Preview of the Democratic Convention being held in Fort Pierre this weekend

FORT PIERRE, S.D.(Argus Leader)- The South Dakota Democratic Party hopes to claw back power in this fall’s general election.

But the first step toward reclaiming any of the statewide constitutional offices up for grabs in November comes this weekend when party delegates convene in Fort Pierre for the party’s biennial convention.

And with no incumbent in one of four offices in which Democrats have yet to select a candidate, party leaders say there’s plenty of excitement and optimism among delegates heading into the two-day calendar of events.

“That gives a heightened awareness of Secretary of State position based on who the Republicans nominated,” SDDP Chairman Randy Seiler said, referring to Republican Monae Johnson defeating current Secretary of State Steve Barnett at last month’s GOP convention. “That’s garnering a fair amount of interest.”

The Democrats will also choose a running mate to run as the lieutenant governor alongside Jamie Smith, the lawmaker and former educator from Sioux Falls going up against Gov. Kristi Noem in the gubernatorial race.

Smith formally announced that he’s backing Rep. Jennifer Keintz, a one-term Eden Democrat who had filed for re-election in District 1, as his running mate. But delegates at the convention will have the ultimate say over who their nominee for lieutenant governor will be.

A candidate in the open attorney general’s contest and a challenger to incumbent Public Utilities Commissioner Chris Nelson will also be chosen by delegates at the Friday and Saturday event to be held at Drifter’s Bar and Grille.

Outgoing Minnehaha County Commissioner and former U.S. House candidate Jeff Barth last week confirmed to the Argus Leader he will pursue the party’s nomination as a candidate for PUC. Beyond that, there are no declared candidates in the other statewide races in which the Democrats hope to field candidates.

And while Seiler and other party leaders are being tight-lipped about who might pursue the party nomination attorney general and Secretary of State, a few other notable Democrats are expected to get consideration.

Seiler himself, who nearly defeated Republican Jason Ravnsborg in the 2018 race for Attorney General, is being urged by both Democrats and Republicans to pursue the Secretary of State’s Office. Seiler, though, says he does not intend to pursue that office.

Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe attorney general Seth Pearman, who’s been the face of the tribe in its ongoing pursuit for footing in South Dakota’s cannabis industry, is also being considered as the Democrats attorney general candidate.

No one has formally declared candidacies for the Attorney General or Secretary of State.

“We have a lot of business to get done,” SDDP Executive Director Berk Ehrmantraut said.