I don't always reprint press releases, but when I do, it's because they're useful.

South Dakota Democratic Party exec Zach Crago offers—with more evidence and hyperlinks than we ever get from the dreary stream of GOP dreckfive good reasons to vote for Initiated Measure 18, South Dakota's minimum-wage increase:

It’s been 5 years since the last increase in the federal minimum wage - but now South Dakotans have a choice on Initiated Measure 18 to raise the minimum wage on November 4th.

In recognition of this anniversary, here are 5 reasons to vote Yes on 18:

1) States that raised the minimum wage saw faster job growth. According to state by state hiring data released by the Department of Labor, states that raised the minimum wage at the beginning of this year actually saw faster job growth than states that didn’t raise the minimum wage – contrary to the scare tactics of special interest critics.

Everyday South Dakotans get it: Put money in the pockets of hard working people, and they’ll send it on the things their families need everyday. That boosts consumer demand at small businesses and grows the economy.

2) Small business owners support raising the minimum wage. According to a recent scientific telephone survey, 61% of small business owners support raising the minimum wage. Why? The report says,

“Small business owners believe that a higher minimum wage would benefit business in important ways: 58% say raising the minimum wage would increase consumer purchasing power. 56% say raising the minimum wage would help the economy. In addition, 53% agree that with a higher minimum wage, businesses would benefit from lower employee turnover and increased productivity and customer satisfaction.”

Small businesses get it too: Workers are customers. When workers earn more, they spend more at small businesses and boost the economy.

3) Prices for everyday goods continue to rise, but the minimum wage has stayed the same. That means a South Dakotan’s hard earned dollar actually buys less and less for her family. Since the last increase in the minimum wage:

  • The price of milk has increased 21.2%
  • The price of eggs has increased 30.3%
  • The price of cheddar cheese has increased 21.9%
  • The price of gas has increased 44.6%
  • The price of electricity has increased 9.2%
  • The minimum wage has increased 0%. 

Too often, South Dakotans are working harder and harder just to make ends meet. Raising the minimum wage will help working moms and dads support their families in the face of higher and higher prices at the pump and in the supermarket.

4) 62,000 South Dakotans will earn more if Initiated Measure 18 passes. According to preliminary data from Economic Policy Institute, raising the minimum wage will give 62,000 South Dakotans a raise. Who are they?

  • 78% are older than 20. These aren’t high school students like special interests will tell you.
  • 55% are women – many of whom are supporting families.

5) Raising the minimum wage lifts people out of poverty – and off of government assistance. A full time worker earning the minimum wage makes $14,500 a year, which qualifies many working families for government assistance. Raising the minimum wage will lift many working families out of poverty and reduce the demand for government assistance. It’s a win win for working families and the taxpayers: working families make ends meet, and the public cost of low wages decreases for taxpayers [South Dakota Democratic Party, press release, 2014.07.24].

Susan WismerPaula Hawks, Robin Page, Mark Remily, all you Democratic candidates, if you're looking for stump speech material, this is it. Every speech you make from now until November should borrow at least some of Crago's text. Telling people why they should vote for the minimum-wage increase also tells them how we Democrats support South Dakota's best interests better than Republicans. Vote for Dems, and vote for 18!


I may agree with 52% of the Libertarian platform, but I'm in 99.5% agreement with Senator Elizabeth Warren's progressive principles, which she offered Friday, July 18, at Netroots Nation in Detroit. Let's do some line by line!

1. "We believe that Wall Street needs stronger rules and tougher enforcement, and we're willing to fight for it."

  • Crash your truck into city hall, and you will spend time in jail. Get a bunch of greedy MBAs together and crash the global economy, and you don't even get a ticket. Yup, I'm with you, Senator Warren.

2. "We believe in science, and that means that we have a responsibility to protect this Earth."

  • Prayer didn't decrease acid rain, and Jesus won't get us to Mars or Alpha Centauri.

3. "We believe that the Internet shouldn't be rigged to benefit big corporations, and that means real net neutrality."

  • Internet is like water now: information and equal access for all.

4. "We believe that no one should work full-time and still live in poverty, and that means raising the minimum wage."

5. "We believe that fast-food workers deserve a livable wage, and that means that when they take to the picket line, we are proud to fight alongside them."

  • I'll take a half-point off for singling out fast-food workers; every worker deserves a livable wage. That said, food service folks, I'm with you, right beside Senator Warren.

6. "We believe that students are entitled to get an education without being crushed by debt."

  • The less debt students are saddled with when they start working, the more money they can pour into (a) immediate economic activity and (b) long-term savings, both of which improve our national budget situation.

7. "We believe that after a lifetime of work, people are entitled to retire with dignity, and that means protecting Social Security, Medicare, and pensions."

  • Work should be a vocation, an activity in which we take pride. But in a wealthy society, even the luckiest workers who love their jobs should have the liberty to say, "I've done enough" and rest.

8. "We believe—I can't believe I have to say this in 2014—we believe in equal pay for equal work."

  • Again, every worker has dignity. Pay must respect that dignity. To say one worker has less dignity than another is immoral.

9. "We believe that equal means equal, and that's true in marriage, it's true in the workplace, it's true in all of America."

10. "We believe that immigration has made this country strong and vibrant, and that means reform."

  • If the Iroquois had rounded up the Cherokee, Lakota, and others and built better walls, we wouldn't be here.

11. "And we believe that corporations are not people, that women have a right to their bodies. We will overturn Hobby Lobby and we will fight for it. We will fight for it!"

  • How can we treat Hobby Lobby like a person while treating women like breeding stock?

Yup, looks like I'm a 99.5% Warren Democrat. Rick, you are too, right? Corinna? Susan? Come on, what Democrat wouldn't be? What worker, mother, son, or American wouldn't be?


David Newquist knows how to bum me out. His pessimism about South Dakota's political landscape makes it hard to keep up hope for liberal democracy in our fair state.

Hearing my complaint about the difficulty of finding good candidates to challenge the Republican status quo, Dr. Newquist explains the paucity of Democratic standard-bearers as the logical result of sensible people steering clear of the character assassination the SDGOP adopted as standard operating procedure in 2004 to defeat the successful and well-accomplished Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle with the pretty but feckless John Thune.

When Thune challenged Tom Daschle in 2004, he hired Dick Wadhams as the campaign manager and dutifully recited the scripts Wadham supplied him with. Wadhams returned to the state as a campaign advisor to Mike Rounds and is now employed by the state Republican Party. Thune had acquired a record as a House of Representatives that was feckless and lacking in accomplishment. To challenged Tom Daschle, who is a highly accomplished legislator, he could not afford a comparison of records or stances on the issues.

The strategy was to avoid issues, policies, and legislative record and accomplishment and attack Daschle personally. A most successful ploy was to play to the resentment among South Dakotans of anyone who has accrued success and recognition outside the boundaries of the state. The Thune campaign played up Tom Daschle’s attaining the majority leader of the Senate as an abandonment of the people of the state for the culture of Washington, D.C., and declared it as his major residence. He still owned and returned to his house Aberdeen, where his mother lived when he returned to the state. The campaign also attacked the press for the coverage it gave to the Senator and Senate majority and played up the assumption the press had liberal leanings and gave Tom Daschle partial treatment. Then it attacked Daschle because his who was a successful lobbiest for the airline industry had once been a beauty queen for whom he abandoned his first wife. The Thune campaign also knew that Daschle is of a principled character that would not engage these personal assaults in kind [David Newquist, "A State That Gave Up Politics for Character Assassination and Petty Hatred," Northern Valley Beacon, 2014.07.10].

But it takes two to tango, and those two aren't just the SDGOP and mudslinging mercenrary Dick Wadhams. Newquist says those scurrilous attacks work only in a defective political culture where a majority of voters accept them:

In South Dakota, character assassination is embraced or dismissed as acceptable among a majority of the voters. The designated voice of the state GOP, South Dakota War College, when it is not posting hackwork tributes to its candidates, is totally devoted to the discrediting and malicious besmirching of Democratic candidates. Its posts have a disregard for accuracy and factual truth. It is simply an exercise in mindless scurrility. If this is, as it claims, the most read blog on state politics, that defines a state with a cultural climate that people of good and good purpose wish to avoid [Newquist, 2014.07.11].

Newquist says the South Dakota Republican Party "defines the essential character of the state":

The dominant attitude in the state is that of ignorant, malevolent rubes who love to hate and dwell on personal resentments they harbor against those who achieve and have successes in other parts of the world [Newquist, 2014.07.11].

Newquist says that as long as power-seekers outnumber problem-solvers and as long as South Dakotans don't mind the destructive games those power-seekers play, we're hosed. People of good conscience will emigrate, and South Dakota will breed supermajority conservative Legislatures and wild-eyed red-state moochers for the foreseeable future.

If Newquist is right, changing South Dakota's political course isn't just a matter of finding more liberal candidates and dedicated statehouse reporters; it's a matter of changing a culture fueled on conservatism and ugly spite.


Some days my party makes my blogging harder.

My friends Larry Kurtz and Leo Kallis did fine work this weekend providing the blogosphere with photos and analysis from the South Dakota Democratic convention in Yankton. I wish I could have joined them, and not just for the pleasure of coming up with the perfect pun about being seen with bloggers of their iLK.

However, as much as I would have enjoyed hanging at the citizens' press table, I suspect my enthusiasm would have been dampened by the sense of an obligation to my hosts—the few, the proud, the South Dakota Democrats—to spin my disappointment with the convention.

No, we Democrats are not doomed. Kallis offers an excellent firsthand account of how our ticket-toppers—Weiland, Wismer, and Robinson—all exceeded his expectations. Weiland invoked Wellstone and evoked thoughts of Humphrey. Wismer and Robinson both connected with good stories, something we wonky Dems need to do to grab the electorate's gut away from the GOP. The energy, charisma, and parallel construction Kallis saw from Angelia Schultz shows she's equipped to lead a conversation with voters about the corruption of the current Secretary of State and the need to elect her rather than another Republican, Shantel Krebs, to clean that house.

Four more years... of unchallenged GOP corruption and cronyism

Four more years... of unchallenged GOP corruption and cronyism

But Democrats couldn't find anyone to lead a conversation another office that deserves vigorous voter scrutiny, the Attorney General. They nominated no candidate for that position, leaving Attorney General Marty Jackley unchallenged in his bid for another four years as the state's top cop.

Dems got Denny Pierson to run against State Treasurer Rich Sattgast and and David Allen to run against Public Utilities Commissioner Gary Hanson. But name anything Sattgast done in the last four years or Hanson in the last six that raises the same questions about fitness for office Marty Jackley's following actions:

  1. Covering for Jason Gant and Pat Powers when Senator Stan Adelstein called for an investigation into corruption in the Secretary of State's office;
  2. Allowing what looks an awful lot like a political prosecution of child advocates in Aberdeen who saw the Department of Social Services failing to protect children from sexual abuse;
  3. Refusing to dig into the questionable finances of EB-5-managing company SDRC Inc. on the thin pretext that EB-5 is a federal program;
  4. Making no fuss over missing records from the EB-5 program;
  5. Failing to question Richard Benda, who as former head of the Governor's Office of Economic Development turned loan manager for SDRC Inc. would have been a key witness in the GOED/EB-5 scandal;
  6. Refusing to allow the media to review findings of his investigation of Benda's suspicious death based on questionable legal precedent and surrender of state authority to a private party;
  7. Punting on the Bosworth petition challenge that Secretary Gant punted to him, allowing an illegitimate candidate to access the Republican primary Senate ballot (an abdication of duty mitigated mildly by his willingness to investigate and charge said candidate immediately after the election).

Gant, foster care, EB-5, Benda—the brief book is there, ready for any willing candidate to make the case that AG Jackley represents the corruption and CYA cronyism of the South Dakota Republican Party. Jackley's performance looks like part of what one reader identified earlier this year as a standard pattern over the past decade of Republican attorneys general declining to make trouble for their fellow party boys. But Democrats have deemed that pattern unworthy of the most important challenge possible, an alternative candidate who promises competence, honesty, and justice for all South Dakotans.

Foster care abuse? No big deal. EB-5 cover-up? No winning issue. Jackley's doing fine. So says that empty space under Jackley's name to most casual observers who pick up a 2014 ballot.

I will gladly support my party's nominees as they hit the campaign trail and show the chops that Kallis saw this weekend. But in failing to add an Attorney General nominee to the roster, the South Dakota Democratic Party has missed an important opportunity to hold Marty Jackley to account and to educate voters about the corrupting power of one-party rule.

Leo, sing me a song... and Larry, rewild the West.


South Dakota Democrats charge uphill into the wind carrying sandbags into their state convention this weekend in Yankton. Further dampening the party is this assessment from the reasonably neutral Governing of our chances of winning the Legislature—zip:

Senate: Projected Safe R; Current 28-7 R

House: Projected Safe R; Current 53-17 R

In solidly Republican South Dakota, the only relevant battles are between the establishment and Tea Party wings of the GOP. The Democrats aren't much of a factor here [Louis Jacobson, "Democrats Playing Defense in 2014 Legislative Races," Governing, 2014.06.23].

Independent Scott Ehrisman doesn't see much hope for our newly announced gubernatorial ticket, either:

If Susan breaks 30% I will be shocked. I bet Huether was secretly giddy after hearing the news. I will be curious if he donates any money to the campaign. As I have said in the past, the only way Wismer/Blake even have a snowball chance in Hell of beating Denny is if the EB-5 scandal blows up in his face, but I see that investigation is slowly getting buried like Benda himself [Scott Ehrisman, "SD Dems Seal the Deal for Huether's 2018 Governor Run," South Dacola, 2014.06.25].

Holy cow! Am I the only one around here who believes in Democrats' ability to turn the historical corner and win in South Dakota?


The conventional wisdom is that South Dakota Republicans clobber South Dakota Democrats in fundraising. But a look at the Federal Election Commission finance reports suggests room for interpretation in the definition of clobber. Compare the money raised, money spent, and cash on hand for the SDGOP and SDDP each month in the current election cycle (months cited are months of activity, not the months the FEC report was filed):

SD Republican Party Cash Advantage over SD Democratic Party
Month Total Receipts Total Disbursements Cash on Hand
May.14 $38,835 $18,051 $14,666
Apr.14 $5,806 $11,021 ($7,593)
Mar.14 $12,942 $6,718 ($2,378)
Feb.14 $7,020 ($1,468) ($8,604)
Jan.14 $12,549 $11,499 ($17,093)
Dec.13 $2,196 $2,231 ($18,142)
Nov.13 ($13,190) $4,573 ($18,107)
Oct.13 $9,230 $10,182 ($345)
Sep.13 $16,959 $6,650 $607
Aug.13 $20,850 $50,855 ($9,703)
Jul.13 ($1,189) $12,441 $20,303
Jun.13 $115,431 $77,249 $33,932
May.13 ($14,060) ($21,546) ($4,250)
Apr.13 ($19,212) ($11,935) ($11,735)
Mar.13 ($1,261) $8,428 ($4,458)
Feb.13 $10,405 $31,751 $5,230
Jan.13 $48,660 $15,202 $26,575
 Total $251,971 $231,902

Over the last seventeen months, the South Dakota Republican Party has raised $697K and spent $593K, while the South Dakota Democratic Party has raised $445K and spent $361K. The SDGOP thus has posted advantages of 57% and 64% in cash raised and cash spent, respectively. Those are significant advantages, but not the kind that make it impossible for smart campaigners to compete.

But notice that in five out of the last seventeen months, the state Dems have raised more money than the state GOP. Maybe those were months when the GOP shouted, "We're not racing!" but without other knowledge, according to the reports, South Dakota Democrats can raise more money than South Dakota Republicans.

Notice also that in eleven out of seventeen months, South Dakota Democrats more often have more cash on hand than South Dakota Republicans. That suggests that, at any given moment, if the two parties felt the need to engage in a sudden ad war, Democrats could match Republicans dollar for dollar in the short term. One might conclude from the cash-on-hand figures that our Democratic party leaders are more fiscally conservative than our Republican leaders. One might also conclude that the Republicans are a bit more willing to spend money to make money.

Assessing the health of the two major parties by campaign finance reports requires looking at the much more complicated picture of giving to candidates and other committees at all levels. Even looking just at the campaign finance reports of the two central parties, I'd be alarmed as party chair to see that my counterpart is outraising me by 57%. But I'd look at that 57% as a hill my party can climb. If we can outraise the GOP in five months, we can do it in six, in seven....


Who says South Dakota's primary is an afterthought? The Washington insiders at National Journal:

If Democrats fall a seat short of holding the Senate, there will be a lot of second-guessing on the one race that never materialized but should have held a lot more promise: South Dakota.

The state is holding its primaries Tuesday, and they're an afterthought. Former Gov. Mike Rounds is the Republican now on a glide path to the Senate, facing weak opposition in the GOP primary. In the general election, he'll face Rick Weiland, a former state director for Tom Daschle who (even the most optimistic Democrats will acknowledge) faces near-impossible odds in the solidly red state [Josh Kraushaar, "For Democrats, the Race That Got Away," National Journal, 2014.06.02].


Kraushaar goes on to attribute to "several Democratic operatives" the story that Stephanie Herseth Sandlin was going to run but didn't want to deal with a primary that would have forced her to say Lefty things to appease us malcontents in the Wellstone (Abourezk?) wing of the party. The only named source he gets to support that angle is State Senator Jason Frerichs:

"Stephanie's still trying to lick some wounds with the party faithful that were disappointed in her health care vote, and can't get over that. There was a motive there to shut her out, from even entertaining the option from running," said state Senate Minority Leader Jason Frerichs, an ally of Herseth Sandlin. "Her decision not to run surprised so many of us, we're kicking ourselves for not pushing harder on her to run" [Kraushaar, 2014.06.02].

Kicking ourselves? Who's the we in your our, Senator Frerichs? I don't see any of my shoe leather on my backside, and the only place I feel like applying that shoe leather right now is on Republicans... and maybe on fellow Dems who think three weeks before convention is a good time to be publicly declaring the Rick Weiland campaign a disappointment. Wouldn't the time for that comment have been January 1, when a disappointed Frerichs or any other Dem could have taken out a petition to bring us a better nominee?

Kraushaar Googles around just enough to agree with my prediction that Mike Rounds gets 55% tomorrow, with Stace Nelson second. But thinking any harder about South Dakota hurts his little brain, so he dismisses Larry Pressler as an afterthought, contrary to the judgment of our man Kevin Woster, who says folks should take Pressler seriously. Kraushaar doesn't even mention Gordon Howie and the quixotic 12% of the GOP electorate he can peel away. Add Pressler-Howie crossfire to a Democratic candidate running a smart, door-to-door campaign, a candidate whose only mistake so far (absolutely unnoticed by the mainstream media) is briefly riling some of the Indian base by using a scalping metaphor, and we are far from Kraushaar's impossible.

But you know, South Dakota Dems, if we want to move closer to impossible, telling Washington insiders that we're disappointed and still licking our wounds from 2010 is one good way to do that..


Here's one more reason for South Dakota Democrats to stop staring at their shoes and get out and fight. According to a new report from number-hungry Northern Plains News, Democrats make up a higher percentage of South Dakota's electorate than they do of some neighboring states. Even as Democratic voter registration declines, South Dakota's electorate remains 34% Democrat (34.279%, to be more optimistically precise!), compared to 32% in Nebraska, 31% in Iowa, and 21% in Wyoming.

Minnesota and Montana don't have folks register to vote by party, and North Dakota doesn't require folks to register at all, but if we want to take a guess, Wikipedia snagged numbers saying Montana is 32% Dem and North Dakota is 29% Dem. The People's Republic of Minnesota has 46% Dems.

Now take a look at the state legislatures around us. Things aren't pretty for Dems, but in Iowa, 31% of Dem voters manage to win enough seats to control the Senate 26–24 and compete in the House 47–53.

Democrats are the underdogs in South Dakota, but we're not six feet under. Iowa shows that there are enough of us that, if we organize and work, we can win.


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