Attorney General candidates face off over issues

Attorney General candidates face off over issues
South Dakota's three candidates for attorney general share much common ground but differ widely on key issues that have generated much attention in the last several months.

The debate held Oct. 12 was the second in a series of four sponsored by South Dakota Public Broadcasting, AARP and the South Dakota Newspaper Association.

An abortion ban that was passed by the state Legislature this year, which voters will decide Nov. 7, is unconstitutional, Democrat Ron Volesky of Huron said.

"It's going to end up costing us a lot of money," Volesky said. "The Attorney General should have been involved before it passed."

Attorney General Larry Long, a Republican from Pierre, said South Dakota lawmakers knew that the ban would face scrutiny.

"The Legislature knew full well it had constitutional problems," he said. "They made a value decision to use it as a vehicle to overturn Roe v Wade. The lack of constitutionality was debated hotly in all the committee hearings (about the ban)."

Randy Ristesund, a Libertarian candidate from Sioux Falls, is pro-life and supports the ban. He also is against the death penalty.

"As long as we have a prison system that can keep these people behind bars and give people a chance to rehabilitate themselves, I think that's the better way to go," he said.

Volesky said a breach of quality control was unfortunate in the "botched" execution of Elijah Page. His death was scheduled for Aug. 29, but was cancelled at the last minute. Gov. Mike Rounds said he did so to give lawmakers time to resolve a legal issue over the number of drugs used.

National practice is to use three drugs but state law mandates two. Rounds said there was a chance the state could be sued if practice varied from law.

Oklahoma has executed 83 people using a three-drug cocktail, Volesky said, and they have the same statute as South Dakota.

"What they did was play politics," Volesky said. "They appealed to the pro-life people and they appealed to the people who wanted to see Mr. Page die. There wasn't an issue of liability because no one could have brought a lawsuit against the state of SD except Mr. Page."

Long said his office will probably sponsor two bills to resolve the issue. One will allow using the three-drug cocktail and another will give the Department of Corrections the latitude to adopt the most humane execution method.

The death penalty needs to stay on the books, he said.

All three candidates pledged to protect South Dakotans from scam artists.

The Attorney General's Office has a five-person consumer-protection staff that Volesky said has been successful in restoring people's stolen identities.

Long said he thinks educating the public is the most valuable thing his office can do to cut down on fraud. Many of the companies scamming people are located outside the United States, he said. Ristesund said he thinks restitution is very good for consumer fraud.

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