SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Steve Haugaard has his doubts about the upcoming Senate impeachment trial for suspended Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg. 

Haugaard, a lawyer and state Representative who lives in Sioux Falls, announced in November 2021 he’d challenge Governor Kristi Noem for the Republican nomination for governor. The former Speaker of the House shared his concerns about the fairness of the upcoming trial during a 10-minute discussion with KELOLAND’s Bridget Bennett in the latest episode of Inside KELOLAND. Noem denied the opportunity to appear on Inside KELOLAND. 

“I would question the integrity of some of those people to actually make a decision about anyone else,” Haugaard said about the upcoming Senate impeachment trial set for June 21-22 in Pierre. 

Haugaard, who voted against impeaching Ravnsborg, said he’s concerned whether Senate members can fairly judge anyone citing “information that rolled out in the past several days.”

Last week, KELOLAND’s Bob Mercer reported on a transcript of a secret meeting of Republican senators held in April 2020. In that meeting, Senate members arranged matters in advance for how a special Senate disciplinary committee would treat then Republican leader Kris Langer of Dell Rapids and then Senate president pro tem Brock Greenfield of Clark. 

Regarding the Ravnsborg situation, Haugaard said he would have kept his opinion to himself until the evidence was presented in court. 

“When you see the evidence, then you can make your own decisions about that,” Haugaard said. “It was a very unfortunate, tragic accident. It’s sad it played out the way that it did.” 

Asked if Ravnsborg should have remained in office, Haugaard said the governor’s office should have stayed out of the situation. He said there were 23 pedestrian deaths in South Dakota in 2020 and 2021. 

“I would have just stayed back and let it play out as it should have,” Haugaard said. “When you review the evidence and the details of the evidence, it certainly has more of an appearance that the impact took place in the lane of travel than it did on the shoulder.” 

South Dakota Highway Patrol Trooper John Berndt has testified under oath to the impeachment committee and briefed lawmakers saying the crash investigation showed Ravnsborg’s car was completely on the 10-foot shoulder when it struck and killed Joe Boever.

Haugaard said information regarding Boever’s life before the crash is also important evidence he considered when he didn’t vote for impeachment. He highlighted people can view all the evidence for themselves on the South Dakota Legislative Research Council website. 

Haugaard said transparency is needed in state government and pointed to the issue of transparency when asked about how he’d advise the Government Accountability Board, which is looking into complaints against Noem regarding the use of the state airplane and a meeting at the governor’s mansion concerning her daughter’s appraiser license.

Haugaard said he’d never make a state employee feel intimidated by coming to the Governor’s mansion to face three attorneys. 

“That’s just highly inappropriate and that would never happen in my administration,” Haugaard said. “I think that’s one of the key points that people should appreciate and would really long to see – true transparency. That’s what we need is more confidence in state government. That it’s being done effectively, efficiently and transparently.” 

‘Focused on South Dakota’ 

A longtime lawyer and former Speaker of the House, Haugaard served in the legislature for the past eight years. He said his experience has helped him understand state government well. 

“We’ve got an excellent Department of Tourism. We do a great job with the state retirement program, but in a lot of the other areas, we need attention,” Haugaard said. “I’d like to be able to fill that role. We need to just move ahead and get things done in South Dakota. There’s great opportunities and I’m afraid we’re missing a lot of those right now.” 

When asked how he differentiates himself from Noem, Haugaard said he sticks around the state and is “more focused on South Dakota.” He said he’d focus on accentuating South Dakota’s agriculture industry. 

“I’m convinced that I’ll bet we could make a Cheerio right here in South Dakota, if we really worked at it, instead of going over to the Quad Cities and exporting all of our grains to somewhere else to be processed,” Haugaard said. “The same with the livestock. You got beef. You got pork. You’ve got lamb; you’ve got everything else that we should be processing here.” 

Haugaard said there’s roughly 4 million head of cattle in South Dakota and every year, 1 million of those cattle get shipped someplace else every year. 

“For a state that’s had a great heritage of farms and ranches, we ought to be retaining that as much as possible,” said Haugaard, adding more profits would help family ranches and farms stay more profitable for future family members. 

Abortion and ballot measures 

If Roe vs. Wade is overturned, Haugaard said he’d be happy and if he was governor he’d let the trigger laws go into effect. 

“There are more things that need to be done because adjoining states are going to be dealing with that in a much different fashion,” Haugaard said. “There’ll be attention given to this, not only the first year, but in the subsequent years, probably for the next five years trying to address little issues that would arise.” 

Asked he supports any exceptions for abortions, Haugaard said he believes life begins at conception and wouldn’t support any. He said medical situations would be handled in the medical field. 

When asked about his stance on Amendment C and ballot measures, Haugaard noted South Dakota’s history as the first state to have ballot measures and referendums. 

He called them “direct democracy” and said they are OK if “everybody has adequate information.” 

He said the debate on Amendment C right now shows it’s the best thing or an awful thing. 

“There needs to be a discussion about that,” Haugaard said. “I think Amendment C is the right thing to do.” 

KELOLAND Media Group invited all of the GOP statewide candidates to join us for a conversation in our studio. Next week, incumbent Dusty Johnson and challenger Taffy Howard both agreed to join us to talk about the Republican U.S. House race.

In two weeks, we’ll take a closer look at the U.S. Senate race. Incumbent John Thune and challengers Bruce Whalen and Mark Mowry will all be joining us.