What philosophy major kicked Dennis Daugaard's dog? Our governor continues his passive-aggressive media campaign against philosophers and the liberal arts with another "major in what you want, but you'll be sorry" diss to the humanities:

High school graduates in South Dakota looking at $25,000 in debt for a college degree should do the math first, Gov. Dennis Daugaard says.

What is more likely to pay off those loans, the governor asks: A good-paying job in a growing sector of the state economy — such as science, engineering and skilled trades — or a degree in philosophy?

“I’m not trying to tell people what to do, what to major in,” Daugaard said. “I just want them to have their eyes open about it. I think it’s a fact that it’s harder to get a job with a bachelor degree in philosophy than it is with a bachelor degree in electrical engineering” [Steve Young, "Science, Math Key—and So Is Writing," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.09.15].

Heavens no, the Governor isn't trying to tell anyone what to do. He's just saying that, from his dollar-based worldview, people studying philosophy are wasting time.

Daugaard's academics-for-dollars finds some support in the Payscale.com College Salary Report. According to their data (discussed also on the Washington Post Wonkblog), new graduates of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology enjoy the eleventh-best median starting salary in the nation, $65,600. They beat Stanford, Princeton, Duke, and Yale.

But over time, those schools's graduates and several others catch up with and pass our Hardrockers. Mid-career (at least ten years after graduation), 64 schools post median graduate salaries of over $100,000. School of Mines grads rank 104th in mid-career salary, stuck at $94,800. I say stuck with starry-eyed dreams of making half that amount (ring that blog tip jar!), but I also note that the Hardrockers' 44.5% ten-year salary growth is actually below the average of 70.0% growth for the 1002 schools in this survey. The schools with the biggest salary growth are liberal arts schools: Haverford (198%!), Carleton (169%!), William and Lee, Tufts, and Whitman.

Those big gainers come from schools with markedly lower percentages of science, tech, engineering, and math grads. Maybe all those technical skills that Governor Daugaard isn't-but-is saying everyone should major in are great for grabbing jobs right out of the diploma chute, but as technology evolves and specific technical skills become obsolete, those liberal arts majors Tarzan better from vine to vine in the changing job market.

Related: Payscale.com looked at four South Dakota schools: Mines, SDSU, USD, and Augustana:

School Name Early Career Salary Early Rank Mid-Career Salary Mid Rank % High Meaning % STEM Degrees
South Dakota School of Mines & Technology $65,600 11 $94,800 104 57% 92%
South Dakota State University $45,800 345 $76,600 416 51% 20%
University of South Dakota $42,600 583 $68,800 652 60% 8%
Augustana $38,800 849 $74,100 481 55% 14%

SDSU beats USD on both starting and mid-career salary. Jacks rule! (And Yotes, tell your frat brother Chad Haber to stop dragging you down.) Augie doggies start low, but in ten years, they're beating the Yotes, too. Hmmm... maybe we should take our long-term education and career advice from Augie graduate Susan Wismer instead of USD graduate Daugaard.

But interestingly, a higher percentage of USD graduates report a sense of "high job meaning" (i.e., when asked "Does your work make the world a better place?" they say yes) than say the same at the other three schools surveyed. Hmmm... is that coming from all those philosophy majors?


Governing doesn't think anyone watched Rep. Susan Wismer at the Dakotafest debate and said yesterday that Governor Dennis Daugaard will cruise to victory in November. The new Survey USA poll commissioned by KSFY, KOTA, and AAN agrees, pegging Daugaard at a steady 54% and Wismer at a rising but distant 34%. The comparable May poll put the split at 56–23.

But Survey USA also reinforces conclusions offered by Nielson Brothers Polling in August: even if Wismer can't catch Daugaard, voters will overwhelmingly approve Initiated Measure 18, the proposal launched by Democrats to increase South Dakota's minimum wage to $8.50. Both Nielson and Survey USA find majority support for the wage hike; where Nielson put the split at 52–28, Survey USA finds the split at 61–22, an insurmountable 39-point gap.

Those numbers point Wismer toward one clear path toward breaking 40%: find those IM 18 supporters and remind them that she's on their side and Governor Daugaard isn't. The Democratic Party's whole strategic point in placing IM 18 and other measures on the ballot (aside from promoting the general welfare) is to give Democratic candidates coattail issues that resist personal attacks and resonate with core South Dakota values. Get on those coattails, Rep. Wismer!


Big Ag crowds out pheasants. To restore pheasant numbers and protect South Dakota's shotgun tourism season, Governor Dennis Daugaard proposes more Big Ag, backed with more big government subsidies:

"Winter wheat is probably one of the best habitats for pheasants, and right now 24 counties in eastern South Dakota cannot get federal crop insurance on winter wheat crops," work group chair Pam Roberts said.

It's one of the first priorities Governor Daugaard plans to address.

"If all of Montana can qualify for crop insurance, why should eastern South Dakota, no more susceptible to freeze-outs than Montana, surely, why can't we?" Daugaard said [Jared Ransom, "Conserve Pheasant Habitat, Increase Pheasant Population," KELOLand.com, 2014.09.09].

I can hardly stifle the giggles. Governor Daugaard has as much trouble with his vaunted "South Dakota self-reliance" and his buddy Mike Rounds has with "South Dakota common sense." We need more pheasants, so we need Uncle Sam to hand out more free money for growing crops that may not grow.

By the way, Pam Roberts, SDSU research says pheasants are 2.5 times more likely to nest in grasslands than in winter wheat. If you're going to throw ideological consistency overboard and seek more government handouts, why not ditch subsidies for Kristi Noem's husband and instead get Rep. Noem to undo her cuts to the Conservation Reserve Program to promote more pheasant-fostering grasslands?


For more on the Rounds-Daugaard legacy, we turn to Todd Epp, who cites Census figures to report that the number and percentage of South Dakotans receiving public assistance since 2000 has gone up:

In 2000, an estimated 4,078 South Dakotans or 1.4 percent of the population were on public assistance, according to the report, with recipients increasing nearly two a half-fold from 2000 to 2012 [Todd Epp, "South Dakota Sees Increase in Citizens on Public Assistance," Northern Plains News, 2014.09.03].

From 2000 to 2012, the percentage of South Dakotans on public assistance increased by 1.5 percentage points, the percentage of all Americans on public assistance increased only by 0.3 percentage points. In yucky liberal New York and California, the percentage decreased.

The current Governor made a third of that South Dakota jump happen in just one year. From 2011 to 2012, in the first full year of Dennis Daugaard's fiscal austerity and juche, the percentage of South Dakotans on public assistance rose from 2.4% to 2.9%. South Dakota was one of only seven states showing a statistically significant increase in the percentage of citizens on public assistance. Nationally, under Obamanomics, that percentage stayed flat.

Daugaard and Rounds like to take credit for jobs created during their watch; let's hear them take credit for the increasing public assistance recipients.


What?! Nobody brought up the EB-5/Northern Beef Packers scandal at the State Fair gubernatorial debate? My belief is beggared! Debate sponsor Farmers Union is clearly showing its organizational bias toward Republicans, obviously shielding Governor Dennis Daugaard from questions about his involvement in the loss of millions of tax dollars and the privatization and exploitation of a federal program for personal profit on his watch. Obviously.

John Tsitrian agrees with me that Rep. Susan Wismer should not shield Governor Daugaard from her direct questioning. The Democratic gubernatorial candidate announced (unprompted, it seems, by any public criticism) that she would like permission to step down from the Government Operations and Audit Committee that is supposed to be investigating EB-5/NBP and send a proxy to question Governor Daugaard, former governor Mike Rounds, EB-5 exec Joop Bollen, and EB-5 lawyer Jeffrey T. Sveen (if they show) at GOAC's September 24 hearing. Tsitrian says stepping away from GOAC at this crucial moment cheats citizens and Wismer's own campaign:

...Wismer is still an elected official with all the knowledge and responsibilities that go with that position.  I have no doubt that during her work on this matter, Wismer has learned some things that give her a particular set of insights that no proxy could possibly possess. It's Wismer's job to bring that knowledge to bear on the hearings regardless of the political repercussions that will be an inevitable part of this process.

...Wismer's withdrawal from the committee would be doing voters a disservice because she's got a great opportunity to get some substantive media face time as the election approaches. Could there be a better way for voters to get the measure of her and Daugaard than in a face-to-face confrontation occurring during the routine work of government? I relish the chance to watch them doing what we hired them to do, along with all the comparisons and contrasts that go with it. Given her underdog status, Wismer should relish it too [John Tsitrian, "No Way Should Susan Wismer Withdraw From The EB-5 Hearings. No Way," The Constant Commoner, 2014.08.28].

As Tsitrian says, political theater is not inherently repulsive. Sometimes spectacle serves the public interest. Wismer as warrior on EB-5 is exactly the image that made her appearance at the Dakotafest debate a success. Wismer should keep that image ball rolling, stay on GOAC, and be ready to play Watergate inquisitor on September 24. What did you know and when did you know itwho wouldn't want to look Governor Daugaard in the eye and ask him those questions?


On January 16, 2014, Governor Dennis Daugaard asserted that Northern Beef Packers did nothing wrong in diverting $550,000 of a $1,000,000 state grant to Richard Benda and SDRC Inc. Attorney General Marty Jackley stunningly reversed that official position on July 29 when he told the Legislature's Government Operations and Audit Committee that he prepared a warrant to arrest Benda for that diversion.

Apparently that reversal has been in the works for months, perhaps since before Governor Daugaard told us the grant diversion was kosher. David Montgomery reports that the state has hired attorney Paul Bachand to look into the viability of a lawsuit to recover that missing half-million:

Last month Bachand was given confidential documents prepared last year by criminal investigators. Under the special court order obtained with Attorney General Marty Jackley's consent, Bachand can review but not copy the investigation file and isn't allowed to disclose its contents to anyone other than Daugaard and other top state officials.

The trove of documents Bachand obtained includes witness interviews, emails and letters, bank statements, canceled checks, "evidence of wire transfers and other evidence of transfers of funds," Benda's credit card statements, receipts and cell phone records, and Northern Beef's private contracts, employment records, time sheets and other relevant records.

"It's a voluminous record," Venhuizen said. "I'm sure that's taking some time."

It's also taking some money. Bachand has billed the state $21,222.49 for work done since Nov. 1. Most of that money, Venhuizen said, relates to Bachand's study of the missing $550,000.

Bachand is billing the state at a rate of $155 per hour, meaning he's put in nearly 137 hours of work since November [David Montgomery, "Daugaard Trying to Get Back $550K Benda Allegedly Stole," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.08.22].

Bachand has been on the Northern Beef Packers–Benda money trail since November. If the state thought it might have grounds to try recovering the money Benda took from Mike Rounds's Future Fund Grant #1434, why would Governor Daugaard not have told us sooner? Was there really any downside to telling us from the start that Benda did wrong and that the state would do everything in its power to get those tax dollars back? Would announcing an aggressive state effort to recover its money have somehow fouled the sale of bankrupt Northern Beef Packers to White Oak?

Why Governor Daugaard would not have assured taxpayers from the get-go of his diligent prosecution of this wrong-doing perhaps pales in importance before the fact that his administration really is prosecuting. But if the Daugaard Administration had come clean from the start, it would not suffer now, just as the election season kicks into high gear, from the bad press of this curious reversal.

Susan Wismer, Democratic candidate for governor, Dakotafest debate, Mitchell, South Dakota, 2014.08.20

Susan Wismer, Democratic candidate for governor, Dakotafest debate, Mitchell, South Dakota, 2014.08.20

This is the Sue Wismer we've been waiting for.

This is the Sue Wismer who would have beaten Joe Lowe by 30 points.

This is the Sue Wismer who can beat Dennis Daugaard.

South Dakota's three gubernatorial candidates debated in the steamy Dakotafest tent right by Mitchell yesterday. Nobody wilted, but Democrat Susan Wismer bloomed. In a display of rhetorical grit that nobody expected (seriously, I challenge you, find someone who did), the accountant from Britton snapped her pencils and took it to Governor Dennis Daugaard on Medicaid expansion, education, EB-5, and the failure of one-party rule in South Dakota.

The opening statements were mild and predictable. Independent Mike Myers, with his usual deliberate yet pointed delivery, said he's too old to be bought and needs a job. He spotlighted his health co-op plan, which he said would put us in control of health care instead of the Sanford/Avera corporate complex.

Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard, at Dakotafest debate, Mitchell, SD, 2014.08.20

Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard, at Dakotafest debate, Mitchell, SD, 2014.08.20

Republican Governor Daugaard rattled off his achievements in the "big job" to which we elected him four years ago. He said his administration eliminated a budget deficit (pre-emptively refuting his predecessor, Mike Rounds, would claim in the subsequent Senate candidates' debate that there never was a deficit). The Governor then said he's faced record flooding, widlfires, ice storms, a blizzard, a tornado... which might lead some to worry that God isn't raining favor on the current administration. Daugaard then touted his criminal justice reform bill and the addition of K-12, college, and vo-tech programs (which Mike Larson will tell you is specious poppycock, considering all the cuts Daugaard made to worsen the education crisis).

Wismer offered her own homey-farmy biography, but then she went on offense. She said she is running for the people not represented by the current administration. Opening the theme of one-party rule, she said she wants to bring to Pierre a healthy competition of ideas that has been missing for a long time.

And Wismer kept punching throughout the debate.

Top Priorities: Medicaid Expansion vs. Austerity

Asked about top priorities, Wismer went right to Medicaid expansion. She said that South Dakota could get $272 million a year and health coverage for 48,000 South Dakotans with the stroke of a pen. Instead, Daugaard refuses on ideological grounds to expand Medicaid under the ACA, leaving hospitals to write off $88 million in uncompensated care and leaving counties and the rest of us to should those costs.

Independent candidate Mike Myers, at Dakotafest, Mitchell, SD, 2014.0820

Independent candidate Mike Myers, at Dakotafest, Mitchell, SD, 2014.0820

Myers spoke more generally of the need to move away from political, economic, and financial bankruptcy and reduce insurance premiums that cost more than monthly mortgage payments. He said took another shot at the corporate health care complex, saying their high-price ads and executive salaries call into question their non-profit status. He also spoke of shifting money from end-of-life care to long-term care.

Daugaard avoided addressing Wismer's and Myers's concerns about health care and rattled off more of his fiscal conservatism, saying his budget cuts were great and courageous and that we can't afford to spend money we don't have. He also cited the #1 ranking for business that all of his fiscal conservatism won for South Dakota from CNBC, but didn't address why this year CNBC dropped us to #11.

K-12 Education Funding

Asked how to establish stable long-term funding for K-12 schools, Myers piled together comments about investing in children, looking at  pay and Common Core, and putting teachers and parents in charge of the process. Myers did not address the specific question of how to fund K-12 priorities.

Daugaard said that even with his 2011 cuts (which he said were the least amount taken from any budget area), the state still spends more general fund dollars on education than anything else. He said the current funding formula works and is providing schools this year with an increase twice that of inflation. He then repeated his implication that K-12 ed is bloated, with 50,000 fewer students than when he went to school but 10% more teachers and double the administration and other staff. Daugaard averred that he was "not saying that's right or wrong; it's a fact," but candidates don't say things in debates just to inform us; they make normative statements to persuade us that their policies are right and others are wrong.

Daugaard said the NEA says we're 51st in teacher pay but not 51st in per student funding... but keep in mind that our per-student funding reflects all sources, including the over-reliance on local and federal funds that makes up for the state's last-in-the-nation share of K-12 financial support.

Daugaard said the "first place I look to spend extra money is education," which contradicted a statement he made in his answer to the opening priority question, in which he said he used $100 million in unexpected revenue last year to reduce South Dakota's debt load.

Wismer began by saying that Lyman County still hasn't filled all of its teacher slots. She said the teacher shortage has been slow to come to public attention because schools don't like to admit that they are they are tight on staff and filling spots with what few warm bodies come forward.

Then she attacked again, asking why we love the free market but don't apply that thinking to teacher pay. She said South Dakota disrespects teachers in rhetoric and in financial priorities, making it easy for students to leave the state for the $10K or $15K more they can make teaching in neighboring states.

In a marquee line of the campaign, Wismer said, "It takes more than low taxes and great hunting" to attract young people. She said her uncle and grandpa who served in the Legislature didn't pay lip service to education and then cut the budget. "We are chasing our future right out of this state," said Wismer, and to get that future back, the tone coming from Pierre desperately needs to change.


Asked how we can export our ag products when our roads are falling apart, Daugaard drew a distinction that may start to wear on local leaders: he asserted that state infrastructure is hunky-dory while local roads and bridges are suffering. (This is akin to his answer on teacher pay, which he says is a local decision, not the state's—translation: don't blame Dennis!) Daugaard said the state highway system is in the best condition it's been in many years because (oh, drumroll, please!) we got over $200 million in stimulus that accelerated our road projects.

Say it with me: self-reliance.

Daugaard said county and local officials report lots of roads in fair to poor condition and many bridges functionally obsolete, unable to accommodate the width and weight of new farm equipment. He said his staff and the Legislature are studying the issue and considering solutions, including an increase in the gasoline tax.

Wismer looked Washington-ward and urged Congress to get its act together on highway funding. She agreed with restrained irony that the federal stimulus helped a lot. She said past leaders showed foresight in buying and preserving the core rail lines and said we should expand railroads to ease the strain on our highways.

Then came more Wismer buckshot. The state, she said, is passing the buck (not the bucks) to the locals, leaving struggling to pass wheel taxes. Responding to Daugaard's promise of diligent study, she said the state studies this issue all the time but doesn't dare talk about solutions, let alone act. "This administration continues to stand in way of allowing locals to take care of their own issues," said Wismer. "That will change with me as governor."

Myers said the counties are contributing to road problems by draining water away to their downstream neighbors, washing away their roads. He noted that his clique of old and cranky breakfast companions told him that in his days as a legislator, Daugaard supported regional water district but now as governor opposes them. "Where a person stands depends on where they sit," said Myers.

Medicaid Expansion Redux

Moderator Jerry Oster asked all three candidates to address Medicaid expansion and the millions non-expanding states are losing.

Wismer again cited the 48,000 people, the population of Mitchell and Brookings combined, who right now go to bed not knowing if they can afford whatever might happen tomorrow. Wismer said expanding Medicaid would provide preventive care that would decrease costs, emergency conditions, and ER visits.

Wismer claimed the Governor's refusal to expand Medicaid is an ideological problem. Wismer said Daugaard is perhaps handcuffed by extreme right-wing voices, costing South Dakota $272 million a year.

Myers didn't talk about Medicaid expansion. He talked about deaths from iatrogenesis and said, "access saves and access kills." There's a point there, but explaining it requires more text than Myers fit into his two minutes. Myers proposed a "Health Care Financial Informed Consent Act" to require up-front sticker prices on every medical service. That's a totally sensible idea, but it also fails to answer the Medicaid question.

Daugaard opened with another lecture about the mechanics of the topic. Eventually getting to the question, Daugaard said that because Ben Bernanke is worried that Social Security and Medicare are unsustainable, South Dakota should not buy into expanding Medicaid as a third entitlement. He fretted about the state cost: expanding Medicaid would cost South Dakota only a couple million the first couple years, but state costs would grow to $36 million a year over time. What trade-offs, cuts, deprivations to education or other needs will we be making, Daugaard asked.

Daugaard said, "We value self-reliance (see above, on stimulus and roads). We should "help those who can't help themselves." He said half of the 48,000 Wismer cites can already get insurance on the federal exchange (though I suspect he supports a lawsuit that would make that insurance unaffordable for those South Dakotans).

But in his final word on the topic, Daugaard said he's "open to considering expansion." We didn't have time to wonder at that whiplash, because then rolled forth the thunder of...


Myers, who was shaking his head during the question, sadi EB-5 is the most visible sign of South Dakota's oft-highly ranked corruption. He applauded Wismer's efforts to dig deeper.

Then Myers got weird, saying a Republican legislator told him that an FBI report says the muzzle of the shotgun was more than 18 inches from the tummy. That's how Myers said it, not filling in the name of Richard Benda, the disgraced Rounds/EB-5 official (and fall guy?) who died of a shotgun blast last October. He offered to show a copy of Benda's death certificate and have a helper demonstrate how Benda would have had to hold the shotgun to kill himself after the debate. I did not attend this promised sideshow, and I am unclear on how such a macabre demonstration advances the debate on EB-5.

Myers did say his first action as governor would be to appoint a special prosecutor to find where our money went in the EB-5 scandal and make sure we don't lose such money again.

Daugaard again signaled that if EB-5 goes south, he will cut Rounds loose. EB-5 "started before my administration," said Daugaard, and he emphasized that his Office of Economic Development hasn't used it. He suggested that the investigations of a Republican state attorney general and a Demcoratic U.S. Attorney are sufficient assurance of fair and thorough investigation. He lauded the three audits he ordered and says he has implemented every recommendation of those audits to ensure the problems that have arisen from EB-5 don't happen again.

"I wasn't there!" said Daugaard. He said he is trying to be as transparent as he can and is not hiding anything.

Wismer spoke of EB-5's "long, tortured history" and "several bankrupt projects" (easy, Sue: here in South Dakota, it's two: Northern Beef Packers and the Veblen dairies... though South Dakota legal usage equates several and two). Wismer said the EB-5 promoters "used state's good name to make promises the state couldn't keep." Bad actors abused our state's credibility.

On a policy level, Wismer said we shouldn't invest foreign money in projects that South Dakota money was smart enough not to invest in. We shouldn't support a program that lets foreigners buy way to the front of the green-card line.

Wismer challenged the Governor's audits, saying they were very carefully designed to avoid the questions we are asking today about how the state ran EB-5. The lack of a second for her motion to subpoena EB-5 mastermind Joop Bollen shows the ills of one-party rule. EB-5 is "emblematic of the larger issue of one-party dominance of both branches" that is "just not healthy," said Wismer. "There are people whose jobs depend on telling the governor what he wants to hear and not the truth."

Economic and Workforce Development

Asked what role the state should play in developing the economy, workforce, and wages, Daugaard offered three goals. We should encourage existing South Dakota businesses to grow with a stable, low-tax, low-cost, reasonable-regulatory environment. We should attract outside businesses, as we did with 3M and AKG. And we should encourage entrepreneurial spirit, as we did by letting Joop Bollen and Richard Benda run EB-5 without proper oversight (oh, sorry—that's my example, not Dennis's).

Daugaard said the state can provide low-cost loans, tax incentives to compete with other states, trade missions to help manufacturers find new markets, and provide good infrastructure. Daugaard did not mention education as a component of economic development, but he did fret over imaginary federal rules that would keep children from driving tractors.

Wismer said she was proud to be a part of a solution during the 2013 session, "what we thought was going to be a good economic development plan." (Hear Susan winding up again?). The voters' rejection in 2012 of the governor's plan to hand money from the general fund to corporate interests allowed a real bipartisan discussion and compromise. Wismer said 2013 Senate Bill 235 put legislators on the state economic development board, funded housing development (especially in small communities), directed money to infrastructure (roads, water, sewer, etc. to support business), and directed money toward community development. But this winter, says Wismer, Governor Daugaard ripped out the funding mechanism for that compromise and left funding to the Governor's discretion.

Myers said that economic development in South Dakota has suffered from bad actors (and into my head pops the Reagan presidency), and as governor he will pose economic development questions to Daugaard and Rounds, either voluntarily or under oath, but he didn't say what questions.

Myers then bent the question to one of his favorite issues, hemp. He said politics gets in the way of good solutions. Hemp could be a billion-dollar industry in South Dakota and could thrive especially on the reservations, but Myers said the Big Oil, lumber, and cotton lobbyists oppose hemp for business reasons. Besides, as he wittily put it, hemp makes rope, rope rhymes with dope, and that means marijuana! In his his best laugh line of the afternoon, Myers said that by the same thinking, we should ban corn because it can make whiskey.

Teacher Shortage

Asked if there is a teacher shortage and what the state ought to do about it, Wismer said we need to "change the tenor of the conversation from Pierre" that currently disrespects teachers. She said our budget cuts have driven the teacher shortage. Our budget cuts forced schools to cut the vo-tech programs that produced the welders and machinists of whom the Governor now complains we don't have enough.

Wismer said we are reaping the consequences of 40 years of the lowest teacher salaries in the nation. "The free market works, folks. Why are we surprised?" She cited a university president who told her Appropriations Committee that South Dakota is short of math and science teachers. Asked how to recruit new teachers, Wismer said the university president gave a simple answer: "Respect them and pay them better; end of story."

Myers said we have to spend money to make money but must spend it in the right places. He said he can't think of a better place to invest than education, but it has to be relevant education. He talked about kids using the Internet, but failed to tie that to addressing the teacher shortage.

Daugaard said, "The teacher shortage is no different from the shortage in other fields." He said he has tried to address that general shortage through his bull sessions—er, I mean, workforce summits.

He admitted the shortage is a supply and demand issue (so more pay should work to prove our demand and increase supply, right?), but he said the problem exists in other states (in other words, again, don't blame Dennis!) He said we have trouble finding teachers because of our low unemployment rate.

He said the free market does work, but he then shifted blame to the evil teachers union. He said the union demands pay based on tenure and college degrees, not quality of performance. He touted his 2012 plan to pay math and science teachers more (you know, the plan we voters soundly rejected).

Daugaard gave away his ground by affirming Wismer's position: "I'm open to paying more based on market conditions; more money will attract more people to these professions." But in his final dodge, Daugaard said school boards set salaries, not the state.

Closing Statements

Myers repeated that we should subpoena Rounds and Daugaard on EB-5. He made a new promise to abolish the Governor's Hunt and establish the People's Hunt. Saying he's not a career politician and not for sale, he exhorted us to think for ourselves.

Daugaard clsoed by saying, "I appreciate that several people are still awake out there." (Translation: I really hope you found everything Susan said boring, because if you were paying attention, you saw here give me a beating!) "I am honest... I'm not motivated by money or power; I left a good job in banking... to take less money to work in a children's charity." Daugaard promised to "never stop listening, never stop learning, never stop working for you."

Wismer pressed her attack right to the end. She harkened to her days on the swather and having a broken sickle section. That broken part would leave a row uncut, and that flaw wouldn't go away by ignoring it. She had to stop and fix it.

Wismer said our ancestors left us a well-run swather, but the current administration is letting sickles break and not replacing them. We're letting roads and bridges decay and letting schools decline. The Governor won't acknowledge the damage, said Wismer, but the damage is there, and the consequences are mounting.

Wismer closed saying we need to "change the priority from taking care of Pierre to taking care of people."

Susan Wismer brought exactly the fire that an underdog needs to beat an incumbent, to pierce the shield of unearned popularity that leads many observers to think Daugaard is a shoe-in. Wismer brought this fire for the first time, surprising everyone who expected the Wismer of the primary who didn't project the same charisma, leadership, and righteous anger as primary challenger Joe Lowe.

For the uninitiated, the Dakotafest debate showed a passionate and aggressive Democratic candidate who is ready to go toe to toe with a Republican Governor, challenge his one-party complacency and blame-shifting, and lead this state back to the right path.

Susan Wismer sounds like the new woman (the new Amazon?) that we Democrats want and need and that Republicans should fear. Go get 'em, Susan!


Nielson Brothers Polling unearths another anomaly in the thinking of South Dakota voters. Their July 23–28 survey of voters found that Governor Dennis Daugaard enjoys more support than Congresswoman Kristi Noem among almost every political group:

Daugaard Noem
Overall Job Approval % 64.1 58.0
...among GOP 82.0 80.4
...among Dems 41.0 29.2
...among Indies 62.4 50.5
...among liberals 24.1 5.8
...among conservatives 77.4 78.0
...among “Tea Party” 87.8 96.5

Among the political affiliations and self-identifications checked by Nielson, the only folks who are more likely (outside the margin of error) to get a bigger charge out of Kristi Noem's performance than Dennis Daugaard's are Tea Party people.

Help me understand this difference. If I were a Tea Partier, in what way could I say that Rep.  Noem is doing her job in Washington in better alignment with my desires than Governor Daugaard is doing his job in Pierre? Does Noem's support for the Farm Bill, 16 months late as it was, epitomize the Tea Party vision for government better than, say, Daugaard's support for criminal justice reform? Does Noem's government shutdown demonstrate greater fealty to Tea Party principles than Daugaard's "new norm" of permanently hamstringing public education funding?

Is the difference something they don't do? Does Noem's failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act make her a bigger Tea Party hero than Daugaard's failed effort to repeal tenure and impose merit pay on public school teachers?

Noem and Daugaard have both caught heck for not brewing strong enough Tea. In 2012, the Club for Growth gave Noem a nearly failing score for Tea Party economic policy. Daugaard is widely and correctly viewed as one of the more moderate members of the South Dakota Republican Party (which in South Dakota is like saying John Sullivan is one of the lighter members of the Minnesota Vikings' offensive line). At no point in the last ffour years has either Noem or Daugaard really foamed at the mouth over the prospect of watering the tree of liberty with the blood of tyrants and RINOs. Tea isn't their cup of tea.

I'm left wondering if that anomalous Tea Party bent for Kristi simply boils down to image. Noem on a horse is a lady Reagan. Daugaard looks kinda studly in his checked shirts, but we all know he's not a cowboy; he's a lawyer-banker type. Policy equivalence doesn't matter, because Tea Partiers don't vote with their cerebra. They vote with their limbic systems. On an emotional level, Noem better affirms who we want to be and who we want our ladies to be.

And maybe, just maybe, supporting Noem provides the most regressively conservative among us another form of emotional comfort that Daugaard cannot: What do those dirty liberals mean, calling me a missoggy— miso soup— Mississauga— sexist, just because I want to ban abortion, block equal pay laws, and restore 1950s-style gender oppression? I like Kristi Noem! See? I can't be sexist!

If I'm missing something more substantive that would explain Noem's higher approval than Daugaard's among Tea Party voters, let me know. But I just can't see the job performance markers that would earn Noem any different score from Daugaard from the most radical conservative voters.

p.s., from the Thinking Out Loud Department: The difference between Daugaard's approval rating and Noem's is 6.1 percentage points. The difference between Daugaard's lead over Susan Wismer and Noem's lead over Corinna Robinson is 6.3 percentage points.


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