PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — In two of South Dakota’s contested elections for circuit judges Tuesday, voters in the east returned an incumbent in a tight finish and out west chose a county prosecutor for an open seat.

Circuit Judge Robert Spears of Watertown turned back Beadle County State’s Attorney Mike Moore of Huron 51-49% to return to the Third Circuit bench.

Spears received 15,536 votes to 14,799 for Moore. Spears had a narrow victory in 2014 as well, when he challenged a 20-year incumbent, Judge Ronald Roehr, and won by 283 votes of 24,579 cast.

Lawrence County State’s Attorney John Fitzgerald of St. Onge meanwhile placed first with 36% of the vote Tuesday in a field of five seeking a Fourth Circuit spot.

Fitzgerald won with 8,124 votes, followed by former Brule County State’s Attorney David Natvig with 4,575; Fourth Circuit Magistrate Chad Callahan 4,553; Jennifer Tomac of Black Hawk 2,986; and Tina Hogue of Rapid City 2,457.

The seat re-opened after Judge Kevin Krull, whose candidacy was uncontested, changed his mind and withdrew from the ballot.

In the third contest, Doug Barnett defeated Magistrate Eric Johnson for a Second Circuit seat 35,015-20,332. The Second Circuit covers Minnehaha and Lincoln counties. Barnett supervises the Sioux Falls operations for the state Attorney General office.

Neither Judge Spears, 68, nor Judge-elect Fitzgerald, 67, will be able to finish their new eight-year terms. South Dakota law requires judges retire at age 70. The governor will appoint their successors after receiving nominations from the state Judicial Qualifications Commission.

Fitzgerald won the Fourth Circuit’s more-populated counties of Lawrence, Meade and Butte. Tomac won the less-populated counties of Corson, Dewey, Perkins and Ziebach. Natvig won Harding County.

In the Third Circuit contest Moore, who’s been the Beadle County state’s attorney since 1997, won Beadle, Brookings, Grant, Hand, Jerauld, Kingsbury, Lake, Miner, Moody and Sanborn counties. Spears won a central cluster of Clark, Codington, Deuel and Hamlin counties.

The three races had a common thread involving Jason Ravnsborg. He was removed as South Dakota attorney general in June by the state Senate for his actions involving the death of a pedestrian two years ago.

Fitzgerald competed with Ravnsborg for the nomination at the 2018 South Dakota Republican convention. Natvig served under Ravnsborg as director for the state Division of Criminal Investigation. Moore in his role as Beadle County state’s attorney advised on the criminal prosecution of Ravnsborg after the 2020 crash.