SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — The two Republicans selected to run for new terms on the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission pledged Friday to protect consumers, including farmers who lost money when they sold sunflowers to a failed grain-buying company that cannot pay them.
Delegates at the Republican State Convention voted unanimously Friday to nominate incumbents Chris Nelson, 47, and Kristie Fiegen, 49, to run for the seats they currently hold on the commission that regulates grain warehouses and natural gas, electric and telephone utilities. Both were appointed to fill vacancies after previous commissioners resigned, and they are now seeking election to remain on the panel.
Nelson, a former secretary of state, is running for a four-year term against Democrat Nick Nemec, a farmer from Holabird. Fiegen, a former state lawmaker, is seeking a six-year term against Matt McGovern, a lawyer who is the grandson of former U.S. Sen. George McGovern.
At the Democratic State Convention a week ago, Nemec and McGovern said their campaigns will criticize Nelson and Fiegen for failing to protect farmers hurt by the collapse of Anderson Seeds Co. Inc., which owes farmers in South Dakota an estimated $2.6 million for sunflowers delivered to the company.
The two Republican commissioners said they were not even on the commission when it first licensed Anderson Seeds in 2010.
Nelson said the commission has done everything it could to protect farmers under current state law. The commission plans to unveil a proposal to strengthen state laws governing the regulation of grain warehouses and grain buyers.
"I will do everything I can to protect our farmers," Nelson told the convention delegates.
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