Monthly Archives: May 2014

Will Mike Rounds break 60 percent?

As of Saturday afternoon, that’s where I put the over/under line, regarding how much of the Republican U.S. Senate primary vote that former Gov. Mike Rounds will receive when the ballots are counted Tuesday night.

Through the winter and spring I would have set the break line at 50 percent for Rounds in the five-candidate field. Two sets of changes took place in May, however.

Rounds’ campaign stepped up its efforts tremendously with its blitz of signs, its well-done newspaper stuffers and the candidate’s busy schedule of appearances at grassroots events.

Meanwhile the other four didn’t seem to pick up steam. They resorted to holding and/or attending news conference-style events trying to draw wider attention. The strangest might have been one candidate’s use of a four-letter vulgarity for a specific feature of female anatomy.

For Rounds to reach 60 percent requires that Stace Nelson, Larry Rhoden, Annette Bosworth and Jason Ravnsborg average no more than 10 percent.

I don’t hear anyone speculating lately about whether Rounds can get 35 percent. That’s the minimum set in state law to win a primary outright and avoid a secondary election three weeks later between the top two finishers.

I also don’t hear anyone, outside of those involved in one of the four non-Rounds campaigns, speculating that Nelson, Rhoden, Ravnsborg or Bosworth is going to win the primary.

I do hear some strong, long-active Republicans saying they simply won’t vote in the primary because they can’t stand Rounds but don’t want any of the other four.

Those same abstainers say they will vote for Rounds in the general election, however, because they don’t want the Senate seat to wind up in the hands of Democrat Rick Weiland or the two independents, former Republicans Larry Pressler and Gordon Howie.

P.S. — I was asked a few minutes after my original post whether Stace Nelson could reach 35 percent and beat Mike Rounds. That would require one in three Republican primary voters to mark their ballots for Nelson, and the other two-thirds to split between Rounds, Rhoden, Bosworth and Ravnsborg.

Bankruptcy judge isn’t a dull fellow

OK, nobody really wants to be in federal bankruptcy court, no matter what side you’re on. But after spending the past four days in the courtroom of U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Charles Nail Jr. at the Northern Beef Packers / Scott Olson Digging dispute, I have to acknowledge it wasn’t painful duty (other than the hard wooden benches). Judge Nail’s mind is quick, he likes a good pun, he’s practical and he keeps the pace moving without being a drill sergeant.

A strange finance report is filed w/Saturday update

I’m not making this up. I’m not on a witch hunt, either. Last night I spent some time checking pre-primary campaign finance reports regarding activity and endorsements in legislative primaries. Given what happened two years ago, one of the names I checked at the official site on the Internet managed by the South Dakota secretary of state office was Secretary of State Jason Gant.

His pre-primary report doesn’t show any activity, except his campaign loan has been zeroed out. How this was accomplished is the mystery. His report showed zero cash to start and zero contributions, but it also shows his campaign repaid the remaining $15,419.74 that was owed to him personally.

Maybe the numbers wound up, twice, in the wrong columns. Maybe he forgave the loan. But there wasn’t any money raised to repay it, at least not according to his report.

A check of his 2013 year-end report, filed early this year, shows he raised $2,320 in unitemized contributions ($100 or smaller) in 2013 and received $2.41 in interest, and that he spent $6,319.60 in 2013.

Of that spending the campaign repaid $5,704.07 to Gant on the $21, 123.83 loan he had previously made to his campaign. The rest was $610 for advertising and $5.09 for bank fees.

He began 2013 with $3,996.75 in his campaign account and ended 2013 with zero cash. How he then paid off the $15,419.74 of remaining loan this year, without any income for the campaign account, isn’t explained.

One more thing… Again, not on a witch hunt, but his same 2013 report appears to be posted for two other years on his office’s web site.

Mistakes happen. In this office, mistakes seem to happen and happen and happen in the three years and five months since Gant took over the office.

He isn’t running again, and he doesn’t live in Pierre any longer. State Attorney General Marty Jackley investigated the office two years ago and found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing but Gant brought in new top help.

Deputy Pat Miller of Fort Pierre now administers the office. She’s seeking the Republican nomination for secretary of state against state Sen. Shantel Krebs of Renner.

Krebs’ decision last summer to challenge for the nomination led Gant to decide against seeking re-election to a second term. Miller decided this year she would challenge Krebs.

Miller’s pre-primary report doesn’t list any of her contributors. It says she received $3,824 in unitemized contributions of $100 or under and $3,200 of itemized contributions. She gave her campaign $5,000 and she reports spending $10,140.97 with $1,883.03 cash on hand.

Krebs’ pre-primary report shows she began 2014 with $5,630.26 cash and has raised $3,300 in unitemized contributions and $5,750 from itemized contributors, other campaign committees and political action committees. She reported spending $9,832.70 with $4,797.56 cash on hand.

Miller and Krebs will see their fate decided by delegates at the South Dakota Republicans’ state convention June 19-21 at Rapid City.

SATURDAY, MAY 31, UPDATE: I checked the Gant reports this afternoon. There still isn’t an explanation of how the debt was repaid without any income for the account this spring. And the 2013 year-end report continues to be mistakenly posted for the two previous years. Odd that someone, whether it be the secretary of state or his deputy or one of the office employees, wouldn’t have tracked these matters down Friday and corrected them. Must be that they don’t read this blog.

This time, Daugaard isn’t involved in legislative primaries

Two years ago, Gov. Dennis Daugaard donated money to five Republicans who were in June primary elections for legislative seats. He had two wins and three losses — and he faced a surprising level of criticism for taking sides. This year, he’s running for re-election and has his own Republican primary against former Rep. Lora Hubbel of Sioux Falls. And guess what — he hasn’t spread any money to Republicans who are in legislative primaries.

In fact, his pre-primary finance report shows he’s donated money from his campaign to only two Republican legislative candidates: Fred Deutsch of Florence in District 4 and Kent Peterson of Salem. Daugaard gave $1,000 to each. Deutsch is one of two Republicans running for the two House seats in their district. He and John Wilk of Big Stone City face Democrats Peggy Schuelke of Revillo and first-term incumbent Kathy Tyler of Big Stone City. Peterson and first-term incumbent Kyle Schoenfish of Scotland, both Republicans, are unopposed. The other District 19 incumbent is Rep. Stace Nelson, R-Fulton, who is running for U.S. Senate.

Back to Lora Hubbel… Two years ago, Hubbel was a first-term House member who challenged Sen. Deb Peters of Hartford in the Republican primary. Daugaard backed Peters. Now Hubbel is running against him.

Peters was one of the two wins for Daugaard-backed Republicans in the 2012 legislative primaries. The other was Sen. Bruce Rampelberg of Rapid City, who turned aside George Ferebee of Hill City for a second consecutive time after a 19-vote win in 2010.

The three Daugaard-backed Republicans who lost in 2012 legislative primaries were:

Rep. Val Rausch of Big Stone City who lost to Sen. Tim Begalka of Clear Lake;

Sen. Tom Nelson of Lead who lost to Lawrence County Commission member Bob Ewing of Spearfish; and

Former Rep. Mike Buckingham of Rapid City, who lost his bid for the Republican Senate nomination to Rep. Phil Jensen of Rapid City.

Perry is all-in trying to oust Monroe

The District 24 legislative contests define ‘hard-fought’ this spring. There are Republican primaries for House and Senate from the district that covers Hughes, Hyde, Stanley and Sully counties. In each instance, a former lawmaker is trying to get back into office. Former Rep. Tad Perry of Fort Pierre lost two years ago to then-former Rep. Jeff Monroe of Pierre in the Senate primary. Now Perry is trying again against Monroe. Perry, the retired executive director for the South Dakota state universities system and specialty schools, reported spending $18,970.55 as of his pre-primary finance report filed May 23. Perry said he raised $23,784.87, including $1,865.49 of his own money and $3,550 from political action committees. His one four-figure PAC contribution was $1,000 that came from the South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations. Monroe, a self-employed chiropractor, reported spending $6,295.36 and raising $7,374 including $859 from PACs. In 2012, Monroe won by 36 votes. Perry won Hughes County 1,527 to 1,347 but Monroe won the three rural counties with margins of 107 in Sully, 28 in Stanley and 81 in Hyde. Monroe’s clear-cut position as an opponent of legalized abortion was a key difference in the contest, especially in Hyde. Perry had served one term in the House before his 2012 loss. Monroe had previously served in the House for four terms from 1995 through 2002.

The House Republican primary has three candidates seeking the nominations for two seats. Incumbents Mary Duvall of Pierre and Tim Rounds of Pierre face former Rep. Mark Venner of Pierre. Venner is running as the more conservative candidate. He reported spending $3,302.89, received $1,500 worth of mailings from the National Association for Gun Rights, and received $6,350 in direct contributions.  He began with $64.77 cash left from his previous campaign. Duvall, a first-term incumbent, said she’s spent $6,614.05 and received a combination of $2,475 in individual contributions, $2,350 from PACs and $2,000 from her family. She began the year with $2,149.87 cash. Rounds, a five-term incumbent, reported spending $3,217.81 and received $1,480 from individual contributors and $3,120 from PACs and a House Republican political committee. Rounds began the year with $2,110.36 cash. Duvall won the 2012 House Republican primary with 2,414 votes and Rounds took the second slot with 2,288. Venner lost his seat when he received 2,015 votes.

The two Republican primaries won’t conclusively decide the legislators from District 24 for the 2015-16 term. Ruth Rehn of Pierre is running as the Democratic candidate for the Senate seat, while Thomas Scheinhost of Fort Pierre is running solo as a Democrat for the House. The Republicans have been busy getting yard signs spread across the district especially in Pierre. The signs seem to be Monroe and Venner together and the trio of Rounds, Duvall and Perry together. There’s one yard in my neighborhood with a Venner sign and a Perry sign. While they would be in different chambers of the Legislature, in some instances Perry and Venner based on their past positions would cancel each other on legislation. On the Republican political spectrum the order would probably be left to right Perry, Rounds, Duvall, Monroe and Venner. Issues vary, of course.

Annette: ‘In my presence’ means ‘in my presence’

It’s too bad that South Dakota’s election laws allow so little time during the primary campaigns to inspect and challenge the validity of candidates’ petitions for party nominations. It’s also too bad the laws in their current form mean there are two different standards for partisan candidates and independent candidates. The cases of two U.S. Senate candidates, Republican Annette Bosworth and independent Clayton Walker, show why.

Both Bosworth and Walker broke state laws regarding nomination petitions. But Bosworth remains a candidate on the June 3 Republican ballot, because her transgressions couldn’t be proven in court fast enough in April before the deadline for county auditors to have the primary ballots printed. Walker was stripped of his candidacy last week by Secretary of State Jason Gant, just weeks after Gant initially certified Walker as a candidate, and Gant removed Walker from the Nov. 4 general election ballot.

Their different treatment doesn’t disguise that both Bosworth and Walker lied on their nominating petitions.

Walker was simpler. He presented signatures from hundreds of names that didn’t belong to registered voters and often were made up. When this was proven, because of a challenge brought by Brookings County Democratic chair Mary Perpich, Walker’s signatures total fell below the minimum required to make the ballot.

Bosworth was elusive. She finally admitted on Tuesday that she wasn’t present when some signatures were put on her petitions, but she still signed the documents as the petition circulator, stating she was present and she witnessed the signatures. The petition forms carry the requirement that the circulator must attest the signatures from voters were made “in my presence” but in Bosworth’s instance she wasn’t there. She was abroad.

Madville Times blogger Corey Heidelberger and state Rep. Steve Hickey tried to get Bosworth’s petitions invalidated back in April. In response to Heidelberger’s challenge, Gant ruled Bosworth had many invalid signature but still had sufficient valid signatures. Hickey went to circuit court but he couldn’t get a hearing date before the printing deadline for primary ballots. Hickey then sent a letter to state Attorney General Marty Jackley. As we saw when then-state Sen. Stan Adelstein sent a letter to Jackley about Gant and his office several years ago, the attorney general pays attention to a legislator’s letter of complaint.

There’s  been a strange and twisting path taken by Gant and Jackley, both Republicans, in all of this. Jackley found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing in Gant’s office in response to the Adelstein complaint, but Gant brought on two senior people to help him and two other senior people left. This election season, Gant initially turned to Jackley for help regarding Heidelberger’s challenge. Jackley in an April 7 letter said it’s not his responsibility to administer elections but it is his responsibility to defend state officials.

Hickey filed a court action seeking Bosworth’s removal but the matter couldn’t be handled before the April 16 deadline for county auditors to have ballots ready for the June 3 primary. More recently, after the Hickey letter, Jackley announced in a news release that he would be pursuing investigation of two candidates after the general election but they could remain on the ballot. Eventually the targets were determined to be Bosworth and Walker.

Then Gant took another look at Walker because of the Perpich challenge and invalidated Walker’s candidacy.

Bosworth held a news conference Tuesday in which she claimed, again, to be a victim. But she also admitted, under questioning from Sioux Falls Argus Leader reporter David Montgomery, that she wasn’t present when some of the signatures were put on her petitions, even though she signed the petitions as the circulator and that by signing, she claimed the voters’ signatures came “in my presence”. She broke the law. Whether she can admit that to herself yet isn’t clear. Her behavior Tuesday indicates she’s still blaming everybody else for being too harsh toward her.

Setting all of the personalities aside, the Bosworth and Walker instances show that state laws need to be adjusted by the 2015 Legislature so there is more time to inspect and challenge petitions for statewide candidates before primary elections. The window for challenges to independent candidates’ petitions should be changed to conform with the window of time for challenging party candidates’ petitions.

An earlier filing deadline for statewide candidates would be the simplest method. South Dakota already requires that proposed constitutional amendments and initiated ballot measures be filed one full year before general election day. Changing the deadline for statewide candidates from late March in the election year (this year it was Tuesday, March 25) to even March 1 would provide an additional three-plus weeks for certification and challenges. Maybe Feb. 14 would be a sweetheart of a day too.

The Legislature also should consider a higher percentage threshold for the sampling method used by the secretary of state. State law currently sets the random sample at 5 percent. CORRECTION: The 5 percent sample applies only to ballot measures and constitutional amendments.

This is the second election in a row where candidates’ petitions were challenged amid legal infirmities. The Legislature tightened a standard after the 2012 controversies. This year’s problems are pressing as well.

When the levee doesn’t break

Don’t ever accuse Joe Lowe of Piedmont of not knowing how to cash in. While he was director of South Dakota’s wildland fire-fighting division, he was assigned in 2011 to Dakota Dunes during the Missouri River flooding. He helped build the shoreline protection. He retired in 2012 and now he’s running for the Democratic nomination for governor against state Rep. Susan Wismer of Britton in the June 3 primary election. His pre-primary campaign finance report filed Friday shows his levee work didn’t hurt. He received five contributions of $2,000 or more — and guess where four came from? David Bernstein of Sioux City, Iowa, gave $2,000. Steve Dickhaus of Dakota Dunes contributed $2,500. Kevin Vaughn of Jefferson donated $2,600. David Wipson of Dakota Dunes gave $4,000.

How the counties align by political party

Here’s the chart from the South Dakota Secretary of State office regarding county voter-registration heading into next week’s primary elections on June 3. Democrats are the top party in only 17 counties, nearly all with large American Indian populations.

A look at governor candidates’ campaign finances

Here is the updated draft of a story I’m assembling about the pre-primary financial reports from the four Republican and Democratic candidates for governor:


Daugaard has more than 100-to-one

financial advantage over challengers


PIERRE – Gov. Dennis Daugaard raised $272,422.91 during the first four-plus months of 2014 for his re-election and spent $347,585.43, according to his pre-primary campaign finance report filed Friday.

The Republican governor showed $1,646,169.24 cash on hand and no debts or obligations owed.

Most of his money came from itemized individual contributions that totaled $238,920. Another $10,269 came from smaller non-itemized contributions.

Most of his spending so far this year went for advertising that cost $278,319.91.

Daugaard faces former state Rep. Lora Hubbel in the June 3 primary election for the Republican nomination.

Hubbel said she’s spent $22,683.20 so far this year and owes $3,944 to four businesses.

Hubbel reported $18,585 of itemized individual contributions and $1,800 of non-itemized contributions. She also reported $930 worth of in-kind donations.

Hubbel gave $7,000 to her campaign as well.

She began the year with $774.73 cash on hand and has $2,212.53 cash remaining as of Friday.

Joe Lowe and state Rep. Susan Wismer are competing for the Democratic nomination for governor in their June 3 primary.

Wismer’s report filed Friday showed she had spent $10,610.20 since starting her campaign in February and that she owed a consultant $812.50.

Wismer said she received $15,353.27 in itemized individual contributions and $2,993 in non-itemized contributions. She also took in $4,180 from other sources and donated $1,000 of her own money.

She showed remaining cash on hand of $12,916.07.

Lowe reported spending $17,592.28 so far this year and owes himself $4,335 that he loaned his campaign.

Lowe said he received $23,100 in itemized individual contributions and $6,573.70 in non-itemized contributions. He also reported $250 from the Brule County Democrats and $2,000 of in-kind service from a Piedmont vendor.

Lowe began the year with $1,574.59 cash and had remaining cash Friday of $13,906.01.


If you felt a rumble last night

Sometimes as human beings we get in trouble with others no matter what we do. Such seems to be the case from the Davison County Republicans gathering last night.

They held their Lincoln Day dinner Thursday with Gov. Dennis Daugaard as the keynote speaker. (This was the event that caused South Dakota Public Broadcasting to drop its debate between Daugaard and Lora Hubbel, who are seeking the Republican nomination for governor in the June 3 primary. Daugaard told SDPB he was previously committed, and another date wasn’t found.) Originally, so the story told to me goes, the many other Republican candidates were told they wouldn’t be speaking.

Four of the five Republicans seeking the party’s U.S. Senate nomination attended anyway. And sometime along the line, a decision was made to let every candidate say a little something. It was enjoyable to watch people compress an impression into one or two sentences. For the Senate candidates, the time was two minutes apiece. So Annette Bosworth, Larry Rhoden, Jason Ravnsborg and Mike Rounds took a turn. Having watched them in two long-form debates at the South Dakota Newspaper Association convention and on SDPB a week ago, the two-minute sprints were fun.

Stace Nelson didn’t attend. And so the fifth Republican candidate for U.S. Senate didn’t speak. Of any statewide candidate on the Republican side of the ballot, the legislator from Fulton had the shortest distance to drive. He put the road time and the event’s three hours to other use with less than two weeks before election day. Some people at the event speculated that he would come rushing in, after he found out the candidates would be allowed to speak.

Given his history of friction with various other Republicans in the Legislature, it’s unlikely that the rules were designed to exclude him. If anything, allowing all of the candidates to have the microphone for at least a little while seemed like the smart move, with some 100 non-candidate Republicans in the room at the Ramada. Whether we hear about this again is up to Stace. Don’t be surprised if he seems hurt or feels cheated. On the other hand, if only he had been there in the first place, if only to shake hands and make small talk with people to promote his candidacy, he would have been holding the microphone too for his two minutes.

If only, if only.