Kurt Evans speaking at the South Dakota Libertarian Convention, Sioux Falls, SD, August 9, 2014. Photo by Ken Santema.

Kurt Evans speaking at the South Dakota Libertarian Convention, Sioux Falls, SD, August 9, 2014. Photo by Ken Santema.

Kurt Evans plans to run for U.S. Senate in 2016. Evans will seek office as an Independent. He is the first candidate to declare for any of South Dakota's three statewide offices in 2016 (U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and Chris Nelson's seat on the Public Utilities Commission). Evans will run for the seat currently occupied by Senator John Thune, the GOP's number-three man in the upper chamber.

Evans is running because of his concerns about privacy and civil liberties. Evans says the intelligence community has been unconstitutionally seizing our telephone and Internet data. Evans predicts he would be "less inclined than Senator Thune to accept the intelligence community's self-justifying propaganda at face value."

On the economy, Evans is less worried about fiscal policy and more worried about monetary policy and the dastardly Fed: according to Evans, the Federal Reserve is inflating the money supply, which will lead to hyperinflation and the destruction of the dollar... unless Senator Evans can stop them.

On foreign policy, Evans opposes "meddling in the affairs of other nations, especially in the Middle East."

These positions support Evans's self-description as a "reasonably consistent pro-life libertarian," but notice he's not capitalizing that l. Evans says he will run as an Independent. He ran unsuccessfully for state auditor under the Liberatarian banner this year ("unsuccessful Libertarian"—that's redundant, right?). South Dakota Libertarians lost their official party status this year after failing to field a gubernatorial candidate. Evans is hanging onto his libertarian philosophy, but he says he has left the Libertarian organization "mainly due to a lack of honest communication by the members of the state party's executive committee." (Communication may be complicated by the fact that, prior to the November election, one of the five SDLP board members appears to have returned to his permanent home in Texas. Following the election, the party chair also left the state, for Colorado.)

Evans ran for Senate as a Libertarian in 2002 against Thune and incumbent Tim Johnson. He ended his campaign in late October, but his name remained on the ballot, and he drew 3,070 votes, six times the slim 532-vote margin of victory by which Thune failed to beat Johnson.

Evans thinks he can poll much better in 2016, based on the lessons of the 2014 Senate race. By Evans's read, this year's run by Larry Pressler showed that Independent candidates can at least poll in the double digits (Pressler broke 17%, far from a win, but better than any recent non-major-party Senate candidate in South Dakota). Evans reads a different lesson in the more typically low-polling (3%) Independent bid by Gordon Howie: "announcing after another non-major-party candidate has already entered the race creates a significant disadvantage."

Like Pressler, Evans will need to craft pitches that will appeal across party lines. Evans says he can win Republican votes with most of his domestic policy. He will pitch his foreign policy and positions on civil liberties to Democrats. He hopes his overall approach to politics will appeal to Independents. "Under most circumstances, though," says Evans, "I try to avoid thinking of people in groups."

Evans sees ill in grouping and labeling people. But even he can slip. As he gets ready to run, Evans acknowledges his own fallibility and asks our forgiveness:

I believe it's wrong to use pejorative labels that devalue and dehumanize other people, but last month I referred to Pat Powers as a 'Mary-worshipping douchebag' in an anonymous comment at South Dakota War College. I apologize to my fellow participants in South Dakota's political blogosphere for that very bad decision [Kurt Evans, e-mail to Madville Times, 2014.12.17].

Evans recognizes the value of respectful, intelligent, issue-oriented conversation, and he's willing to apologize when he slips from that standard. Let's hope he holds to that standard as he works to build a Senate campaign that he can sustain through November 8, 2016.