In October 2010, RMA Research of Sioux Falls released a poll stating that Scott Heidepriem was within six percentage points of Dennis Daugaard in the gubernatorial race. Heidepriem was not.

Yesterday, RMA Research released a poll stating that Corinna Robinson is nineteen percentage points behind Rep. Kristi Noem (43% to 24%) in the race for South Dakota's lone House seat. RMA also contends that if you tell the right stories and ask the right questions, you can get likely voters to favor Robinson over Noem by eight points (44% to 36%).

Pay close attention, Robinson rooters: these optimistic numbers don't say Robinson is winning; they say she can win, if she can get people to know her (only 17% of the 302 telephoned respondents said they are familiar with Robinson) and dim Noem's horsey-girl image with facts about her rotten record. Here's how RMA drove that Robinson shift:

  • Give voters biographies of both candidates. 82% of respondents found Robinson's résumé makes her an appealing candidate. 61% said the same of Noem's CV.
  • Talk about Noem's votes. RMA told voters Rep. Noem voted "to shut down the government in 2013, ...[voted] no on a farm bill and...  [voted] to cut Social Security and Medicare by 25%." 57% said those issues made them less likely to vote to re-elect our Congresswoman.

Like the hopeful Heidepriem poll in 2010, RMA's finding doesn't tell Robinson is ahead; it tells her what she could do to get ahead. Follow Whirlwind Weiland around the state, tell everyone she meets about her own service in the military and Rep. Noem's lack of achievement in Congress, and land some big donors to put that message in every newspaper, on every radio station, and in every commercial break on the Big News at 6.


Last week, Attorney General Marty Jackley said that folks interested in protecting the integrity of the ballot needed to talk to the judge, not to him. I thought about that. So, surprisingly, did Representative and Reverend Steve Hickey (R-9/Sioux Falls).

I'll admit, Hickey and I communicated. I helped crowdsource some support for a legal challenge to answer the questions AG Jackley and SOS Gant would not.

But Rep. Rev. Hickey decided to act. Last Thursday, April 10, Rep. Hickey filed an affidavit with the Hughes County Clerk of Courts asking the Sixth Circuit Court to order Secretary of State Jason Gant to reject Annette Bosworth's nominating petition and not print her name on the GOP Senate primary ballot. Rep. Hickey submitted an additional affidavit with evidence supporting the case that Bosworth and husband Chad Haber had invalidated her petition by violating their circulator's oaths. Hickey submitted 53 pages of exhibits in support of his affidavits.

Judge Mark Barnett e-mailed Rep. Hickey on Friday, April 11, and said he saw no way to schedule a hearing that could compel the Secretary of State to act in time to prevent printing of the ballots. He scheduled a tentative hearing for Friday, April 18. Ballots are due at county courthouses by Wednesday April 16.

Second Circuit Court Judge Susan Sabers was able to respond to a court challenge to an impending vote the same day it was filed, April 6, the day before the Sioux Falls municipal election. Evidently the Second Circuit can move faster than the Sixth Circuit.

Seeing that Judge Barnett deemed immediate remedy unworkable, Rep. Hickey has moved to dismiss his own action. The legal questions Attorney General Jackley and Secretary Gant have ignored on the Bosworth petition challenge thus remain unanswered.

But why did Rep. Hickey file his challenge in the first place? The good reverend offers this explanation:

I'm not connected with any Senate campaign so this is not one campaign trying to take out another campaign and so I'm not sure how this will be viewed today. But maybe someone someday will say, there was a time an overtly Christian US Senate candidate was so unscrupulous, scandalous and unChristlike, Steve was bothered enough to stick his foot out and try to trip that person up on a technicality. (The unscrupulous and scandalous things are the raffles and unpaid employees and vendors which have been documented by the Argus Leader. The unChristlike thing I'm referring to was the official Bosworth campaign video attack on a thorn-in-the-flesh citizen activist for a lone employment termination fully ignoring her own past which is far worse.)

Character is more important than Republican talking points. A few days ago Dr. Boz did a video likening herself to David against Goliath. My thought was if she was indeed David, then she need someone to be a Nathan to her. Nathan was David's friend who would not sit by and let David gloss over his significant transgressions. The ever-growing list of dubious things in the Bosworth candidacy left unchallenged only undermine the integrity of the process and public confidence which effects all of us in public office or seeking it. And, I do think it would be a win for the state GOP for the public to see we are willing to clean our own house once in a while [links mine; Rep. Rev. Steve Hickey, e-mail to Madville Times, 2014.04.14].

Expect Team Bosworth to spend campaign donations to attack Reverend Hickey with a comedy video showing him waving his arms during a sermon. Expect Rep. Rev. Hickey to let that water roll off his back.

In my statutory challenge to Bosworth's petition and in Hickey's now-withdrawn court challenge, citizens tried to work as swiftly as they could within the law and the compressed time frame created by the state to challenge what appears to be a fraudulent nominating petition. The Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and now the court have declined to act with similar swiftness to ensure that the ballot is not sullied by such fraud.

Related, 11:48 CDT: Bosworth alleges on Facebook this morning that "preachers that signed my nominating petition are being harassed by law enforcement." Note to Annette: asking questions is not harassment. But the thinnest-skinned person on the ballot asks with unabashed irony, "How do we stand up to this corruption?"

Update 12:44 CDT: Joel Ebert of the Pierre Capital Journal reports the story (and calls me a "liberal blogger"—yes!). Hickey reiterates to Ebert that he moved to dismiss his writ simply because the court could not take action in time to provide remedy.


South Dakota Democrats campaigning for the initiative to raise South Dakota's minimum wage can turn to economists for support. Economists pretty strongly favor raising the minimum wage. They generally take the position laid out by Brad DeLong that wealth has "declining marginal utility." In other words, an extra dollar for a rich gal has less effect than an extra dollar for a poor gal.

The $8.50 initiative in South Dakota is way too low in Robert Reich's book. He says even the $10.10 an hour that the President and some Senate Democrats advocate lowballs the value workers add to the economy:

Had the minimum wage of 1968 simply stayed even with inflation, it would be more than $10 an hour today. But the typical worker is also about twice as productive as then. Some of those productivity gains should go to workers at the bottom [Robert Reich, "Why the Minimum Wage Should Really Be $15 an Hour," blog, 2014.04.08].

Reich says that at $8.50 or $10.10 an hour, we are still subsidizing businesses by supplementing minimum-wage workers with Medicaid, food stamps, and other public support. You might think that will raise your price for a Big Mac, but hey: if you're buying the product, shouldn't you pay the full price instead of shifting the cost to taxpayers who may not be shopping at McDonalds?

Reich doesn't think we'll see those price hikes, though:

A $15/hour minimum is unlikely to result in higher prices because most businesses directly affected by it are in intense competition for consumers, and will take the raise out of profits rather than raise their prices. But because the higher minimum will also attract more workers into the job market, employers will have more choice of whom to hire, and thereby have more reliable employees — resulting in lower turnover costs and higher productivity [Reich, 2014.04.08].

He says rebuts the "pay hikes kill jobs!" argument with this redistributive stimulus argument: a higher minimum wage would draw down some of the concentration of wealth at the top, put more of that money into the hands of working families who will spend more of that money, stimulate the economy, and create more jobs. In Reich's analysis, these stimulative effects, along with the cost savings on turnover and the simple moral argument that we should pay folks a living wage for their increased productivity, would support a $15 minimum wage.

$15 an hour! That makes me feel a bit sheepish shouting hard for South Dakota's $8.50 proposal. But shout I shall. Workers deserve better... and they'll do more for the economy with their raise than our rich concentrators of wealth will.


Gordon Howie wants to make clear that his announced Independent run for Senate is not meant to undermine Stace Nelson's GOP primary bid. To do so, he's hosting a fundraiser for Nelson today (today? Holy cow, guys, how about some notice?).

A press release fresh from Team Nelson announces that Howie, Tonchi Weaver, and their radical conservative friends will be hosting a meet and greet for Nelson today in Rapid City at Beau Jo's Pizza (ah, pizza! All is forgiven.) starting at a quarter to six. Unlike Rounds, who is hiding from a Sioux Falls debate by throwing his own Rapid City event Tuesday, the announcement makes clear that Nelson will be available to take media questions during the opening social hour.


Saturday's debate among all of the GOP Senate candidates crystallized for the challengers their primary mission: concentrate all fire on the frontrunner, Marion Michael Rounds. Spending time picking on Larry Rhoden is a waste of time (Stace!). Trying to step on the slow guys' shoestrings distracts from chasing down the guy in front.

Or, for other sports metaphors, throw your punches at the man with the glass jaw. Hurt Rounds, put him on defense, force him to punch back, and you change the dynamic of the race. Mike Rounds responding is Mike Rounds giving up the fantasy he had of replaying 2002, when he snuck his way to victory as the nice guy against two other meanies calling each other names. He may have thought a crowded field of challengers would fall to squabbling amongst themselves, thus allowing him to recycle his "Aren't you kids wonderful and aren't I wonderful for telling you you're wonderful" fake-sugar kindergarten-teacher routine. But when the challengers all focus their attacks on him (as Nelson and even Ravnsborg tried Saturday), Rounds can't ride the 2002 Kirby-Barnett dynamic. He can't just be Smiling Mike when everyone treats him like Kirby.

But if Rounds is Kirby, doesn't someone end up being Barnett? If Nelson does accept his mission, ignore the other challengers, and pound Rounds (pound is the verb debate panelist Jonathan Ellis uses to describe what Nelson did to Rounds Saturday), does not Nelson risk ending up in second place with Rounds while an electorate with some weirdly selective aversion to electoral violence picks some milder nice guy who doesn't say much?

Our jarhead hero pauses, rifle in hand. He can storm the bunker. He can take out the big gun. But he may not survive to march on to Paris. What's a Marine to do?

Stace Nelson cannot win if he doesn't attack Mike Rounds. He may not win if he does attack Rounds. I suspect Nelson constitutionally (as in personal constitution) cannot decline what may be a suicide mission. He may be the only candidate with big enough rifle and grenades to carry out this mission. He might surprise us and survive... but if he doesn't, who will pick up his fallen banner and march on Rounds-2002-like to November?

Update 2014.04.16 10:20 CDT:
Tasi Livermont of Sustainable Dakota offers a video archive of most of the SDNA debate on Youtube! Yay, Tasi!

The South Dakota Newspaper Association hosted the first public forum featuring all of the ballot-qualified Republican candidates for South Dakota's open U.S. Senate seat yesterday morning in Pierre. After reviewing the video, I offer the following summary of the candidates' responses to the ten questions presented.

1. Jonathan Ellis of that Sioux Falls paper opened by asking the candidates if their response to Russia's annexation to Crimea would have been closer to Senator John McCain's response or Senator Rand Paul's. (For the record, Senator McCain has advocated "sanctioning Russian officials, isolating Russia internationally,... increasing NATO’s military presence and exercises on its eastern frontier..." and "making every effort to support and resupply Ukrainian patriots." Senator Paul seems to take a less interventionist, more diplomatic position, although he has sent contradictory signals.

  • The first words out of Marion Michael Rounds's mouth were an unforced error: he said he wasn't in the Senate when Russia annexed Crimea, so he would not answer a hypothetical question. Rounds then resorted to hypothetical history, saying that if we had a better energy policy and if we would have exported more fuel to Ukraine, then the U.S. could have responded more strongly to Russia's annexation of Crimea.
  • Stace Nelson first words were a clear and honest poke at the man sitting right next to him: "I'll respond to your actual question: I would have stood with Rand Paul." Citing his two decades of military experience overseas and his children who serve (daughter in Navy, son in Coast Guard), Nelson said he would only commit troops where our national security is at stake. He mentioned no specific action to take against Russia.
  • Jason Ravnsborg invoked Reagan's "peace through strength" but did not elaborate on what strength he wanted to project to push Russia toward more peaceable action. He did speak of his own work with NATO forces and the need for diplomats to work out solutions. Tacking toward's Rounds's perhaps broader view, Ravnsborg said our deficit hinders our ability to achieve robust foreign policy goals.
  • Larry Rhoden said the Obama Administration has made such a mess of foreign policy that it's hard to answer the question. He joined Nelson in saying he'd have stood with Rand Paul. He joined Rounds in saying we need to promote good foreign policy with good energy policy... although his energy policy seems to boil down to letting the energy industry do whatever they want because, you know, the free market just magically solves everything.
  • Score: +1 for Nelson for directly addressing the question. –1 for Rounds for needless dodge.

2. Katie Zerr of the Mobridge Tribune asked the candidates to propose alternatives for the eight million Americans who've signed up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

  • Nelson took his turn at not answering the question. He said he wants to repeal or defund the ACA, but he mentioned no alternative. He waded into his preferred pitch to the hard right that Rounds fought efforts to block the ACA in the state Legislature (including, noteworthily, a bill brought by conservative Independent challenger Gordon Howie, whose entrance into the race this month raises doubts about conservative faith in Nelson's campaign). He said Rounds put in for millions in federal grants to implement the ACA in South Dakota. None of that tells folks helped by the ACA what a Senator Nelson would do to help them when he pulls the health care rug out from under their feet.
  • More aptly responding, Ravnsborg said the GOP can't just be the party of No. He repeated his support for Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn's Patient CARE Act, package of comprehensive insurance reform, tort reform, and targeted tax cuts that in the real world makes things worse and the fantasy Republican world of the American Enterprise Institute lacks detail and compromises too much with the ACA.
  • Rhoden advocated free market replacements like health savings accounts (which aren't a replacement, since we already have them, and which involve the IRS in your health care spending just like the ACA). Rhoden poked at Rounds for not supporting selling insurance across state lines.
  • Rounds let Nelson draw him in and spent the first half of his response asserting that he and Attorney General Marty Jackley worked hard to oppose the ACA. Rounds blipped that he likes Senator Coburn's plan, too, but then went back to saying the ACA broke a system that was working in South Dakota with 93% of people insured and over a dozen companies competing for health insurance business. Rounds also tried to work in the "ACA kills Medicare" point that Republicans seem ready to use again to scare seniors who benefit from robust government health insurance into voting for candidates who would deny younger Americans a much less robust health coverage program.
  • Score: +1 for Ravnsborg, for showing he's reading specific (if stupid) plans. –1 for Nelson for not responding to the question, put +1 for drawing Rounds away from the immediate question too.

3. Lance Nixon of the Pierre Capital Journal asked the candidates for their thoughts on last October's federal shutdown: was it effective, and would they support a similar action?

  • Ravnsborg said the number-one issue he hears from South Dakotans is their frustration that Washington doesn't get things done (interesting: is this conservative suggesting that South Dakotans want Washington to do more things?). With none of Rounds's hesitance to talk hypotheticals, Ravnsborg says he would have started budget negotiations sooner. He said shutting down the government is the "most powerful extreme position" that should be reserved for extreme situations. He did not explain what constitutes an "extreme situation."
  • Rhoden said he agrees with much of what Ravnsborg said. Rhoden said the October shutdown was not productive and we should have acted sooner. However, he appeared to promise more kamikaze fiscal votes, as he said he would refuse to vote to raise the debt ceiling unless it was tied to a vote for a balanced budget amendment. Rounds also felt it relevant to this question to mention that, as Majority Leader in the South Dakota Senate, he found 90% of problems can be solved if you bring sides together and communicate. (Interestingly, in his closing statement, Rhoden said 90% of our problems are brought about by President Obama. So by Rhoden's logic, if we just talk to President Obama, we'll solve all of our problems, right?)
  • Rounds softly reheated his opposition to the government shutdown, saying there was no game plan (I assume he means the GOP leadership had no game plan) during the shutdown and that it left South Dakota ranchers without help while no one worked on the Farm Bill (what?! Paging Congresswoman Noem...). But Rounds drifted off as well to say we need to communicate better, and those darn Democrats in the Senate don't communicate with the House. (Evidently, for Rounds, "communicate" means "capitulate."
  • Nelson said he'd have voted along with Senator Ted Cruz against raising the debt ceiling. Nelson took a harder tank-the-economy line than Rhoden: he said he won't vote to increase the debt ceiling, period, because the national debt is the number-one threat to national security. (Paging President Putin: Senator Nelson will hand you victory in the next arms race.) Nelson played some vote word games, saying that folks like Ted Cruz didn't vote to shut down the government; they voted on the merits of the bill before them to increase the debt ceiling. Nelson likened the debt-ceiling votes to his votes against South Dakota state budgets: he didn't vote to shut down South Dakota government, but he did vote against increased spending.
  • Score: +1 to Rhoden and to Nelson for staking out specific positions on debt-ceiling votes

4. Ellis asks the number-one question I wanted: EB-5! Support, change?

  • Ravnsborg says Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley has it correct: either end the EB-5 visa investment program or substantially reform it. Ravnsborg says EB-5 sells our citizenship and picks winners and losers in the marketplace. He says we lost $80 million in the EB-5-backed Northern Beef Packers (Ravnsborg misstates dollar figures: NBP made $95 million in foreign investors' EB-5 money disappear, plus the nearly 10% fees they paid to friends of Mike Rounds; by my count, the state lost $2.9 million in NBP handouts).
  • After six months of intense media coverage of the scandal that could give any serious challenger the talking points he needs to take down the frontrunner, Rhoden still fumbles for the meek response that he needs a lot more facts in front of him before he can declare he opposes EB-5. Rhoden evidently has enough facts before him to say that EB-5 has economic development potential but that South Dakota went wrong in not imposing enough oversight. (So Larry, what you're saying is that Mike Rounds went wrong when he privatized EB-5 management, right? If you want the point, you've got to say it!)
  • Rounds, who now plays Michael Douglas to EB-5's Glenn Close but who keeps boinking her instead of drowning her in the bathtub as he should before she kills someone he loves, says EB-5 is all about creating job opportunities, and we can't turn down job opportunities in the middle of a recession (what? says the BEA). He pokes back at Ravnsborg (and any time the frontrunner pokes back, you guys are winning!) with semantics: EB-5 doesn't sell citizenship, just green cards. (Sure, Mike: try that distinction out at the next Tea Party forum.) Rounds claims South Dakota lost no taxpayer dollars on EB-5 (baloney at best, semantics at worst, if Rounds is parsing the argument that it was his beef plant NBP that lost the money and not his EB-5 program). To conclude with both irrelevancy and falsehood, Rounds claims to have created 28,000 jobs while governor (South Dakota Department of Labor statistics show 406,405 jobs in South Dakota in January 2003 and 422,445 jobs in Janaury 2011; net increase during Rounds administration: 16,040, meaning Rounds is exaggerating by 75%.)
  • Nelson reminds the crowd that he brought a bill to end South Dakota's use of EB-5. Nelson says Richard Benda died because EB-5 failed in Aberdeen. Nelson said Rounds's calling that successful "takes the wind out of me." Nelson repeated Senator Grassley's point that EB-5 is a huge security risk to the U.S., opening us to the machinations of the Communist Chinese. Nelson says he will move to repeal any crony capitalism in the U.S. Senate.
  • Score: +1 for Ravnsborg and Nelson for citing big Republican Grassley to back EB-5 concerns. Another +1 for Nelson for saying "Benda" two feet from Rounds's ears. –1 Rounds for semantics, –1 for false and irrelevant job stats.

5. Zerr asks the candidates if they support the cuts proposed in Rep. Paul Ryan's budget and how they would justify those cuts to the folks hurt thereby. Darn liberal media.

  • Rhoden still can't work up the gumption for a straight answer. He won't say he supports the Ryan plan carte blanche, but he says he does support "dramatic steps." Allow growth, curb spending, and food stamps are rife with abuse (no, they are not).
  • Like Rhoden, Rounds dodges. He commends Ryan for what he's done and looks forward to working with Ryan. Rounds relaunches his statement that the ACA takes $743 billion from Medicare but doesn't mention that the Ryan budget keeps those same Medicare cuts. Non-sequiturally, Rounds claims South Dakota balances its budget every year.
  • Nelson can't help swinging at Rounds's pitches... but Nelson is doing his job as underdog and attack dog. He says he dealt with the aftermath of Rounds's busted budget in 2011, when he had to help cut the state budget 10%. On the question itself, Nelson says the Ryan budget doesn't go far enough (liberals cheering for a Nelson upset in the primary, pay attention!). Nelson also claims we have to look harder at the foreign assistance larded into our defense budget (1% of the entire budget goes to foreign aid; 14% of the defense budget goes to overseas military operations).
  • Ravnsborg says he likes the Ryan plan but prefers to lower tax rates and cut everything, everything by 1%. He also complains that we are cutting veterans benefits while spending big money on breast implants (sorta true! See Tom Coburn's complaint that hookers can deduct breast implants on their tax returns).
  • Score: +1 to Rhoden for using a French phrase (but –1 tactically, since GOP voters will hear elitist socialism).

6. Nixon asks whether out-of-state poltiical contributions affect the autonomy of small states like South Dakota. *Q6 Nixon: more than half of itemized contribs from outside state; SD Law Review 2010 asks whether out-state polit contribs affect small state's autonomy.

  • Straight to the Score: –1 for everyone, because no one answered the question. They talked about their own funding, tried to say other questions were bigger, but didn't address what that money buys and what South Dakotans lose, if anything, when our candidates take it.
  • In political theater, Nelson whacked Rounds for bragging about raising $9 million. In the only moderator-authorized special rebuttal of the event, Mark Roby allowed Mike Rounds an extra minute to respond to that attack, and Rounds bit. He said Nelson is the only he knows who's gotten kicked out of caucus for misbehavior. Rounds slammed Nelson for having a press conference with an Obama-backing, tax-hiking, gun-background-checking, ACA-steroiding, Keystone-XL-opposing Democrat (yes, Rounds said all that) to bash Republicans. Nelson asked for a chance to respond to that attack, Roby said the rules said no, and Nelson delivered a hilarious Gleasonesque take. Always cast a big guy in your show.

7. Ellis asked the candidates how we can build economic development on our poverty-stricken Indian reservations.

  • Nelson noted he attended the Native American economic development forum last November with Democrat Rick Weiland. He noted that Rounds and Rhoden did not. Nelson said the folks at that forum said they want someone who will show up and engage with them. Nelson did not enunciate any policy that would address the issue Ellis raised.
  • Ravnsborg says he's the the only candidate who's gone to the reservation to meet with Oglalal Sioux Tribe President Bryan Brewer, who Ravnsborg says found it refreshing that a Republican comes to his territory. Ravnsborg said Indians are the fastest growing demographic in state, and we need to listen see if we can help. Finally getting to real policy, Ravnsborg plugged the "Save the VA" effort in Hot Springs as a way to maintain vital services for veterans on the reservation. (Remember, kids: that's government-run health care.)
  • Rhoden talked about talking, too. He said he has an old Indian friend, David Bald Eagle, whose family has turned out great. If all Indians would just be like his friend, everything would be fine. Government is the problem, not the solution, says Rhoden.
  • Rounds said he met with tribal leaders when he was governor. Indian Health Services is failing, the feds control Indians' lives, and we need to just let people have businesses on the reservation.
  • Score: White men talk much, propose little. No points.

8. Zerr asks what the GOP can do to attract more lady candidates.

  • Ravnsborg does not answer the question. He says we need to elect the best person and be all-inclusive like Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Rhoden does not answer the question. He says the lady legislators he's worked with are "well-equipped."
  • Rounds does not answer the question. He says women are special and we need participation from both women and men.
  • Nelson kinda answers the question. He first jokes that he's done his part by raising four daughters who all lean hard to the right (Fulton boys, keep that in mind... as if any of you would dare ask Stace Nelson to date one of his daughters in the first place). He then seriously ties the question to his main campaign message: the GOP has trouble drawing women, youth, and others because they want to see a party following principles. Instead, they see the GOP not living up to its professed principles on spending, taxes, and crony capitalism.
  • Score: +1 for Nelson for at least turning the question from platitudes to a specific alignment with one of his main messages.

9. Nixon asks the candidates if they believe climate change is real and human-influenced and what action government should take against it.

  • I don't think Ravnsborg said the words "climate change" once. He said we need a comprehensive energy policy and not President Obama's war on coal. He said other countries need good energy policies, too, but that we need to use our own resources and build Keystone XL.
  • Rhoden opens with, "To address the question... there are opposing views." But he avoids any evaluation of those views. He just says carbon sequestration and cap-and-trade are "ridiculous" policies, and that the U.S. implementing such policies without global cooperation is like "a no-pee zone in a swimming pool."
  • Rounds forgets the question is about climate change and says U.S. energy policy is bad because focused only on carbon-based fuels, making it tough on our own people to make our own energy. He says that if we don't use our coal and oil, "it'll get shipped to China" and thus we should pass Keystone XL (which, I repeat, will ship North American oil to China). Rounds is still whining about Big Stone II, trying to blame the EPA for the project's failure to offer a profitable business case.
  • Nelson blamed Mother Nature for pollution (oil seeping up from the sea floor), said we need to use our oil and be energy independent, but also avoided answering the question
  • Score: –1 for all for non-answers (unless we be generous and read their avoidance of the issue as their signal that they don't think the issue exists), but +1 back to Rhoden for saying "no-pee zone".

10. Ellis gets the last question and asks what specific programs the candidates would cut.

  • Rhoden: Eliminate the EPA!
  • Rounds: Eliminate the Department of Education (har dee har har!), and pass the Raines Act to require any new regulation causing more than $100 million in economic impact to receive Congressional approval. But for Pete's sake, spend more money to give our soldiers the best weapons in the world. Peace through strength!
  • Nelson: Whack the Department of Energy and EPA, reduce the IRS severely... but don't explode government the way the other guys at this forum did. Nelson says those guys (and he means Rounds and Rhoden, because Ravnsborg is a military man, too) have no military experience and can't talk credibly about military spending. He says the candidates bought by special interests (and he means Rounds) are more interested in sending planes and tanks to Egypt and making money. Nelson says he's the only candidate with a record of cutting government and opposing spending.
  • Ravnsborg: eliminate Education and Energy, then follow Senator Coburn's Wastebook to eliminate redundancy. Ravnsborg says he himself identified a $250K budget error in Afghanistan and saved Uncle Sam some cash.
  • Score: +1 to Rounds and Ravnsborg for citing specific legislative proposals.

I invite your own scorecards on the validity of the candidates' policy responses, but I agree with John Tsitrian's assessment: Stace Nelson comes out of this race looking like the main challenger to Mike Rounds's coronation. Nelson lodged the most aggressive and forthright critiques of the frontrunner's record, and that frontrunner showed he's most afraid of those critiques by attacking back. And note that when Rounds most directly attacked Nelson on the caucus-expulsion and standing with Weiland, Rounds was not at all responding to the issue of his seeking $9 million in big campaign donations; he was throwing up a smokescreen of other insults about Nelson himself. If Rounds weren't worried, he wouldn't be responding. And a face-to-face debate forces Rounds to respond, makes him look weaker, and opens the door for every legitimate challenger to score points.

Everyone in the room but Rounds is thus shouting: More debates! More debates!


The next big public forum for South Dakota's Republican U.S. Senate candidates happens Tuesday (tax day! good timing for a conservative audience!) at the Good Samaritan Jerstad Center in Sioux Falls. The Siouxland Republican Women will throw tough questions at Stace Nelson, Jason Ravnsborg, Larry Rhoden, and GOP frontrunner....

Wait, where is Mike Rounds running? An eager reader gets hold of an e-mail from the Siouxland Republican Women sent yesterday, Saturday, at about a quarter to two in the afternoon, announcing that a member of the Rounds campaign had just called and withdrawn from the forum. The SRW e-mail says Team Rounds had committed in January to attend, but "They will not be attending now due to a conflict."

Hmm... Rounds shows up for the first big joint debate among all candidates Saturday morning, and Saturday afternoon, he pulls out of the very next joint forum? Boy, that may be the clearest verdict on who didn't win yesterday's debate.


The statewide texting-while-driving ban passed by our Legislature this year is inspiring Mitchell to repeal its local ordinance on electronically distracted driving. The new state law makes texting while driving a secondary offense, meaning troopers can't pull you over for thumb-screen absorption, but they can enhance your ticket if they stop you for something else and you don't hide your iPhone before they come to your window. Mitchell currently makes texting while driving a primary offense, meaning that's the only reason city cops need to stop you and take your contribution to city government.

Councilman Phil Carlson voted with the council majority last Monday in favor of first reading of the repeal. Carlson prefers uniformity in traffic laws. He also thinks repealing the local ban will save the city some legal bills:

Carlson says that Mitchell should repeal its ban because drivers could fight their tickets in court, which could cost the city money.

"There could potentially be some legal issues with it. For instance, somebody gets ticketed under our ban instead of the state ban, there could be a legal fight over that that could go potentially all the way to the South Dakota Supreme Court," Carlson said [Leland Steva, "Mitchell City Council Takes First Step in Repealing City's Texting Ban," KELO-TV, 2014.04.12].

Drivers can fight lots of tickets in court. There is debate on whether they would win the argument that the state's texting-while-driving ban supersedes any local ban. But how many drivers will litigate? The Mitchell fine is $120. Even the boldest pro se defendant will burn up that much money just in time off from work to go to court well before getting to the complicated and costly state Supreme Court stage.

I'm not saying people should not litigate when they have genuine grievances against improper laws and official actions (or inactions). I'm saying the cost of accessing our justice system, even to get a simple answer about whether state law supersedes local law, is so high that the test case Carlson fears won't materialize from most rational drivers.

Carlson also fails to include in his cost-benefit calculations the public-safety benefits Mitchell gets by more strictly encouraging drivers to keep their eyes on the road. If the tougher local ordinance makes a thousand Mitchellians decide not to pick up the phone and text while crossing town to Cabela's, and if just one of them manages not to crumple someone else's car or run over a pedestrian, the city comes out ahead, even if someday the lawyer Mitchell PD pulls over sues his way out of his $120 ticket.


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  • larry kurtz on "Hickey, Belfrage, Ne...": you mean a professional muckraker like PP, grud or...
  • grudznick on "Hickey, Belfrage, Ne...": Is this Mr. Belfrage fellow a professional journal...
  • Jim on "Powers: Bury Boswort...": The AG took the position he can't remove her from ...
  • Christian Quotes on "David Omdahl out of ...": Have you ever thought about publishing an ebook or...
  • Disgusted Dakotan on "Hickey, Belfrage, Ne...": Curious how many people think she will show up tom...
  • grudznick on "Hickey, Belfrage, Ne...": It is the entrenched powers indeed, Mr. C. I bet ...
  • Steve Sanchez on "Powers: Bury Boswort...": "DCI came to my door yesterday and was in front of...
  • Roger Cornelius on "Hickey, Belfrage, Ne...": grudz, Would that be the "entrenched powers" be...

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