Readers of the Aberdeen American News, Watertown Public Opinion, Mitchell Daily Republic, Black Hills Pioneer and Pierre Capital Journal — the five papers which still have a Capitol bureau in Pierre — knew back on the first weekend of June that:
1) Larry Long was poised to step aside as South Dakota’s attorney general and accept an appointment from Gov. Mike Rounds to one of the new circuit judgeships created by the Legislature in the 2009 session; and
2) That the two main contenders to be appointed by the governor as the new attorney general were Charles McGuigan, who has been Long’s chief deputy, and Marty Jackley, the U.S. attorney for South Dakota who is about to be replaced in that politically appointed federal post by Brendan Johnson, a son of South Dakota’s Democratic U.S. senator.
After the governor did indeed appoint Long to a Sioux Falls-based judgeship on July 30, it became fairly obvious in recent weeks that the choice would be Jackley. Rounds made the announcement at mid-day Wednesday, with the appointment of Jackley to take effect Sept. 4, the same day Long becomes a judge.
To quote from the June 6 Capitol Notebook column published by the newspapers:
“Jackley… was confirmed to the post on July 21, 2006. Typically the U.S. attorney position for South Dakota changes hands when the U.S. president is elected from an opposite political party. Jackley was appointed under Republican President George W. Bush.
“Jackley, a native of Sturgis, received a bachelor degree in electrical engineering from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in 1992 and received his law degree from USD in 1995. He was a partner in the Gunderson, Palmer, Nelson and Ashmore firm in Rapid City prior to his federal appointment.”
As for Long, his switch to circuit judge was a way to continue his life-long career in public service. He would have been term-limited in 2010 as attorney general. Here’s the background on Long from that same June 6 newspaper report:
“Long is serving his second consecutive term, which runs through 2010. The South Dakota Constitution limits the governor, the attorney general, the treasurer, the auditor, the secretary of state and the lands commissioner to no more than two consecutive four-year terms in office.
“Long grew up in Bennett County, where his father was a newspaperman in Martin. He received his law degree in 1972 from the University of South Dakota. He opened his own law office in Martin that December. The next year, he was appointed as Bennett County state’s attorney.
“He’s never left public service. After 17 years as state’s attorney, Long joined the staff of Attorney General Mark Barnett in 1990. He was Barnett’s chief deputy through the end of Barnett’s final term in 2002.
“Long received the Republican nomination for attorney general in 2002 to succeed Barnett. He won election with 53.5 percent of the vote against Democrat Ron Volesky and Libertarian Bob Newland. Long was re-elected in 2006 with 64.7 percent of the vote against Volesky and Libertarian Randy Ristesund.”
As for the unusual step of an attorney general becoming a judge, Long is the first that this reporter can document in South Dakota. Again, from the June 6 article:
“There have been at least three instances in the past 50 years where attorneys general became circuit judges after they were out of elected office.
“One was Sigurd Anderson of Webster. He was AG from 1947 through 1950 and governor from 1951 through 1954. He was a circuit judge later.
“Another was Gordon Mydland of Brookings. He was AG from 1969 through 1972. He became a circuit judge in 1973.
“The most recent was Barnett. He ran for governor in 2002 and finished second in a three-way Republican primary against Rounds and former Lt. Gov. Steve Kirby.
“Barnett turned to his supporters and raised a lot of money for Rounds in the general election campaign that year. Rounds in turn appointed Barnett to the circuit court in Hughes County.”
As for Charlie McGuigan, who is a good man and a good lawyer (and a good husband and parent, I might add from years of personal observation), he could make a fine attorney general some day, if he should ever choose to run, and there is no doubt he will continue to make a fine chief deputy, assuming that’s what he chooses to do.
With top-flight lawyers such as Charlie and Jeff Hallem and John Guhin and Roxanne Giedd and Sherri Sundem Wald and Scott Swier and a long list of other strong talent on staff, Jackley inherits a first-class organization of professionals. The appointment of Marty Jackley as attorney general now puts him first in line for the Republican nomination in 2010.