When Chris Nelson left SDSU in 1987 with an animal science degree, the South Dakota secretary of state’s office didn’t seem like the next natural step. After 15 years in various levels of that office, though, he is trying to move up another step to become the person in charge.
Nelson, a Republican, is looking to replace his current boss, Secretary of State Joyce Hazeltine, who is not seeking re-election. His so-called “TIE” platform rests on truth, integrity and experience, three things he descrbes as necessary for a good secretary of state.
Of these qualities, Nelson said he considers the last the most important.
In an office that deals with over 400 different types of documents, he said, the learning curve is relatively steep, and having someone in the office that is familiar with proceudres would make the transition much easier.
“It’s clearly experience that sets me apart,” he told the Collegian in an interview. “It makes sense to have me step up to be secretary of state.”
Nelson added that he considers his experience is a particular asset considering his opposition in the Nov. 5 election. Democrat Kate Looby, Nelson’s chief competitor, has no previous experience in the secretary of state’s office.
Nelson said he’s been pleased thus far with the amount of attention this campaign is getting despite the presence of what he describes as higher level elections such as those for U.S. Senate, U.S. House and South Dakota governor. He credits recent election controversies in other states with bringing a higher profile to the secretary of state’s office.
“People realize that the secretary of state makes a difference in elections. We’ve really gotten more attention than I expected,” he said.
With just over a month until the general election, Nelson is still working to increase the attention he gets from South Dakota voters. He said his emphasis thus far has been on small gatherings and simple billboards throughout the state.
Several of the candidate’s appearances have been with groups on the SDSU campus, including a discussion session with the Farmhouse fraternity, in which he was involved in college. Nelson said he enjoys such forums because he considers the college vote an important part of this election.
“Increasing college voting is a passion of mine, but it’s often overlooked,” he said.
His ideas for solving that problem include ways to make registration easier and more appealing to students. Chief among them is an on-line voter registration system.