Nelson does dismiss my thesis (and Heidepriem's) that SDCL 12-6-3.2, which says the party can only nominate its members for office, only applies to primary elections, not convention nominations. And then Nelson tells Woster something really interesting:
...[Nelson] presumed after he read in the Rapid City Journal (OK, or maybe some other news source) about Heidepriem picking Arndt for his LG mate that they would check the law and figure out they couldn’t do that.
“They have smart people working on that campaign. I just assumed that was one of the things he’d get done before the convention,” Nelson said.
Nelson said he took some calls checking on that point after Heidepriem picked Arndt. And he got a call from a Democrat at their convention in Sioux Falls last Friday afternoon as he was driving to the GOP state convention in Huron.
“I told them what the statute says and how we interpreted it,” Nelson said. “My assumption was that by then Mr. Arndt had changes his party registration.”
When Nelson found out otherwise, he notified the Democratic caller that it should be done ASAP [Kevin Woster, "And the Secretary of State Repsonds," Mount Blogmore, 2010.06.29].
Holy buckets! Was this minor excitement actually provoked by a trouble-maker from the Democratic Party? If so, mystery caller, give me a call! I want to shake your hand! After a weekend of tight party discipline determined to manage the message and not make waves, I am actually pleased to hear someone in our party shook things up, brought a potential legal complication to light, and got Ben to join the right party.
Now don't think I'm changing my mind on the Heidepriem-Arndt ticket. I still think Team Heidepriem could have made a strong case for its interpretation of electroal law, and they certainly did not make this decision lightly or inattentively (contrary to the GOP's efforts to keep squeezing juice out of this story). Secretary Nelson has at least made a reasonable case to the contrary, that statute does require constitutional officers to be members of the parties nominating them.
By making his or her call on Friday afternoon, some lucky Democrat provoked a chain of events that on the whole boosts the Heidepriem-Arndt ticket. I could feel it Saturday. I was not the only person in the convention hall feeling a little sheepish about cheering for a Republican at our podium. When Heidepriem announced that Arndt was South Dakota's newest Democrat, he gave the party faithful reason to cheer and give the ticket that much more support.
Meanwhile, outside the hall, Arndt can still portray himself as a candidate for whom party affiliation isn't that big a deal. He picked being able to participate in the process and work to solve South Dakota's problems over clinging to an old affiliation on some card. Well played, Mr. Arndt!