment charge — committing crimes that caused Boever’s death — passed Tuesday without a vote. The Senate convicted him on the second indictment by a comfortable margin, then voted unanimously to permanently ban him from serving in state.
Schaff, the political science professor, said the vote marked both a “victory of facts” for the prosecution and a “political victory” for Noem.
Nick Nemec, Boever’s cousin who has also pushed for Ravnsborg’s ouster in the legislature, where he once held a seat as a Democrat, said he was grateful that Noem fought for Ravnsborg’s removal.
“Governor. Noem is a polarizing figure,” he said. “There are a lot of things she says and does that I don’t agree with, but I’m certainly glad she was on our side on this matter.”