Finally, Rick Weiland and I have something we can disagree on.

Our Democratic candidate for Senate is telling Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee to pull their ads against Mike Rounds. In a Monday press release, Weiland accuses the national Dems of using negative ads against Rounds to harm Weiland's campaign and boost Independent Larry Pressler:

Everybody knows the ugly attack ads you have been running against Mike Rounds help Larry Pressler, not the candidate of the party you are supposed to be campaigning for. They make me, as the Democratic candidate, look like a dirty campaigner. They damage Governor Rounds. And they let former Senator Pressler stand on the sidelines looking clean and gathering votes from disgusted South Dakotans, just as you intended them to do [Rick Weiland, press release, 2014.10.27].

Weiland's assertion that the DSCC is working for Larry Pressler holds about as much water with me as did assertions back during the GOP primary that Mike Rounds planted Annette Bosworth in the campaign to divide his opposition. If I were the DSCC and had a million dollars to spend, I can't imagine intentionally undermining a progressive Democrat who sounds a lot more like the ascendant progressives in the national party than our preceding Blue Dogs in favor of a quixotic Republican-cum-Independent who will only be around for one term and won't do any fundraising for the DSCC.

But Weiland maintains that's the DSCC plan, as evidenced by their long-standing dismissal of his candidacy:

For every one of the 18 months since I became a candidate for the United States Senate, and the 6 months since I was formally selected to be the candidate of the party you are supposed to represent, I have been asking you for positive assistance with my campaign. Instead of that assistance you have said I am not your choice, tried to dry up my funds by saying I cannot win, refused to have your DSCC even endorse me, and now you have come into my state with ugly, negative attacks against Mike Rounds, ads that you and every knowledgeable political strategist in America knows hurt me and help Larry Pressler, the longtime Republican who has apparently won your support for his so called independent campaign by whispering that if elected he might vote to help you keep your job as Majority Leader [Weiland, 2014.10.27]

I guess I'm not a knowledgeable political strategist. I'm not buying the DSCC-Pressler gambit.

Nor am I buying the suggestion that negative ads are bad. If we don't run negative ads against Mike Rounds, his record of incompetence and corruption goes unchallenged. If we do run negative ads, some people engage in moral grandstanding, but the message gets across, and we have a better shot of winning, as evidenced by the underlying assumption of Weiland's arguments that the negative ads damage Mike Rounds.

Evidently political scientist Larry Sabato isn't knowledgeable, either:

"This is done in all 50 states," he said. "People are so used to these sorts of negative ads sponsored by the party that there usually isn't that much political effect. People will absorb the political information, even as they say they hate negatives" [David Montgomery, "Weiland Accuses Own Party of Sabotaging His Campaign," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.10.27].

Weiland asks that the South Dakota Democratic Party repudiate these tactics. I ask the South Dakota Democratic not to be timid or stupid. Mike Rounds gave Richard Benda and Joop Bollen carte blanche to do whatever they wanted, without regard to state law or Regental rules, because they waved dollars in his face. That fundamental breach of public trust is the biggest reason Mike Rounds should never be trusted with public office again.

It may be ugly and negative to hear that we can't trust our former governor, but it's the truth, and South Dakotans need to hear it, lest they elect the wrong man for this important job.

That said, I'm more than happy to see MoveOn.org complementing the negative ads with this wonderful new 30-second summary of all the positive reasons to make Rick Weiland our next Senator:

Democrats, we can walk and chew gum. We can show Rick's a stud and prove Mike's a dud. And when we're running blue in red South Dakota, we need to use every tool available.

81 comments

Rep. Kathy Tyler (D-4/Big Stone City) isn't taking the deceptive big-money PAC attacks lying down. She shows Democrats that when the negative ads come, you hit right back:

Rep. Kathy Tyler "Poked the Bear" advertisment, 2014.10.28

Rep. Tyler is referring to the big money a new PAC called "East River Concerned Citizens" is pouring into deceptive ads against her. The radio spots and postcards are less interested in accurately portraying her voting record on abortion (she's actually a bit conservative for my taste) and, from what I hear from sources and glean from who's contributing to ERCC, more interested in retaliating against Tyler for challenging the state's corrupt EB-5 economic development practices.

Certain big-money players have a great stake in South Dakota's endemic corruption (that's the second time this morning I've used that phrase and that link, and for good reason). Democrats like Rep. Kathy Tyler who speak the truth to that power can expect hard negative attacks to take them out. Fortunately, Rep. Tyler is not easily cowed by such attacks. Democrats, follow Kathy's lead. Poke that bear, and don't back down!

46 comments

If Larry Pressler can get mojo back, why can't Susan Wismer?

Susan Wismer has touted her gubernatorial bid as South Dakotans' chance to elect their first female governor. She doubled the female fun by naming Susy Blake as her running mate.

Yet both of the big SurveyUSA polls have shown no advantage for Wismer among the ladies. The September poll showed 55% of men and 53% of women going for Dennis Daugaard; the October poll shows Daugaard winning 58% of men and 60% of women. Ladies, why aren't you flocking to Wismer?

We can ask the same of a big chunk of Democrats. From September to October, the number of Democrats voting for Daugaard has risen from 23% to 32%. A third of my fellow travelers are voting for the Republican incumbent, the leader of the corrupt one-part regime in Pierre and part owner of the EB-5 scandal.

Fellow Democrats, fill me in. What possible reason does a Democrat have to vote for Dennis Daugaard instead of a Democratic challenger who could upset the balance of power and challenge the Legislature to create a better budget?

104 comments

I like Oren Lesmeister. The Democratic District 28 Senate candidate took time to talk to me about his politics in the middle of a hard-driving campaign. He spoke freely about most issues, and I can roll with most of his positions. On sheer image, he brings a rugged cowboy ethos that challenges the stereotype of Democrats as something other than true South Dakotan. With hat, cattle, and the mustache that I maintain would have added ten points to Larry Rhoden's and Chris Nelson's tallies, Lesmeister projects the image of the cowboy that many South Dakotans think they are.

Oren Lesmeister, Democrat for District 28 Senate.

Oren Lesmeister, Democrat for District 28 Senate.

But on two important question in our conversation, Lesmeister showed no desire to take the bull by the horns, exemplifying an uncowboylike weakness too common among South Dakota Democrats.

What sparked my interest in interviewing Lesmeister were the embarrassing racist comments of his opponent, Republican Representative Betty Olson. Democrat Joe Lowe of Rapid City has said her blanket insult to all Muslim Americans, as well as her perpetuation of the racist lie that President Obama is a Muslim, warrants her resignation.

I thought maybe Lesmeister would have something to say about Rep. Olson's racism. He did not. When we set up the interview, Lesmeister's diligent campaign manager, Ethan Marsland, ruled out any comment on the topic. When I spoke with Lesmeister directly, he maintained that line. When I asked if Lesmeister at least recognized that the President of the United States is a natural-born citizen, Lesmeister declined comment.

It's one thing not to want to get involved in another candidate's media storm. It's a similar thing not to want to go negative. But it's a whole 'nother thing to decline comment on a statement of fact, documented time and time again against a vile campaign of racist myth-making. We have a moral obligation to defend basic truth against both ignorance and malice. John McCain had the guts to challenge the "Obama is an Arab" lies of his own supporters in 2008; Oren Lesmeister should have the guts to challenge his opponent's lingering birtherism in 2014.

Lesmeister also let me down with his response on abortion. I ask candidates about abortion with trepidation, because I recognize that South Dakota Republicans like to use abortion to dog whistle their base and use emotion and pictures of babies to distract us from all their other awful policies. But abortion deserves attention, because Republicans (and some complicit Democrats) have imposed insulting, paternalistic, and dangerous restrictions on women's constitutional rights.

When I posed the general question about women's rights, Lesmeister's campaign manager paused our conversation for a muted confab with his candidate. When Lesmeister opened the line again, he spoke of the need for better enforcement of laws to protect women from violence and trafficking. When I redirected the question toward abortion restrictions like our 72-hour waiting period. Lesmeister said a legislator should never decide such issues. He said abortion is too big of an issue. He said he would not support any further legislative interference with abortion and would want any abortion measures submitted to the ballot so all voters can decide.

Lesmeister's response sounded very much like District 14 Democratic House candidate Chris McClure's position of leaving the status quo alone and not presuming as one man to comment on the appropriateness of legal restrictions on abortion. Like McClure's position, it sounds like a poorly cloaked dodge:

  1. You cannot say, "Legislators should not decide abortion," and then accept the decisions legislators have made on abortion.
  2. If abortion is so "big" that the Legislature should defer all rule-making to ballot initiatives, then what about gay rights, Medicaid expansion, education funding, or the state budget in toto, all of which were bigger issues in the 2014 Legislature than abortion? I see no constitutional or philosophical provision setting a bar of "bigness" over which the duly elected representatives of the people are incapable of intelligent discourse and lawmaking. I see political calculation that says, "I'm afraid voters will disagree with me, and I don't have the guts to defend my position."
  3. Candidates have an obligation to lead intelligent conversations. To shrug off a major question of the day by saying, "Let's do whatever the people want" avoids an intelligent and necessary conversation.
  4. Democrats have an obligation to change the narrative. Republicans like Betty Olson bank on our cowardice. They bank on our leaving their restrictions and stigmatization of abortion unchallenged. They bank on casual observers voting on unexamined emotional responses to shouts of "We love babies!" instead of vigorous public debate of the real constitutional implications of treating women as second-class citizens.

Rick Weiland is in a very different race from the Lesmeister–Olson tilt. Abortion hasn't figured prominently in the U.S. Senate race, but Weiland has not been afraid to distinguish himself from the field by saying he's the only candidate who would not repeal Roe v. Wade. He may not win on that issue, but he's getting the support he needs to have a fighting chance... and he's saying the right thing.

Weiland doesn't run around in a cowboy hat, but he isn't afraid to cowboy up on the issues.

When faced with misogyny and racism, "no comment" is not the right answer for cowboys, Democrats, South Dakotans, or anybody. When Betty Olson spreads a racist lie about the President, and when Betty Olson passes laws that hurt women, we have an obligation to point those facts out and encourage voters to reject her racism and misogyny.

15 comments

Hey, whose phone is that ringing? Ah, Senator Tidemann....

Ad released by South Dakota Democratic Party, 2014.09.15

Ad released by South Dakota Democratic Party, 2014.09.15

The South Dakota Democratic Party is placing the above ad in Senator Larry Tidemann's local newspaper encouraging his constituents to contact him and demand that he subpoena the folks who could answer the vital questions about Mike Rounds's promotion of Northern Beef Packers and other economic development projects with EB-5 investment. The copy I got did not include the footnotes, but one may refer to the following supporting texts:

  1. "repeatedly broke the law": start with conflict of interest, then unauthorized lawyering, sprinkle Board of Regents policy, and top it off with a scoop of possible tax evasion.
  2. "millions of dollars of potential liability": that's here... and maybe here.
  3. "refuses to bring in...": see Tidemann's willingness to settle for unsworn written testimony here.

Senator Tidemann has proven himself able to change his mind before. Perhaps some civic participation will convince him to change his mind again and acknowledge that the Legislature and the public should hear from Rounds and his GOED/NBP/EB-5 collaborators in person.

153 comments

Ah, high school debate, that joyous season when ninth graders stand and deliver more public debates in one weekend than Mike Rounds will during the entire general election season.

Looking at contemporary public political discourse through my high school debate judging paradigm is generally a bad idea, since it insults high school debate. But let's imagine South Dakota's Democrats and Republicans are high school debaters and see who won this week.

When I judge a high school debate, I take notes called a flow. First the Affirmative team speaks and puts points on the flow to prove some point. Then the Negative team speaks to put responses on the flow. Usually, after two speeches by decent debaters, my flow looks like this:
Sample FlowAff lays out arguments, and Neg responds to each one, point by point. Even if Point III is bogus, Neg takes a moment to explain why Point III is bogus before moving on to IV, V, etc. (And Neg does this in eight minutes or less—smart kids!) That's good clash (and good fun!).

South Dakota Democrats are on Affirmative, arguing that Mike Rounds is corrupt and unfit for U.S. Senate. This week, Democrats put a lot of arguments on the flow. And how did Team Rounds and the SDGOP—the Negative team—respond?Bollen-Rounds corruption flow Clash? What clash?

Against seven well-evidenced Aff points that show Mike Rounds rewarding the corrupt double-dealing and deceit of state employee Joop Bollen, Neg launches two ad hominem attacks at the bottom of the flow, tacks one diversionary non-response to one point, and leaves the rest of the flow blank. Mike Rounds, Dick Wadhams, and the rest of the GOP team have not challenged...

  1. the existence of Joop Bollen's contract with himself;
  2. the illegal conflict of interest created by such a contract;
  3. Bollen's violation of Board of Regents policy;
  4. Bollen's concealment of his unauthorized legal pleading on behalf of the state;
  5. Bollen's subjection of the state to legal liability;
  6. Kathy Tyler's specific math or her general charge that Bollen diverted money from state coffers;
  7. Rounds's rewarding of this rogue state employee with a no-bid contract.

In a high school debate round, I can just glance at the flow, see all that white space in Neg's column, and know that Aff is winning the debate. The SDGOP's inability to come up with direct responses to these questions about Mike Rounds's management of economic development shows they weren't ready for this corruption to be exposed and don't know how to spin pretty black-and-white evidence that Mike Rounds should not be our next Senator.

Of course, Republicans have more than eight minutes to respond. But every day they leave the flow blank is a day when Democrats can shout "Drop! Pull!", and tell voters to draw the arrows and vote Aff. Keep piling on, Dems!

7 comments

Oh, those crazy kids—er, young voters age 18 to 34. The September 3–7 Survey USA poll finds South Dakota's youngest voters not doing what you might expect.

They aren't supporting Democrats, at least in any notably greater numbers than other age groups.

U.S. Senate All 18-34 35-49 50-64 65+ 18-49 50+
Mike Rounds (R) 39% 40% 43% 39% 35% 42% 37%
Rick Weiland (D) 28% 30% 14% 33% 32% 20% 33%
Larry Pressler (I) 25% 13% 34% 24% 26% 25% 25%
Gordon Howie (I) 3% 6% 1% 2% 2% 3% 2%
Undecided 5% 12% 7% 2% 4% 9% 3%

 

U.S. House All 18-34 35-49 50-64 65+ 18-49 50+
Kristi Noem (R) 53% 56% 55% 53% 51% 55% 52%
Corinna Robinson (D) 40% 36% 37% 42% 43% 36% 42%
Undecided 6% 8% 9% 5% 5% 8% 5%

 

S.D. Governor All 18-34 35-49 50-64 65+ 18-49 50+
Dennis Daugaard (R) 54% 52% 53% 55% 54% 52% 54%
Susan Wismer (D) 34% 33% 32% 37% 32% 33% 35%
Michael Myers (I) 6% 7% 7% 3% 9% 7% 6%
Undecided 7% 8% 8% 5% 6% 8% 6%

None of the Democrats enjoys an advantage among voters age 18–34. Dems' support among younger voters does not differ from their support among older voters by more than the margin of error, meaning you're as likely to spill your drink on a Weiland or Wismer voter at bingo night as you are at the Icon Lounge.

Perhaps those numbers support David Newquist's thesis that lots of young Democrats leave South Dakota, leaving behind a young cohort that votes pretty much like everyone else.

One twitch among the not quite as young as we used to be voters: check out the Weiland–Pressler numbers in the 35–49 set. That group tanks for Weiland, just 14%, but peaks for Pressler at 34%, better than the numbers Pressler scores in the over-50 crowd. Hmmm... we 35-to-49ers are the teenagers of the Reagan-Pressler years. Maybe we are more subject to nostalgia than we want to admit (Larry! Start playing the 80s mix tape at your campaign events! Journey! The Bangles!).

On the issues, the youngest voters place their highest priority on the economy/economic development.  At the state level, they are more interested in same-sex marriage than other age groups, but they give significantly less of a darn about Medicaid. Survey USA didn't ask about the importance of environmental issues in general, but the one specific environmental issue they mentioned, uranium mining in the Black Hills, hardly pinged on anyone's radar. Neither did EB-5—nertz!

The youngsters throw us one more curveball on the minimum wage:

IM18: Raise Minimum Wage  All 18-34 35-49 50-64 65+ 18-49 50+
Yes 61% 41% 59% 67% 66% 52% 66%
No 22% 41% 20% 17% 18% 29% 17%
Not Certain 18% 18% 21% 17% 16% 20% 16%

The conventional wisdom says that young people are more likely to make minimum wage and thus should be more likely to support an increase. But while IM 18 gets overwhelming support from the other three age groups, the 18–34 crowd is evenly split, 41% to 41%. It looks like we need to give these young voters some remedial classes in productivity and economic justice.

11 comments

Mr. Powers perpetuates his obsession with picking on Angelia Schultz by rolling in the dead-fish rumors people feed him about the supposed withdrawal of Democrat Schultz from the race for Secretary of State. Team Schultz says hold the phone, she's on her way:

The American News contacted Schultz about the status of her campaign. In a phone interview Wednesday afternoon, Schultz' campaign strategist Bajun Mavalwalla said Schultz has been assembling a team and they're finalizing their strategy to find the best and most efficient way to get her message out across the state.

"As far as my candidate, she's not missing, and she's not pulling out," Mavalwalla said. "Right now, what Angelia recognizes is what we have in South Dakota is a core group of voters who need to know what she's all about. That's why we are making sure when we put everything out that the message is synchronized and right on time" [Elisa Sand, "Secretary of State Candidate Assembling Campaign Team," Aberdeen American News, 2014.08.27].

I'll admit, now is not the time to be assembling a campaign team. Now is the time to be dispatching the campaign team that you assembled back in June to go flood the State Fair with brightly T-shirted hand-shakers and jawboners to tell everyone that you rock, Krebs is Gant in heels, Stacey is crazy, and Emmett... well, he's just Emmett. You should also be answering the heck out of your phone and angling for every bit of free press coverage you can get.

But Schultz has Mavalwalla on the job, and his Nebula Group appears to be mobilizing in support of multiple Democratic candidates in South Dakota. Better late than never—now let's see some big push!

Related: In addition to his freshly announced work for District 12 House candidate Ellee Spawn, Mavalwalla's team has also signed on to blog favorite Robin Page's District 33 Senate campaign. No word yet on whether Page's new campaign consultants have moved her poll numbers, but they have finally launched a campaign website for Robin! Whoo-hoo!

10 comments

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