Monthly Archives: June 2010

2,779 – 4,690 – 2,087

Those figures are the respective voter registration numbers for Republicans, Democrats and independents in state legislative district 15 in Sioux Falls as of the June 8 primary elections. So what? Here’s what. There is an independent candidate, Jenna Haggar, being touted on several blog sites as a challenger to the Democratic House incumbents, Martha Vanderlinde and Patrick Kirschman. Jenna, Martha and Patrick are all personable, based on what I’ve seen around the Legislature. But let’s talk reality, as in the mathematics of voter registration. There are nearly as many Democrats registered as there are Republicans and independents combined.

The numbers suggest Jenna, whose background includes work for South Dakota Right to Life and the Republican U.S. Senate campaign of Joel Dykstra, is running in some highly adverse political terrain. This is the same district where Republicans didn’t even field a Senate candidate, and pro-choice challenger Angie Buhl took out pro-life Sen. Kathy Miles in the Democratic primary three weeks ago. Angie is now better known as Sen.-elect Buhl.  But here’s the real kicker: The Republicans didn’t run any candidates for House in the district either this time.

So the obvious question is: Why would Dakota War College openly encourage its readers to write checks to an independent candidate running in a heavily Democratic district? The South DaCola blog jumped on the Jenna Haggar bandwagon today, saying Vanderlinde and Kirschman better hold onto their hats. Unless my old eyes missed something, there are only two districts statewide where no Republicans filed in Senate or House races: This one, and District 1 up in the northeast corner.

And readers, you can help us on the final point: Who was the last independent to win a seat in the Legislature, and when?

‘Now More Than Ever’


That’s the header which Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin is using for her Facebook fundraising appeal this week.

The slogan was used by Republican President Richard Nixon in his 1972 re-election campaign.

Stephanie was born on Dec. 3, 1970.

Nixon clobbered the Democratic nominee, U.S. Sen. George McGovern of South Dakota, in the ’72 race. 

 Then there was the impeachment and the resignation in 1974…

Time to switch a consonant?

Ow, More Than Never

(P.S. — Let me know if it gets changed.)

Regarding the complaints about non-coverage of the political conventions

Over at the Dakota War College blog, Pat Powers has penned a complaint about the lack of coverage by mainstream news organizations of the South Dakota Republican Party and the South Dakota Democratic Party state conventions last weekend in Huron and Sioux Falls. First, folks, if you want coverage, don’t hold the conventions on the same weekend. Second, don’t just expect the news media to show up because you think you’re important. Do some work, weeks in advance, to promote your event and provide the necessary background for reporters. Third, understand we live and work in a different news-media business environment than 10 or 20 or 30 years ago. Reporting staffs are less oriented toward politics, there is less inclination to pay for travel and there is no inclination to pay for overtime. Fourth, realize there is little interest in who serves as state treasurer or state auditor or lands commissioner or even secretary of state. In fact, there has been so little interest that Democrats haven’t even filled some of these slots on the ballot in elections the past 20 years. There was no Republican challenger to Attorney General Marty Jackley for the nomination, and Democrats were scraping for a candidate again this year.  Fifth, if you want the public to know something, at least issue a news release. The Republicans did put out a release on their nominees. To my knowledge, unless I missed it, the Democrats didn’t. Sixth, if you want to attract coverage, do something to make your event attractive. I know conventions are about months of county-party banquets and phone calls and letters, followed by primary elections for delegates, followed by the convention wheeling and dealing. None of it is easy to cover, because it’s intentionally below the radar. So do something that puts you on the radar. Hold debates between the various candidates for a nomination on Friday at mid-day, timed so that reporters have time to get there and time to get back to their newsrooms in order to make the noon or supper broadcast news and to make the next day’s papers. Heck, delegates might actually like to see the candidates in action head to head one last time before they vote on Saturday.

Now, as to why I didn’t go. I am one reporter. On Thursday, in Pierre, the state Transportation Commission and the state Board of Water and Natural Resources met. Also on Thursday, the state Board of Regents met in Brookings. On Friday, the regents were still in Brookings, and the water board was still in Pierre. Meanwhile the conventions were fully under way in Huron and Sioux Falls. I chose to cover the Transportation Commission, which was discussing the next five-year plan for our state’s highway system, and the Board of Water and Natural Resources, which was doling out millions in low-interest loans and grants for clean water, drinking water and recycling projects in communities across South Dakota. I didn’t like skipping the regents, but I had to make a decision. As for the conventions, they were lowest on the list of the events, in part because I had to travel the farthest and because there was no way to be at both of them simultaneously. The final point is that reporters have personal lives too, and I had a Teeners baseball tournament to oversee in Pierre on Saturday and Sunday with visiting teams from Groton, Winner, Rapid City and Mitchell.

On a closing note: If you want reporters and their news organizations to cover your event, don’t insult them and then expect them to go out of their way the next time.

What a horrible time on our highways

A one-vehicle crash 25 miles north of Belle Fourche on U.S. 85 took the driver’s life Friday. A one-vehicle rollover on Interstate 29 north of Sioux Falls took the driver’s life Friday. A truck crash on U.S. 18 south of Armour took the driver’s life Friday. Killed on Thursday was a passenger in a vehicle that turned in front of an oncoming semi at the intersection of S.D. 34 and S.D. 37 near Woonsocket. A one-vehicle crash last Monday on S.D. 79 south of Reva killed a passenger. A motorcycle passenger died in a crash on U.S. 85 south of Ludlow last Sunday. Six highway fatalities in six days.

The Thune slate?

That’s how a smart friend described the victors in the three contested races for nominations at the South Dakota Republican state convention Saturday. He was referring to the wins by state Sen. Jason Gant of Sioux Falls for secretary of state; Thune staffer Steve Barnett of Aberdeen for auditor; and state Auditor Rich Sattgast for treasurer. No one should underestimate the influence of a charismatic leader such as U.S. Sen. John Thune within his party’s inner circles of activists at the statewide and county levels. He’s uncontested for Senate re-election this year, which is one sign of his rising clout. Thune is a former executive director for the GOP and for the past 14 years has been campaigning for or serving in Congress. He has clearly become the party’s standard bearer. On the losing end in Saturday’s nomination fights were outgoing or former office-holders, or more precisely their candidates. Former First Lady Pat Miller and term-limited state Rep. Tim Rounds fell to Barnett in the auditor battle. Deputy state treasurer Mike Mehlhaff, whose boss is term-limited Treasurer Vern Larson, lost to Sattgast. Deputy secretary of state Theresa Bray fell in the battle to succeed her term-limited boss Chris Nelson, who placed second in the U.S. House primary earlier this month; Bray and state Rep. Tom Deadrick lost to Gant.

Just remember: Troy Larson promised.

The state Board of Water and Natural Resources agreed this morning to release the final $6.3 million of state funding for construction of the Lewis and Clark regional water system serving southeastern South Dakota and parts of Minnesota and Iowa. “I’m not going to be asking for more money,” the system’s executive director, Troy Larson, told the state board. Some of the communities will start getting water from the incomplete system in 2012. The target date is 2017 for full service to all. Right now the project is two years behind because federal funding hasn’t been coming consistently. Larson said a more realistic completion date is 2020.

Because you asked about the money…

The annual salary for Neil Fulton, the governor’s departing chief of staff, was $145,127 for the current budget year that ends June 30. The man replacing him as chief of staff is Public Safety Secretary Tom Dravland, whose salary was $107, 120 for the current budget year. Tom will receive the same salary as Neil did, according to Joe Kafka, the governor’s press secretary. Unless there is a corresponding series of salary increases triggered elsewhere by the combined duties, there should be salary salvage of about half of the $107,120, based on the six months left in the Rounds administration.

Let the constitutional nomination coronations and knife fights begin

The Republicans assemble in Huron and the Democrats gather in Sioux Falls for their state political conventions this week. The main drama for the Democrats is whether they can assemble a full slate of candidates for the state constitutional offices. They have two strong candidates looking to make the switch from the Legislature. They are Sen. Julie Bartling of Burke, who’s running for auditor, and Sen. Ben Nesselhuf of Vermillion, who campaigning for secretary of state. Neither office has an incumbent who can seek another four years because of term limits. The Republicans meanwhile have many more candidates than nominations available, and the showdowns will be fierce. Uncontested for Republican nominations are Attorney General Marty Jackley, School and Public Lands Commissioner Jarrod Johnson and Public Utilities Commission chairman Dusty Johnson. (The PUC technically isn’t a constitutional office; instead the PUC is a creation of the Legislature.) The Republicans also get to crown former Rep. Matt Michels for the lieutenant governor nomination, while the Democrats do the same for Republican (that isn’t a misprint) Ben Arndt, the respective picks of Republican governor nominee Lt. Gov. Dennis Daugaard and Democratic governor nominee Sen. Scott Heidepriem.

The Republicans’ three other office-holders are term-limited and can’t seek the same office again in 2010. Secretary of State Chris Nelson lost in the Republican primary for U.S. House of Representatives, and there’s a three-way struggle for the nomination between his deputy, Teresa Bray, and Sen. Jason Gant of Sioux Fals and Rep. Tom Deadrick of Platte. Auditor Rich Sattgast is term-limited and going for treasurer instead, where he faces what looks like an uphill head-to-head fight against deputy treasurer Mike Mehlhaff, who has the support of his term-limited boss, Treasurer Vern Larson. The auditor’s race is wild too: Former First Lady Pat Miller, Thune U.S. Senate staffer Steve Barnett and late entry Rep. Tim Rounds are running.

The sound of silence

No one, and I mean NO ONE, with whom I talked on the outside of the Rounds administration had guessed that Public Safety Secretary Tom Dravland would be the choice by Gov. Mike Rounds to serve as chief of staff for the final six months of his administration. The reactions since the Monday announcement have fallen into two categories: 1) How can Tom continue to manage the Department of Public Safety while being chief of staff? and 2) This is a clear signal that not much will be happening in the final six months. Dravland succeeds Neil Fulton, who moves down the hill to the U.S. courthouse building to run the federal public defender office for the Dakotas. There is no doubt that Dravland will be conscientious in his double role. The last person to have two major posts was Ron Wheeler, who was secretary of transportation and commissioner of economic development simultaneously under Gov. Bill Janklow. Whether or not they liked Wheeler, many people inside or familiar with those two agencies didn’t give that experiment a high final grade.

Equality batted .500 in primaries

The Equality South Dakota political action committee operated by Sharon Ludwick Warner of Rapid City, and largely funded by her and her husband, Tom Warner, put money behind four candidates in the legislative primaries (and none in the Republican governor’s race…). Two of the four candidates won. They were Angie Buhl, who received $2,000 en route to her win over Sen. Kathy Miles in a Democratic primary in Sioux Falls, and Rep. Marc Feinstein, who received $500 and won a nomination for re-election in a Democratic primary in Sioux Falls. On the losing end were former Rep. Casey Murschel, who received $1,000 and came in third in a three-way Republican primary for two House seat nominations in Sioux Falls, and former legislator Ron Volesky of Huron, who lost in a Senate Democratic primary. The Warners each contributed $5,000, and Sen. Stan Adelstein, R-Rapid City, gave $10,000 on May 28 after the pre-primary report was filed. Other big donors listed on the pre-primary report were Sen. Nancy Turbak, D-Watertown, who gave $3,000, and Amy Richards of Sioux Falls who contributed $1,250. The PAC is the campaign arm of the Equality South Dakota organization that incorporated in 2007 to promote equal treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Its support of Buhl marks a milestone for the group in further gaining a foothold in the Legislature. Her victory over Miles secured a Senate seat for her, because no other candidate filed in the district. Two of the candidates endorsed by the organization won Senate seats in the 2008 elections. They were Republican Craig Tieszen of Rapid City and Democrat Ben Nesselhuf of Vermillion. This year Nesselhuf is running for secretary of state instead. The group endorsed a long list of House candidates in 2008, with nine winning. The endorsements have gone overwhelmingly to Democrats so far in the two elections cycles since the group became active.