FORT PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota Democrats used their convention to pass several resolutions of potential statewide significance Saturday, including one calling for the Roe v. Wade decision that had legalized abortion nationwide to be placed into the South Dakota Constitution.

But Democrat delegates failed to nominate a candidate for attorney general who could legally defend and enforce the abortion-rights amendment if voters do approve it in 2024. That means the Republican nominee, former Attorney General Marty Jackley, who opposes abortion rights, won’t have a challenger as he seeks to return to the office.

South Dakota voters twice rejected attempts to put the abortion ban into effect in 2006 and 2008.

Democrats were able to nominate other candidates for statewide seats that are up for election this year, including for lieutenant governor a state legislator, Representative Jennifer Keintz of Eden.

“She is a candidate that understands people’s rights, and women’s rights,” former Representative Steve McCleery of Sisseton said in offering her name for consideration.

Keintz smiled proudly as she accepted the delegates’ applause that she was their unanimous choice to be the running mate of the Democrat governor candidate, Representative Jamie Smith of Sioux Falls.

“Steve was right when he said that he introduced me to candidacy in the House of Representatives,” Keintz said about McCleery’s recruitment of her into the 2020 election race. “And if I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t be here, so there was no one more appropriate to nominate me. I appreciate that nomination.”

Republicans nominated their candidates for the half-dozen down-ballot contests at their statewide convention in Watertown two weeks ago. That Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned its Roe and Casey decisions 6-3 and said abortion regulation should be up to each state. South Dakota’s trigger law from 2005 immediately took effect, making abortions a felony except to save the life of the mother.

Republican Governor Kristi Noem was the first to nominate Larry Rhoden to continue as her lieutenant governor the next day at the convention. Rhoden turned back a challenge from Representative Steve Haugaard of Sioux Falls. Noem had defeated Haugaard by a wide margin in the June 7 primary election for governor.

Noem, who strongly opposes abortion rights, was the target of many Democrat platform planks Saturday, on topics such as university diversity offices, Critical Race Theory, recreational marijuana, family nepotism and even her program paying $10 per tail for pheasant predators.

Democrats don’t hold any statewide office at the Capitol or any of the three seats in Congress. They have 11 of the 105 seats in the Legislature.

One of the most spirited Democrat nominees Saturday was Jeff Barth of Sioux Falls. He’s running for a seat on the state Public Utilities Commission that regulates investor-owned power companies, telecommunications providers, pipelines and grain buying and storage.

Barth, who’s been the Democrats’ one member of the Minnehaha County Commission for 16 years, spoke strongly about the PUC’s Republican chairman, Chris Nelson. The two face off on the November ballot.

“I’m running against a tough, tough guy, Chris Nelson. He’s popular,” Barth said. “And to paraphrase Shakespeare though, I come to bury Chris, not to praise him.”

That line drew laughs, but Barth wasn’t joking in the comments that followed. The PUC is considering a state permit for a proposed Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline that would collect carbon dioxide from various ethanol plants in the region and bury the gas in North Dakota.

“The CO2 pipeline, it’s, it’s really a terrible thing,” Barth said. He noted that when Dan Lederman, the South Dakota Republican chairman, first brought the proposal to the Minnehaha County Commission, Barth thought, “Oh okay, what is this?

“And the more I found about it, the more I turned against it. It can explode. It can kill you by asphyxiation. This is going to make a lot of money, for some people, but not that much for anybody in South Dakota. Certainly some of our ethanol plants are excited to have it. But they’ve been operating without this pipeline for thirty years.

“I can win this race,” Barth continued. He quoted a Democrat U.S. president, Harry Truman, who was told to “give ’em hell.” According to Barth, Truman replied, “‘I don’t give ’em hell. I just tell the people, tell them the truth, the Republicans think it’s hell.’

“So my opponent Chris Nelson says he has nothing to do with eminent domain. Eminent domain is certainly something he gives to a company when they get a permit for a project. He is telling a lie when he says eminent domain has nothing to do with him.”

“He (Nelson) then goes on to say that he cannot, that he has to approve a project if they check all the boxes,” Barth continued. “Why don’t we have the DMV handle the paperwork? Check all the boxes, let that company use eminent domain to damage your land permanently, to endanger your family. What do we have beside land and family? Let’s not let that happen.”

KELOLAND News has requested a response from Nelson.

The Democrat delegates nominated for other statewide offices:

Tom Cool of Sioux Falls for secretary of state. He’ll face Republican nominee Monae Johnson of Rapid City, who defeated incumbent Steve Barnett at the convention.

John Cunningham of Sioux Falls for state treasurer. He’ll face Republican incumbent Josh Haeder.

Stephanie Lynn Marty of Sioux Falls for state auditor. She’ll face Republican incumbent Rich Sattgast. (Sattgast defeated Cool in 2018 for auditor 202,055 to 113,628, including 585 to 66 in Harding County.)

Tim Azure of Wessington Springs for state school and public lands commissioner. He’ll face Republican nominee Brock Greenfield of Clark, a state senator. The governor appointed a former commissioner, Jarrod Johnson, to run the office after she hired then-commissioner Ryan Brunner to join her staff.

As of Friday, official voter-registration numbers showed Democrats 150,653; Republicans 289,422; Libertarians 2,677; independents/no party 141,186; and other 1,376. By comparison, registration for the June 2002 primaries, when Democrats held both of South Dakota’s U.S. Senate seats and 31 of the 105 legislative seats, was much closer; those numbers showed Democrats 171,956; Republicans 219,292; Libertarians 1,072; independents/no-party 59,478; and other 120.

Democrats didn’t challenge Jackley, a former U.S. attorney, in 2014 when he ran for re-election. Democrat Randy Seiler, a former U.S. attorney, ran for attorney general in 2018 but lost to the Republican nominee, Jason Ravnsborg. Republicans have won every general election for attorney general since 1974 when Bill Janklow beat Democrat incumbent Kermit Sande.

The House impeached Ravnsborg earlier this year. That provided a possible opening. Seiler, now the South Dakota Democrats chairman, issued a statement after the South Dakota Senate convicted Ravnsborg on two counts and permanently removed him from office. But there was no mention of that Saturday.

Lederman, the Republicans’ chairman, has talked about his party’s candidates winning every legislative seat. Democrats left so many legislative contests unfilled that Republicans already hold a majority of the 35 Senate seats for the November elections. Seiler meanwhile on Saturday sounded like someone who tried and tried to find candidates for the constitutional offices but was looking in a near-empty cupboard.

“This process that we’ve been engaged in has been ongoing, and that’s continued through and into this weekend, and, you know, we continue to recruit candidates or potential candidates, and talked to prospective individuals that may have shown an interest, up to and including the last hour,” Seiler said as the convention moved into the formal nominations time late Saturday afternoon.

“So we’ve done our best,” Seiler continued. “And I’m confident that what comes out of this process will be a slate of candidates that we as Democrats can rally behind, that we can support, and that we can get behind and elect in November.”

Republicans meanwhile tweeted a statement Saturday night: “South Dakota Dems just announced their slate of no-name and failed candidates of past elections that piled out of the liberal clown car today. They will provide little challenge to the experience and credibility of the Republican nominees. Good luck.”

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to place Cunningham and Marty in the correct races.