If I were looking only at the Internet, I would assume that Senator Phil Jensen isn't really trying to stop Robin Page from taking his District 33 Senate seat.

But Phil does look good in that mustache... (photo from Jensen for Senate website)

But Phil does look good in that mustache... (photo from Jensen for Senate website)

Consider Jensen's campaign website: he doesn't to appear to have updated any content on the page since 2012. He certainly doesn't mention his marquee legislation from 2014, his absurd and embarrassing attack on LGBT civil rights. He certainly doesn't talk about his laughing acceptance of his hypocrisy on drug-testing and his GOP-rejected tolerance of the Ku Klux Klan. (Interestingly, Jensen's Tea-soaked "Interesting Links" page disses the SDGOP by offering a link labeled "South Dakota Republican Party" that actually takes clickers to the website of an anonymous splinter group that starkly criticizes the main party.)

Consider Jensen's campaign Facebook page: since his primary victory on June 3, Team Jensen has posted one announcement, an August 15 call for volunteers to bring "unicycles... goats, chickens..." to the Central States Fair parade.

"We deserve better," says this Robin Page supporter. Photo from Page for 33 Facebook page.

"We deserve better," says this Robin Page supporter. Photo from Robin Page for District 33 Senate Facebook page.

Meanwhile, Robin Page's Facebook page is bubbling with updates and photos of the Democratic candidate working crowds, chatting up her party leaders and fellow candidates, having fun, and rallying her supporters to action. Page also points out that while she's out stumping, Jensen is hiding. She says Jensen declined an interview with the Rapid City Journal and skipped a forum with important civic groups like the local Chamber and Home Builders Association.

As noted by Seth Tupper, Page is running as the anti-Jensen, not just on issues, but on campaign style. Page is using Jensen's own lackluster campaign funding as proof of his declining support. In a campaign graphic, Page shows that Jensen's campaign fundraising has steadily declined over the last four elections as his radical positions have become better known. This graphic claims that, after raising over $18,000 to get into the State House in 2008, Jensen this year hasn't been able to raise more than $3,000:

Image from Robin Page for District 33 Facebook page

Image from Robin Page for District 33 Facebook page

We won't have campaign finance reports to verify Jensen's poverty or compare Page's campaign cash until later this month. But if Jensen continues to keep such a low profile, it wouldn't be surprising if Page surpasses him in cash and votes.

31 comments

Columnist Tim Giago says South Dakota's American Indians should pick Larry Pressler for U.S. Senate. Former Senator Jim Abourezk says no way: Rick Weiland is the right man for Indian Country.

Weiland at WacipiAbourezk says Weiland is the only viable champion for Indian interests in the Senate. He notes that Weiland is the only candidate who opposes the Keystone XL pipeline, a boiling issue among Indians fighting for true tribal sovereignty. Pressler hedges on Keystone XL but appears to support more pipelines which would cause the same problems as Keystone XL.

Abourezk dismisses Pressler's play for the Indian vote as an opportunistic makeover and says an Indian vote for Pressler is really a vote for Rounds:

...Pressler cannot get enough votes to win election, but just enough to prevent Weiland from getting more votes–enough to give the seat to Rounds. That would be a disaster for Indian Country, in particular because Rounds would make all of his decisions based on who gave him the most money for his campaign [Jim Abourezk, "South Dakota Tribes Can Put Rick Weiland in Office," Indianz.com, 2014.09.30].

Abourezk notes that Weiland has received the endorsement of all nine tribes in South Dakota. He also reminds us that the Great Plains Tribal Chairs Association endorsed Weiland at the beginning of his candidacy last year:

“Rick Weiland has worked extensively with American Indian Tribes and tribal leaders his entire career and we trust him," the association wrote in a statement. "As the FEMA regional director and later as CEO of the International Code Council, Rick helped forge consensus on complex issues. He has a personal connection with many of our tribal people" [Daniel Simmons-Ritchie, "Tribal Leaders Endorse Rick Weiland's Senate Bid," Rapid City Journal, 2013.06.12].

Abourezk says that a strong, unified Indian vote in 2002 kept Tim Johnson in the Senate. He urges the same unity to keep a Democrat and a true fighter for tribal interests in that seat.

12 comments

I must now turn my fire on my alma mater, South Dakota State University, for political favoritism and restriction of free speech. Apparently they (and there's dispute as to whether "they" is the Hobo Day Committee or President David Chicoine himself) will not let Independent candidate Larry Pressler putt-putt through the Hobo Day parade on his old John Deere D.

Kevin Woster captures the supreme irony that USD and NSU are letting Pressler grace their homecoming parades with his tractor while the state's great land grant institution nixes Pressler's ag homage. Woster also explains that State hasn't banned Pressler from the October 25 parade; they've just said he can only participate if a student organization sponsors him.

That rule sets the Independent at another disadvantage to main-party candidates with campus party machines. But incumbents get an even better deal: the Hobo Day Committee up and invites Governor Dennis Daugaard, Congresswoman Kristi Noem, and other sitting elected officials to ride in the parade.

Hobo LarryBut even those favored invitees dare not say anything political. Hobo Day Committee advisor Nick Wendell says candidates are not permitted to distribute any political campaign material during the parade. Why SDSU thinks its homecoming activities are somehow too good for politics while every other campus in the state makes no fuss over pols using their parades to practice organizing and propagandizing escapes me. The Hobo Day parade organizers should let candidates march and say whatever they want... as long as they wear Hobo duds!

Forget the tractor, Larry! If you can't get the campus thespians or the women's rugby club to sponsor you, forget the tractor and just walk the parade route. Instead of keeping your tractor running, shake hands on the street, then get up to the Back Yard for tailgating!

75 comments

Northern Plains News reports that Democrats Susan Wismer and Corinna Robinson have not moved their poll needles since July. Nielson Brothers Polling surveyed over 600 likely voters from September 21 to September 25 and found the races for Governor and House looking statistically identical to the results two months ago:

Nielson percentages July Sept
Daugaard 53 53
Wismer 29 28
Myers 7 10
undecided 12 9
Noem 54 55
Robinson 37 37
undecided 10 9

Evidently Wismer's takedown of Governor Daugaard at Dakotafest went unnoticed by the electorate. So has anything else she or Robinson has done during or since the August fair ramp-up of the campaign.

Independent gubernatorial candidate Mike Myers's climb to 10% could be noteworthy as his first post-primary double-digit polling. But the three-point climb from Nielsons' July poll is still within the margin of error, meaning we can read no momentum into the result.

Nielson Brothers Polling has been branded a Democratic-leaning polling firm. It is thus interesting (or disheartening, depending on your inclinations) to see that NBP consistently scores Wismer, Robinson, and their Senate field counterpart Rick Weiland lower than the Survey USA poll published earlier this month.

Meanwhile, in Iowa, the Jim Mowrer campaign is crowing about a transportation union poll that shows the Democrat just three points under his incumbent Republican wingnut opponent Rep. Steve King. Managing Mowrer's aspiring campaign is Ben Nesselhuf, who used to run the South Dakota Democratic Party.

5 comments

All right, no more cutesy assertions that Senator Harry Reid is actually giving Rick Weiland cover by pretending to keep his D.C. distance from the South Dakota Democrat. The Majority Leader appears to be a petty, pouting idiot. After dissing Weiland at every turn, Reid now asserts that folks like Tom Daschle who are trying to help Weiland win are working against Democrats:

Reid last year declared Weiland was “not my choice” in the race, and this summer added, “We are going to lose in South Dakota, more than likely.”

Asked if those comments hurt Weiland’s chances, Daschle told The Hill, “Well, it certainly hasn’t helped.”

Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Reid, fired back on Monday: “It’s sad that Sen. Daschle is working against Senate Democrats’ interests rather than working to preserve the Democratic majority that Sen. Reid restored” [Bob Cusack and Jessica Taylor, "Reid, Daschle Feud Erupts," The Hill, 2014.09.30].

Senator Reid appears to be confusing his personal interests with the interests of the Democratic Party. The only reason not to endorse Weiland is Reid's pissy-pants pouting over not getting his way on the nomination, which is as morally reprehensible a failure of Democratic leadership as if local party leaders who wanted Joe Lowe to win South Dakota Democrats' gubernatorial nomination were refusing to endorse nominee Susan Wismer. If Reid wanted Stephanie Herseth Sandlin to run, he should take out his frustrations on Stephanie Herseth Sandlin. Weiland didn't force her not to run; she made that decision on her own. (And gee, Harry, maybe if you had offered her an immediate endorsement and big money, she would have run. Did you ever think maybe you only have yourself to blame, Mr. Majority Leader?)

Fighting for every winnable seat is in Senate Democrats' interests. South Dakota is winnable, if you throw punches at Republican Mike Rounds's glass jaw, the EB-5 scandal. Two outside groups already sense that opportunity. With Mike Rounds stuck below 40% and with surging but cash-poor Pressler easily swampable with well-targeted and well-financed ads, South Dakota is worth the effort. Daschle, Weiland, and a whole lot of Senate Democrats recognize that fact. Reid might realize that, too, if he'd set aside his ego and get back to winning the election.

74 comments

Nielson Brothers Polling reinforces the growing belief that Mike Rounds is far from the bulletproof Senate candidate Republicans thought he would be. Their latest polling data finds that Rounds has dropped four points to 39%. Nielsons' finding joins Public Policy Polling (mid-August) and Survey USA (early September) in finding Rounds unable to break 40%. Even Rounds's own propaganda poll finds him at 41%.

Six out of ten South Dakotans want someone other than Mike Rounds to be Senator. The problem is, they are split on whom to pick. Rick Weiland still comes in second, but like Rounds, he has dropped four points from Nielsons' July poll, to 26%. Surging a monster ten points is Independent Larry Pressler, now at 24%. If two data points made a trend, Pressler could surge over 30% by Election Day... and Mike Rounds faces the embarrassing possibility of defeat at the hands not of a Democrat but a retired Independent with no money.

Nielson asks two important hypotheticals: What would happen if Pressler dropped out, and what would happen if Weiland dropped out. In a sock to the gut to Democrats, it appears Pressler would actually have the better chance of beating Rounds:

Nielson Brothers Polling hypotheticals, U.S. Senate race, September 2014

Graphics from Northern Plains News

Uff da: Pressler may be able to combine nostalgia and freedom of party brand into a threat that no one thought would be credible, let alone a direct threat to Mike Rounds's ascendancy.

By the way, Gordon Howie continues to be statistical noise, winning just 4% support. But in a race that could tighten, maybe it's time for Howie to invite Weiland and Pressler out for a conversation about how to achieve the one goal that unites them: beating Mike Rounds.

23 comments

Sorry, Jeff Barth: your lawsuit is already too late to stop the state from destroying some EB-5 evidence. Seth Tupper finds the state deleted Richard Benda's e-mails just weeks after he jumped the ship of state with his half-million-dollar life preserver from Mike Rounds... in accordance with state policy:

The policy says that when employees delete an individual email, that deleted email is retained by the system no longer than 37 days; when an employee leaves state government, the employee’s entire email account is deleted as soon as 30 days later.

So last spring, when investigators were examining records from Benda’s final days in office for evidence of criminal activity, there was no state email account of his to comb through. Investigators obtained and re-created some emails through other investigative means, according to state Attorney General Marty Jackley, who acknowledged the task was made more difficult because of the deletion of Benda’s email account [Seth Tupper, "SD Email Policy: Don't Ask, Don't Keep," Rapid City Journal, 2014.09.28].

Governor Dennis Daugaard sends his poor spokesman Tony Venhuizen out to say silly things about how hard it is to store e-mail:

Venhuizen said the state’s current email system comprises 11 terabytes of storage.

“That’s large, and for that reason, backing up the older messages is kept to a minimum to keep down the expense of storing multiple copies,” he said [Tupper, 2014.09.28].

Tupper snorts milk onto his notepad and points out that one can buy a 12-terabyte external storage unit for $2,200. But always buy for the storage you'll need later, not the storage you need now. For $2,200 we can get order one Western Digital 12-TB unit for the current e-mail system for $650 and a Buffalo 16-TB unit for the next five years of e-mail for $1,317, have someone swing by Best Buy and grab three 1-TB portable drives for $62 a pop, and still have $47 left to take our tech guy out to Red Rossa.

The technological and financial difficulty of storing state e-mails for investigative and historical purposes is trivial. Using those portable drives, we can get a terabyte of storage for $62. Try storing that much information on paper, at two kilobytes per typed page (remember, kilo- means thousands; tera- means trillion), and you'll need one million reams of paper, which at a dollar a ream would cost one million dollars. Multiply that by the 31 terabytes of storage I just priced for the state at Amazon and Best Buy, and we're going to need 64 more EB-5 investors to turn Northern Beef Packers into Northern Leaf Papers.

Archiving the state's e-mails is no big deal. Appropriations, move a decimal point somewhere and buy the governor some hard drives.

p.s.: Seth Tupper appears to be back in his element. After a few months as publisher at the Mitchell Daily Republic, he's back in the game writing political stories for the Rapid City Journal. Maybe I'm just optimistically imagining things, but I sense a certain pent-up enthusiasm unleashed in his hefty report on the state's memory-hole correspondence policy. Perhaps Tupper realized about himself and journalism what I know about myself and teaching: offer me a promotion to principal or superintendent, and I will say no thank you. Some of us are born for the front line.

29 comments

When he wasn't getting everything else wrong, Pat Powers managed to add three useful observations to our favorite political undercard, the fading Chad Haber-Annette Bosworth medicine show:

  1. Powers finds that Haber, in his fake and mostly silent candidacy for attorney general, has rewritten a key part of his family's story. Where his wife found it useful during her fake Senate candidacy to claim that she had to live with her children in an RV in the middle of winter because because the government attacked her, Haber now claims that they sold their two houses to buy medicine for Native American kids.
  2. Powers checks Haber's financial disclosure form and finds that Haber continues to earn no income for his family (which is a more logical explanation for losing houses and living in an RV... but doesn't explain who paid for his three-month sojourn to warm and sunny Haiti with a young female college student while his wife and kids froze in the RV).
  3. Powers also catches Haber providing evidence that his wife should be prosecuted for medical malpractice. Haber says that he paid for his wife to inject 94 Native American children with Vivitrol, an drug that helps drug users fight addiction. No one has studied Vivitrol in children, and the FDA has not approved prescribing Vivitrol to patients under 18.

Wow: so in an alternate universe where Haber is able to keep his story straight and run an honest campaign, it's anyone's guess whom he would arrest first: me, Joop Bollen, or his own wife.

Well done, Pat. It's nice to see you can occasionally uncover some actual news.

Related Viewing: Haber's YouTube channel includes this video of him in Haiti whining about getting lost after failing to find a translator. "A little frustrating, what do you do?" he asks.

Gee, Chad, I don't know, maybe quit being a thick-headed cultural imperialist who thinks everyone should learn English and study the local language before you go?

40 comments

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