Chris McClure, Democratic candidate for District 14 House, Sioux Falls, SD, 2014.08.23

Chris McClure, Democratic candidate for District 14 House, Sioux Falls, SD, 2014.08.23

I'll bet Dennis Daugaard wishes this philosophy major would take up welding. Democrat Chris McClure wants to bring his political philosophy and experience to Pierre as District 14 Representative.

McClure emphasizes that he views himself as a moderate. He says he sees no need to raise taxes or impose an income tax. He considers the state's fiscal situation to be pretty good. He supports small business. Harkening to his working-class upbringing (Mom and Dad both worked retail), he believes firmly in personal responsibility. At the same time, he supports social programs that help hard-working families advance.

McClure applies a bothersomely cautious moderation to women's issues, specifically to abortion. He says he's personally pro-life but respects the Constitution. Unfortunately, he also says he would leave South Dakota the way it is, which those of us fighting for women's reproductive autonomy will tell you is mean and misogynistic. McClure says that as a male, it's not his place to comment on whether South Dakota's 72-hour abortion waiting period is appropriate (if we were philosophizing, I'd say he's inconsistently yielding to those males who think it is their place to impose such a waiting period).

We all can understand why McClure and other Democrats in South Dakota may shy away from abortion as a campaign issue: speak up for abortion rights, and it's far too easy for Republicans to mobilize the rabid right and distract us from discussing the shambles GOP policies are making of our schools, roads, and workforce. And as I found with my Catholic socialist neighbor Gerry Lange, we South Dakota Democrats can't afford litmus tests.

But moderation that allows women to be second-class citizens is bad moderation. I'll keep working on McClure.

Now if I got really cranky and exclusive, I could tell McClure to take his moderation to the GOP. McClure says Republicans have indeed tried to recruit him. But he won't bite. "I believe in being the party of reason," says McClure, and that means being a Democrat (yes!). He sees the right wing taking the GOP so far right that Democrats now represent the center. There is no far left in South Dakota, says McClure, among candidates or in the media. McClure says that if he were in Massachusetts, he might be a Mitt Romney Republican... although he carefully points out that he means Governor Mitt Romney, the guy who invented ObamaCare, not 2012 Mitt Romney, the guy who tacked unconvincingly right to get the ultra-conservative donors and votes.

However moderate McClure may be, his main issues mirror those his cross-town counterpart Ellee Spawn puts at the front of her campaign: teacher pay (raise it!), Medicaid expansion (do it!), and minimum wage (boost it and more!).

When I ask if he has a plan to raise teacher pay, he says yes, he does: "Pay teachers more!" There's no complicated socio-economic phenomenon depressing teacher salaries: we pay teacher rock-bottom "because that's what Republicans want to do." McClure calls it "ridiculous" (did someone say moderate?) that South Dakota pays teachers $17,000 to $18,000 less than Wyoming, Minnesota, and the national average.

He says we need to pull more money from the surplus and from economic growth into education, cut other programs, and establish reliably dedicated funds. But voters don't trust Pierre to do that because they have seen that Pierre does not prioritize education, and that's the fundamental problem that we must solve.

McClure says that moderates and conservatives alike should be able to agree that Medicaid expansion roacks from a fiscal perspective. McClure says we're giving up 1,900 jobs and $420 million in federal funding over three years by refusing to expand Medicaid. We'd help workers get health care, which means they'd stay healthy, work more, and boost the economy. Either way, we're paying taxes to cover the expansion, but our recalictrance means we get zilch in return. That, says McClure, is a "very bad financial decision."

McClure says Initiated Measure 18, which will boost the minimum wage to $8.50 an hour, won't create a living wage, but it's closer. He says 70% of South Dakotans support raising the minimum wage and predicts IM 18 will pass. McClure argues that, just like expanding Medicaid, raising the minimum wage makes sense, since lower-income workers are more likely than anyone else to spend their additional dollars and stimulate the economy. Boost the minimum wage, and you boost everybody.

At 32, McClure is the youngest candidate in District 14. Yet his résumé makes a strong case for his ability to legislate. He worked as head attorney for the state's child support enforcement division. He saw children and parents suffering under loopholes in the state's child paternity laws, and he helped the 2012 Child Support Commission revise those laws to establish a clearer process for determining paternity and better protect children's best interests (see 2013 House Bill 1021). McClure is now an associate at Swier Law Firm in Sioux Falls.

Prior to his work in government and law, McClure was student body president at Augustana. He helped start the Big Event concert series, which has brought some pretty big musical names to Sioux Falls. McClure points to that organizing experience as evidence of his ability to defy expectations and get things done.

McClure majored in philosophy at Augustana. Plato said that we'd get the best government when philosophers became kings or when kings started philosophizing. But have no philosophophobia: McClure won't fill you full of abstractions. He'll get a little Socratic, saying that we must recognize that we cannot know everything and thus that our intellect can always err. But he says that knowledge of our fallibility must not stop us from doing our best and acting against injustice. McClure says he'd like to hear more politicians acknowledge their fallibility, admit when they are wrong, and not fear changing their positions for the good of the state.

And that's about as philosophical as McClure gets on the campaign trail. He says the key to winning votes is (his slogan!) "Hard Work and Common Sense." For McClure, hard work means knocking on more doors than the other candidates, who in District 14 include fellow Democrat Valerie Loudenback and Republicans Larry Zikmund and Tom Holmes.

Hard work also means getting people of all political persuasions back to talking to each other. In that spirit, McClure says, "Let's do lunch!" Really! McClure extends an open invitation to any resident of District 14 to join him for lunch between now and November 3 to talk legislative issues. It's first come, first served, so call or Facebook McClure, pick a date, and have lunch with candidate McClure.

I'll remind my new philosopher friend that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue. But McClure will remind his friends and neighbors on the campaign trail that his moderate political philosophy and useful experience can bring good policy for District 14 and South Dakota.