VERMILLION — The night Ben Nesselhuf lost to Jason Gant in South Dakota’s Secretary of State race, he thought he was done with politics.
All Nesselhuf had on his plate was to take a long nap the next day, spend time with his fiancé and find a job.
However, the job may have found him.
The day after the election, many people wanted Nesselhuf back in politics and asked him to run for chairman of South Dakota’s Democratic Party.
“I was dead serious about finding myself a good desk job and keeping my head down,” said Nesselhuf, who spent 10 years as a South Dakota legislator. “By the time I woke up from my nap on Wednesday, there were plans already in place that I had nothing to do with.”
Nesselhuf didn’t consider the idea at first, but as various people around the state kept calling, he knew he couldn’t walk away from politics.
“I was pretty dismissive at first, but I continued to receive such strong encouragement and people started campaigning for me,” he said. “We started brainstorming, and the fire started to burn again. The next I know, I’m running for the state chair.”
Nesselhuf was able to catch the attention of many Democrats in South Dakota. During his campaign for Secretary of State, Nesselhuf raised just more than $200,000, which not only set a new record for campaign money, but also trumped the entire total Democrats had ever raised for that race.
Because of the support he received, Nesselhuf felt it was his duty to continue to serve the South Dakota Democratic Party.
“To me, walking away from the support I received would’ve been selfish,” he said. “There were a lot of people that were supportive of my campaign, both financially and by volunteering. When they call me up to do this, it’s tough to say no.”
Nesselhuf officially announced he is running for chairman Thursday.
According to a report by the Rapid City Journal, one of his opponents is Mitch Fargen of Flandreau.
The election is set for Dec. 4, and Cheryl Chapman is the current chair of the state’s Democratic Party.
If he is elected the chairman, Nesselhuf said its time to bring the South Dakota Democratic Party back to its roots.
“It’s a matter of a back-to-the-basics approach,” he said. “The party needs to be focuses on fundraising. The candidates need money to win.
“We also need to make sure our message it getting out there by talking to the press at every opportunity and building an online presence,” Nesselhuf added. “We need to re-engage the party with a grassroots campaign.”
Nesselhuf would be taking over as the party chairman at what he considers one of the party’s lowest moments, but that didn’t keep him away from running.
“I think this is a job you take when things are going really good, or it’s at rock bottom,” he said. “They way things are going now, we are allowed to have a little fun. We can get creative and get some new ideas.”