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Krebs promises to be nonpartisan
Lawmaker runs for secretary of state office
By By David Montgomery
Argus Leader Media

September 26. 2013 10:49AM
TEA – State Sen. Shantel Krebs promised to be a nonpartisan secretary of state Saturday, as she officially declared her candidacy for that office.

Krebs, a Republican, made the announcement at the Lincoln County Republican Party’s Lincoln-Reagan Day Dinner a week and a half after incumbent Jason Gant announced he wouldn’t seek another term.

In remarks before her announcement, Krebs criticized Gant’s handling of the office in multiple areas and said she would do a better job. Both businesses and candidates, Krebs said, have complained that the secretary of state’s office isn’t doing a good enough job handling their filings. She promised to make fixing that a priority and said she would work with stakeholders before making any major changes.

Gant drew criticism in his first three years on the job for endorsing candidates in primary elections and for not retaining veteran staff. Krebs promised to not “support candidates in any way, shape or form” if elected.

“You have to take your partisan hat off and know that this office, once you walk in that door, it’s nonpartisan,” Krebs said.

In a statement announcing he wouldn’t seek a second term in office two weeks ago, Gant said he was “far from perfect” but that he had “always tried to do my best and serve the people of South Dakota well” and made “tremendous improvements” in the secretary of state office.

Democrats have said Krebs will be no different from Gant. Zach Crago, executive director of the South Dakota Democratic Party, said Krebs had told Republican activists she would “do whatever it takes” to help Republicans win every single statewide office on the ballot next year, including secretary of state.

“Hasn’t that kind of rank partisanship in the secretary of state’s office been part of the problem?” Crago said in a statement.

Krebs said both parties do their best to win the secretary of state’s office, but that doesn’t mean she couldn’t serve fairly and in a nonpartisan manner once elected.

Krebs also said she would reach out to experts to work in the office. Krebs has experience in business and the Legislature but never has worked as an auditor or in the secretary of state’s office.

“Being an outsider, I think you also see what it’s like to be a user of that office,” Krebs said. “Having said that, I also will surround myself with people that have the collective years of experience and wisdom, that have been in that office previously ... I know my limitations.”

She didn’t say which former secretary of state workers she would hire if elected. But she has consulted with former secretary of state Chris Nelson, currently on the Public Utilities Commission.

Nelson said he encouraged Krebs to run and gave her advice and would do the same for other potential Republican candidates.

Krebs said vote centers, where citizens can vote around a city or county and not just at their local precinct, are the “way of the future” and promised to support them. Vote centers were one of Gant’s primary initiatives in office.

One subject that’s been disputed recently is the request by some Native Americans for special voting centers on reservations. The state runs early-voting programs in Todd and Shannon counties, reservation counties that don’t have courthouses, and Krebs promised to maintain them.

But she said she opposes calls to add early-voting sites to three other reservation counties that do have courthouses – but located away from the towns where most Native Americans live.
“Those voters have access, just like any other county voter,” Krebs said.

Krebs has been heavily involved in politics. Her husband, Mitch Krebs, is the spokesman for U.S. Senate candidate Mike Rounds, and Shantel Krebs was Rounds’ campaign treasurer.

But Krebs said she resigned last week from her role in Rounds’ campaign.

“I feel that as a secretary of state candidate that I have to be nonpartisan and not be associated with any candidate,” Krebs said.

Krebs is the first candidate to enter the secretary of state race. Several Democrats are considering running for the office, Crago said, but he said they’re not ready to make their interest public yet.

State Sen. Shantel Krebs announces Saturday night she is running for secretary of state. David Montgomery/Argus Leader Media

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