Here's a hard lesson that should give candidates pause: Before you take out a petition, make sure your ducks are in a row.

Dennis Schmidt is finding out the hard way that if you haven't run for office before, make sure you check your registration before you take out your petitions. Because in his case, as reported in the Rapid City Journal this morning, he didn't.

And now it's turning into a headache for a race in which he had previously been considered a easy win:

With five weeks to go in his general-election campaign for the South Dakota Senate, Republican candidate Dennis Schmidt is facing more than the typical questions about taxes, teacher pay and abortion laws.

He also is answering charges that he broke state law last January when he officially declared his GOP candidacy without being registered with the Republican Party.

Nine months later, he says the registration problem was a simple oversight that he quickly corrected. And he rejects assertions by his critics that the registration problem casts doubt on his true party philosophy and his fitness for public office.

“It was just an oversight,” Schmidt said. “As soon as I discovered it, I ran down and got it taken care of. This is like the last century, and they’re trying to make hay on this thing. And it’s just an oversight.”

It’s more than that to Republican Sen. J.P. Duniphan, a 12-year-legislative veteran who lost to Schmidt in the June 6 primary after an edgy campaign in which Schmidt hammered on her voting record.

“I think if you want to be a state lawmaker, you’d better start by not breaking the law,” Duniphan said.


But there is no penalty in law for violating that statute, said Kea Warne, elections supervisor for the South Dakota secretary of state. And because the issue wasn’t raised before Schmidt’s primary victory, he will remain on the ballot for the general election.

“As our office looks at it, Dennis Schmidt is the candidate,” Warne said. “If he gets elected, it’s up to the Senate to determine if he is qualified to take office.”
Read it all here.

Despite her unhappy comments, the truth is that Duniphan lost because Schmidt ran a better campaign. And in November against Finch, I suspect that Schmidt is still going to win, but with this issue swirling in the air, I suspect it will be by a narrower margin.

It's a tough and embarassing lesson. Do research on yourself before you embark on a campaign. It's a lot easier to fix problems before you've left the starting gate.


Anonymous said…
...well, and because Schmidt lied about her voting record - which is actually mentioned right in the article.
Anonymous said…
The question is, will Schmidt be allowed to serve if elected?

If Schmidt wins, the question as to his eligibility will be brought in front of the Senate, which leaves the Republicans in a no win situation. The Senate most either declare that he was not eligible, in which case the Gov would appoint the senator, or declare he was eligible, allow him to serve, but with the cloud over the entire party that republicans don’t follow the law.

This is a perfect example of someone not doing their homework.

What ever the outcome, Schmidt will do damage to the State Republican party.
Brad S said…
No, he won't. This is but a mere oversight. Besides, both parties would be in even more trouble if either one tried to force the issue, and I'm sure Dennis Schmidt knows that as well.
Anonymous said…
Actually, the Democrats have nothing to lose by taking this to court. They'd jsut be trying to enforce the law.

Schmidt is guilty of perjury for falsely swearing under oath when he signed his petitions that he was a registered Republican. There's a reason for the oath candidates must sign, and THIS IS IT! Nobody can be a candidate of the Republican party unless they're a Republican. They are asked to swear under oath so they can be punished if they swear falsely!

If this had been a Democratic candidate, you know damn well the Secretary of State would have booted him off the ballot and the attorney general would prosecute and make an example of him. Republicans cannot be trusted to police themselves.

Now they're o.k. with perjury - as long as the felon is on their side. Too many political hacks in office - and not enough statesmen.
Anonymous said…
The safe way for the GOP to handle this would be for the Senate to declare that Schmidt was not properly elected, declare the seat vacant, and have Rounds appoint Schmidt to the seat. Since Schmidt was elected in both the primary and general (I'm obviously assuming arguendo that he wins), one could hardly argue that justice had not been done.
Nicholas Nemec said…
Did the Republican leadership bang their heads on the wall and take turns giving Schmidt dope slaps when this first came to light?

Anon 4:29 has a solution for the Republicans that would work if Schmidt wins the general election and it's just legalistic enough to appeal to Mike Rounds if he wins the general election.

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