South Dakota, Trailing the Primary Field

Many states are vying for choice positions in the primary lineup. Not South Dakota. Secretary of State Chris Nelson discusses what it's like to be the final primary in the lineup.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

All the states crowding to the front of the line: February, January, December.

(Soundbite of screaming)

But there is another end to the primary schedule. On June 3rd, three states - Montana, New Mexico and South Dakota - hold their primaries. June 3rd.

Chris Nelson is secretary of state in South Dakota. He joins us from his office in Pierre.

Mr. Nelson, welcome to DAY TO DAY. How many candidates have scheduled trips to South Dakota this year?

Secretary of State CHRIS NELSON (South Dakota): You know, at this point, we only have one has scheduled a trip to South Dakota and we are pleased that we've got even that many considering where we're at in the schedule.

CHADWICK: Well, you know, where you are in the schedule. The question arise is why even bother?

State Sec. NELSON: Well, South Dakota obviously wants to be part of the nomination process, and as we have looked at the frontloading of that process, we've determined that it really isn't going to be feasible for us to try to move our primary into that front section.

In 1988, South Dakota did move our primary into February and we were one of the very first states in the country. We had a lot of the candidates coming through South Dakota, it was a very effective time for us. We got to meet the candidates and they got to understand our issues in South Dakota. But that worked once and we kept that early primary in '92 and '96 but as more and more of the larger states begin moving forward, essentially, South Dakota lost the bang for the buck and the candidates were going to the other larger states. And so in a move of physical prudence, our legislature decided we're going to move the presidential primary back to June, recombine it with our state primary so we're not paying for two different elections.

CHADWICK: Yeah. Well, since you've done that, do people really ever come to campaign? Because by June, it's really over, isn't it?

State Sec. NELSON: Well, by June, it's really over and my prognostication is that it may well be over by the first week of February this year and so it's doubtful that we'll get much exposure at all, although I do point out there's always that one in a million chance that things won't be locked up and things could get rather exciting in South Dakota, being the last one on the block.

CHADWICK: The phrase the lonely plane is probably overdone but I'm not sure you're doing anything to help here.

State Sec. NELSON: Well, that's true. We're pragmatic about it, we understand that because we're not one of the larger states even if we did move up in that process, we're still not going to get the focus of the other states are and so we've taken a pragmatic approach. We're going to be in June and live with that.

My great hope as secretary of state is that the country will understand that this frontloaded process is broken and hopefully, we can move to some type of a rotating regional process whereby each of the states has an opportunity to be in that front spot.

CHADWICK: Chris Nelson, secretary of state in South Dakota, which is worth seeing on its own without a lot of electioneering folderol.

State Sec. NELSON: You put that very well. Thank you, Alex.

CHADWICK: Thanks, Chris.

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