The Senate State Affairs Committee heard concerns from the American Civil Liberties Union this morning that the petition reform legislation working its way through Pierre may need some changes to protect ballot access for new political parties.

In testimony on Senate Bill 69, South Dakota ACLU policy director Libby Skarin said her organization understands the overarching reasons the Board of Elections has proposed this bill along with SB 67 and SB 68, to improve the validation process for nominating petitions. However, said Skarin, moving the petition circulation period one month earlier, to a submission deadline at the end of February, creates ballot access issues, especially for new political parties seeking official recognition from the state. Skarin said that the ACLU brought litigation in 1984 challenging a February petition deadline and got that deadline moved later.

To flesh out the ACLU's opposition, Skarin recruited Richard Winger, the ballot access expert blogger Ken Santema cited yesterday in contending that SB 69's February deadline may violate the Constitution. Testifying by phone from out of state on the kind indulgence of committee chairman Senator Tim Rave, Winger said that the Supreme Court has held that states must allow new parties to form in the spring of an election year. He noted that the Republican Party formed in July 1854 in response to the Kansas-Nebraska Act passed that spring. Winger said South Dakota is the only state that requires new parties to petition for status before the primary elections. He said there is no need for new parties to form before the primaries.

Winger and Skarin did not ask the committee to reject Senate Bill 69 or even any portion of it. They asked instead that the Legislature add language moving the petition filing date for new parties back to a more reasonable and Constitutional summertime date and allow new parties to nominate their candidates at convention. Neither had a formal amendment fleshed out to present to the committee this morning, but Skarin said she could have a proposal to senators by the end of the day.

Building on the ACLU's point about ballot access, Senator Bernie Hunhoff (D-18/Yankton) said the February deadline could make it much harder for legislators to help their parties recruit candidates. It's hard enough getting people to run, said Senator Hunhoff. Move that recruitment period to the holidays and the heart of Session when legislators are busy in Pierre, and even more ballot slots may go unfilled. Senator Hunhoff proposed that State Affairs defer SB 69 to allow a couple days to draft legislation that would cover the ACLU's concerns and perhaps create a provision to allow party chairs to fill ballot slots left empty at primary filing time.

When Senator Hunhoff asked her if such a proposal would complicate the election process at all, Secretary Krebs mentioned that parties right now can recruit placeholders to achieve the same end but said she'd have to check with her staff to see if they could think of any complications.

Senator Corey Brown (R-23/Gettysburg) said deferring the bill wouldn't change the indigestion he was feeling over Senator Hunhoff's proposal. Senator Brown said he finds the whole placeholder concept "abhorrent," and he didn't sound any more enthusiastic about letting party chairs pick nominees for blank spots. He also seemed uneasy about letting new parties nominate legislators at convention, as if facing an opponent selected by just a handful of his neighbors was an affront to democracy.

Chairman Rave, sounding a bit irked to have spent 50 minutes on this one bill, nonetheless urged and the committee agreed to defer SB 69 to Friday, when he promised to handle the bill briefly (translation: if you've got amendments, Bernie, they'd better short and sweet).

Senate State Affairs felt no need to delay SB 69's companion legislation, SB 67. That bill, which would set the second Tuesday in March as the deadline for filing court challenges against nominating petitions, drew no opposition and moves to the Senate floor.

But proceed carefully, Senate: passing SB 67 and SB 68 (which passed Senate Local Government this morning) only makes sense if SB 69 passes without amendment to its petition submission deadline of the last Tuesday in February. Make changes to SB 69 without changing SB 67 and SB 68, and you'll have a statutory spaghetti spill on your hands. (Remind me, Board of Elections, why we didn't write all these changes into one bill?)

Susan Wismer

Susan Wismer, preferred gubernatorial candidate of the South Dakota Democratic Party

Democrats, it appears we are receiving our marching orders from Party Central: Vote for Susan Wismer.

Rep. Susan Wismer (D-1/Britton) announced yesterday that she is challenging Joe Lowe for the Democratic nomination for Governor. Democratic House Minority Leader Rep. Bernie Hunhoff (D-18/Yankton) introduced her at her Capitol press conference. Most of the Democrats in the Legislature stood beside her to show their support.

And South Dakota Democratic Party chairwoman Deb Knecht immediately shouted "BREAKING" and issued this endorsement (should I bother with ironic quote marks?):

South Dakota is home to the smartest kids, hardest workers, and close-knit families in the entire country. It’s time South Dakota had a Governor who invested in these things that make South Dakota great.

Governor Dennis Daugaard has hurt our workforce development with huge cuts to education. He’s jeopardized the health of 48,000 South Dakotans by refusing to accept federal dollars for Medicaid expansion. And he won’t even take a stand on raising the minimum wage for 62,000 South Dakotans.

A small town businesswoman and senior appropriations member, Rep. Susan Wismer understands that the governor’s budget is a moral document with real impacts across the state. She’ll see to it that our state’s policies reflect our values of opportunity, equality, and community.

We look forward to a spirited primary between Joe Lowe and Rep. Susan Wismer with all attention on the future of our state [Deb Knecht, chairwoman, South Dakota Democratic Party, press release, 2014.01.28].

Knecht trumpets Wismer's credentials, which I whole-heartedly recognize would make Wismer a great governor (certainly better than the current governor, who can read minds but not financial reports). Last year Rep. Wismer issued a brilliant and blistering critique of Dennis Daugaard's fiscal irresponsibility that by itself explains exactly why all South Dakotans need to vote Democratic this year. As an accountant and a member of the Appropriations committeee, she understands the heck out of state fiscal policy. I like Wismer a lot (and I like Britton a lot!), and I'm glad to have her running.

Democratic candidate for South Dakota Governor Joe Lowe

Democratic candidate for South Dakota Governor Joe Lowe

But I also like Joe Lowe a lot. I'm glad to have him running, but the Party's tone suggests they'll only be glad to have him running away. When Lowe announced his candidacy on November 30, the SDDP issued no press release. Chairwoman Knecht issued no statement on Lowe's behalf.

It wouldn't be hard for Knecht to compose a comparably clapping commentary on Lowe's go for gov. Wismer has great experience, but Lowe can at least match Wismer's six years of legislative experience with his ten years in the South Dakota executive branch, which happens to be the branch for which they are now competing. Lowe is as aware as Wismer of the moral and political failings of the Republican administration in which he worked. Lowe is a businessman just like Wismer. He brings at least as much experience and fight to the table as Wismer. Lowe and Wismer together can lead a rollicking conversation about the direction of our fair state.

But the leading lights of the South Dakota Democratic Party have a tendency to pick their favorite. In 2012, the party machine sent clear signals that Matt Varilek was their chosen candidate for U.S. House over Jeff Barth. Varilek proceeded to roll up the campaign contributions and crush Barth in the primary.

Wismer sounds like she's ready to do some crushing. On day one of her campaign, she lays out the attacks she'll use to make sure Dems don't pick the other guy:

She said Lowe is a credible candidate but she is a life-long resident of South Dakota and a business owner with six years of experience in the Legislature.

Wismer comes from a strong Democratic tradition in Marshall County. Her grandfather was state Sen. Art Jones and her uncle was state Sen. Curt Jones.

She said extremists have come to dominate politics and “common-sense Democrats” are “forfeiting the game” when they don’t participate. Unless moderates get involved in her campaign, she expects to have a difficult time.

“I’m a centrist,” Wismer said. “I don’t have to be very far to the left of the group in power because the pendulum has swung so far to the right” [Bob Mercer, "Wismer to Run for Governor," Rapid City Journal, 2014.01.29].

Lifelong South Dakotan versus not one of us (that sounds familiar). Common-sense centrist vs. extremist party-wrecker. There's the primary fundraising pitch in a nutshell, one that bears the faint xenophobic whiff of the attacks Kristi Noem used to beat Matt Varilek. But hey, whatever works, right?

Wismer will have her hands full for another six weeks with the Legislative session. She tells Bob Mercer she won't kick into high gear until April 15, after she gets done doing folks' taxes back at the Britton office. Candidate Lowe thus has a brief advantage that he can use to work the crowds and the donors in person while candidate Wismer is tied up. He can use this time to make the case to the rank and file and party leaders that he can take the fight to Daugaard better than Wismer can and bring more voters to the polls in November.

But Lowe's passing advantage is thin. Wismer appears to have the backing of the Party, whose insiders will likely mobilize on her behalf to lock up signatures and contributions. Climb that hill, Joe! Bring us the spirited primary that Chairwoman Knecht says she wants.


In news brought to you first by the South Dakota Blogosphere, Lora Hubbel is running for Governor. The nurse and former legislator will run as a Republican to challenge incumbent Dennis Daugaard. Hubbel will pick up where Gordon Howie left off in 2010, running on the most extreme Tea Party positions and flat-out Michele-Bachmann crazy rhetoric that we could ask for in a primary.

Hubbel's entry into the race pleases me, not because I would ever consider a Hubbel Administration as anything other than cause for the I-29 corridor to secede and join Minnesota. I will find it entertaining to have a statewide candidate who rebels against her own party and likens über-powerful Sanford Health to cancer. I will also find it useful to have a candidate who will help expose the vaccination paranoia, Agenda 21 nuttiness, and dangerous urges to nullification that make funda-Tea-gelicals like Hubbel such a danger to democracy.

But here's a political question for you, dear readers, to kick around in the leaves today. How will Hubbel's participation in the primary (and it will end in the primary, as Team Daugaard will crush her campaign four to one) affect the primary turnout? I envision three scenarios:

  1. Hubbel's gubernatorial run will synergize with Rep. Stace Nelson's U.S. Senate campaign, mobilizing more hard-core conservatives, Libertarians, and rebels to vote. They won't be enough to push Hubbel past 30% (and I'm being cautious with that number), but those of Hubbel's ideological bent will break to Nelson four to one. Hubbel will tell her voters not to vote for Annette Bosworth. A few might go for Larry Rhoden's Marlboro man image. None will vote for Obamacare-loving Marion Michael Rounds. In a tight primary, Hubbel voters could help Nelson catch Rounds.
  2. By triggering a gubernatorial primary, Hubbel mobilizes Team Daugaard early, and they synergize with Team Rounds. More mainstream Republicans turn out to turn back the Hubbel-Nelson insurgency. Hubbel's craziness also gets tied to Nelson, further lowering his chances at cruising to Cruz-dom.
  3. Hubbel's run has no effect on the Senate primary. The Rounds-Nelson battle is already interesting enough to bring out most of the Republicans who might vote. Hubbel is Gordon Howie in a dress, and Howie got fourth place in a five-man race in 2010.

Which Hubbel scenario do you think is most likely?


The trio of U.S. Senate hopefuls working to keep South Dakota Republicans from anointing everyone's favorite insurance salesman, M. Michael Rounds, as the party's nominee must be watching with a little bit of anxiety as two of their most important big city friends get in a little dust-up over party strategy in the wake of the government shutdown.

As Sioux Falls physician Annette Bosworth, State Senator Larry Rhoden (R-29/Union Center), and State Representative Stace Nelson (R-19/Fulton) all work to stake out rhetorical territory to the political right of the moderate Rounds, they've each hitched their wagon to the once-(and-possibly-still-)rising star of U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX).

Bosworth sends a Twitterverse "Bravo" Cruz's way for his not-quite-a-filibuster last month after retweeting his call for "truth-telling" in the Capitol.

Nelson, likewise, tosses plenty of Twitter love and blessings toward the junior Senator from Texas and likens himself to a version of Cruz.

Rhoden, also on Twitter, "stands with" Cruz in his strategy to use shutting down the government as a ploy to defund the Affordable Care Act, even after Rhoden took a verbal lashing from the Capital Journal in Pierre for supporting a previous "potentially disastrous" Cruz anti-Obama stratagem.

But you know who's not a fan of Ted Cruz? Grover Norquist, tax-policy puppetmaster for the Bosworth, Nelson, and Rhoden campaigns through the Taxpayer Protection Pledge each candidate has endorsed.

Norquist initially told the Washington Post that Cruz "crashed and burned" in a failed attempt to delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act through a 21-hour speech on the Senate floor. He had even harsher words in a later interview on Newsmax TV. RINO-hunter Norquist doesn't say Cruz fails to live up to conservative philosophy; Norquist just says Cruz is pretty stupid about how he has tried to enact that philosophy:

"No one's questioning [Cruz's] conservative credentials. It's his wisdom and his judgment and the name-calling that he has thrown at every Republican in the House and the Senate," [Norquist] said.

"[Cruz] promised he was going to magically … get five or 15 Democrats to agree to abolish Obamacare and … get the president to sign it. And if the president won't sign it, you need 67 senators and you need two-thirds of the House.

"Arithmetic told you this strategy that Ted had was never going to work [Bill Hoffman, "Grover Norquist: Ted Cruz Dragged GOP 'Across Broken Glass' in Obamacare Fight," Newsmax, 2013.10.11]."

Norquist also says Cruz has hurt Republicans and needs to make amends:

"So Ted Cruz needs to explain to Republicans why he just spent several months and then several weeks dragging them across broken glass for no purpose [Grover Norquist, quoted in Newsmax, 2013.10.11]."

So, if we South Dakotans are to judge our non-Rounds Republican trio by the people they associate with, we get a confusing picture. One associate, Cruz, stands firm in a filibustering, frustrating, and failing crusade that's shutting down the government. The other associate says it's time to do the math and accept the practical reality of defeat in this particular crusade (yes, I recognize that it's strange for Norquist to come out of any comparison looking like the less dogmatic one).

Annette, Stace, Larry, who's got it right? Is it your friend the first-term Senator from Texas with his sights set solely on tanking the President's policy—and maybe on taking the President's job? Or is it your other friend the wonk-y one-man Republican litmus test who thinks your first friend is either stupid, dangerous, or both?


...But if you know your Twitter, maybe half that.

In our ongoing interview on his 2008 GOP Senate primary experience, Sam Kephart has weighed in on Republican insularity, insider advantages, and fundraising. Today he tells Nelson, Rhoden, and Venner that they'll need a million to a million and a half to wage a serious challenge against nine-million-dollar man Rounds... though Kephart offers a discount for those who know how to Tweet.

Heidelberger: Money isn't everything, but it matters. How much does a candidate need to mount a serious statewide race? How much money would it have taken for you to beat Dykstra?

Kephart: I ended up raising about $60,000, which was a pittance. However, I managed to get roughly 25% of the statewide vote for that. Joel spent just shy of $400K in the primary, so clearly I was the more effective candidate on a dollar-spent-per-vote-gotten basis.

If Joel and I had had equal amounts of money to spend, I think the race would have been much closer, but I believe he still would have beaten me because of his prior history with the party and the margin or edge his insider status in Pierre gave him.

If I had had say $1 to $1.2 million to spend in the primary, I believe I could have won it. I had some pretty big media plans with a seasoned and successful “guru” to run them.

My wife, Sammie, and I had dinner in early August of 2007 with Bill Hillsman from Minneapolis. Bill had run the wildly successful, out-of-the-box campaigns for both US Senator Paul Wellstone and for Governor Jesse Ventura. [See this link for his insightful book on campaigns for mavericks, Run the Other Way.]

Although I was way more conservative than either of those two Minnesota progressives, Bill liked my direct approach and outspokenness and thought an effective media campaign could be launched that would take my name recognition way past Joel in fairly short order... and have some fun in the process. Further, I have personally produced and hosted hundreds of TV projects over the last 30 years; I think I would have had a huge advantage over Joel in any air campaign, had I been able to foot the bill. Cory, you can just imagine the spots ;)

Sadly and very realistically, guys like Hillsman need six-figure down payments and I couldn’t pull my socks up, because I didn’t have any... at least money wise.

Today, I think someone would need at least a million to one and a half million dollars in their campaign kitty to stage an effective statewide primary, particularly if they are an unknown and they need a media blitz; while effective at building name recognition, TV and radio spots are very expensive and there are ZERO discounts for political campaigns because of the regulations.

Having said that, I suppose it might be possible to do it for half that amount if someone was REALLY a whiz with social media such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, which really weren’t a factor in 2007-2008.

Comments Off on Kephart 4: Effective Senate Primary Campaign Requires $1M-$1.5M…

Hey hey! Now that the blog is working again, I can resume my series with Sam Kephart on the 2008 GOP Senate primary. In Parts 1 and 2, Kephart talked about where he found support despite the efforts of the GOP machine to squeeze him out as an uppity and unorthodox outsider. In Part 3, Kephart attests to the need to get big donors in the chute early. Primary candidates, pay attention!

Heidelberger: Dykstra outfundraised you in the primary. What kept you from tapping bigger donors and bigger donations?

Samuel Kephart, 2008 GOP U.S. Senate candidate

Samuel Kephart, 2008 GOP U.S. Senate candidate

Kephart: One of the biggest mistakes of my primary campaign was to underestimate the need for a “sugar-daddy” and to not have a ready stable of already-groomed large donors who could prime the pump with several hundred thousand dollars. Realistically, Joel Dykstra suffered somewhat from the same issue, although he certainly knew way more wealthy people in the state than I did.

I very naïvely thought that the power of my ideas, my direct approach, and my ‘fresh eyes’ would bring out the donors, once they heard my campaign pitch. Boy, was I wrong.

I tried to go from 0 to 60 in one jump; I had no prior campaign experience, I was new to the state, and I was scary to some people.

I did have a couple of total strangers give me the maximum donation of $2,600 based on a 30-minute talk, however, many prospective donors were defensive, at least initially.

More folks started warming up to me towards the last 6 weeks of the campaign, but it was too late then. I was completely unprepared and inexperienced, donation-wise, to ask for the “big give”... and I didn’t have the down payment necessary to hire the proper outside fund-raisers.

Comments Off on Kephart 3, on Campaign Contributions: Ask Early, Ask Big

With four Republicans contending for the 2014 U.S. Senate nomination, I'm posting an extended interview with 2008 GOP Senate candidate Sam Kephart from Spearfish. Yesterday Kephart explained how abortion politics figured significantly in his 66%-to-25% loss to Joel Dykstra. Today he tells us where his campaign got traction.

Heidelberger: Who was your 25%? Where and with whom did your 2008 message resonate most?

Kephart: As might be expected, the bulk of my votes came from West River, where I had some small name recognition because of my active previous support of various party activities. Joel was from Canton, a farming community just south of the Sioux Falls metro area, so he pretty well locked-up the relatively massive I-29 corridor votes.

The voters who did support me had some inherent sense that the GOP was controlled by a bunch of “insiders” and they wanted to use me, an outsider, to shake things up.

My message tended to resonate well with the more analytical voters who actually were paying attention to the substance and issues of the campaign rather than just acquiescing to the inevitability factor of Joel Dykstra, who was the ‘pre-approved’ candidate, and typically spent most of his speeches telling his family story.

I had several very prominent folks approach me separately to tell me that they would quietly support me, but they couldn’t be seen doing so.

Some of them held gatherings at their home where the contributions were mostly cash and just under the individually reportable amount. That was a little weird for me; it was obvious they liked and wanted to support me, but they wouldn’t go so far as to publicly endorse me.

While obviously disappointed, I was beginning to understand.

There were also some biases embedded into the Lincoln Day Dinner schedule across the state. In several towns, Joel Dykstra was given 20 to 25 minutes to speak and I was given 5-8 minutes. I eventually complained about this gross unfairness to Karl Adam, who was then the State GOP Chairman.

Karl is a very decent guy, however, he just looked me in the eye and said "The rules say equal time should be given to ALL the candidates, but... we don’t enforce them. You’ll just have to deal with the facts on the ground." Ouch!!

Comments Off on Kephart 2: Struggles with Insiders, Inevitability

Chad Haber's plan to eyeball and cuss his wife Annette Bosworth's potential Senate rivals out of the race evidently didn't work. After chatting with Bosworth at his Union Center hacienda Friday, Republican State Senator Larry Rhoden says he's running for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate.

The Bosworth-Haber reaction, of course, is an irrelevant distraction compared to the two big questions:

(1) Can Rhoden compete with the M. Michael Rounds money machine?

Rounds has raised more than $1 million for his campaign so far and says he’s going to raise $9 million by November 2014.

That financial threat was on Rhoden’s mind as he considered whether to run.

"When we hear talk about raising millions and millions of dollars for this campaign, that doesn’t scare me," he said [David Montgomery, "Larry Rhoden: 'I Am In' for U.S. Senate," Political Smokeout, 2013.07.08].

Remember, Rounds is talking $9 million for the general. He'll only raise some fraction of that for the primary that is finally on. Rhoden needs to raise only a significant fraction of that fraction to compete, then make the sale by finding the not-so-secret sauce (repeat after me, Larry: "Rounds is a visionless crony capitalist with a crappy budget record!") that will distinguish him from Rounds on June 3, 2014.

(2) Can Rhoden win conservative activists and enough mainstreamers to fight off all comers? The conventional wisdom says you win the GOP primary by driving turnout among the hard-right activists. But we had a primary for Governor four years ago in which the man who focused on capitalizing on that activism, self-christened Tea Party candidate Gordon Howie, came in fourth in a five-man race behind three Republicans who sounded a lot more mainstream than he. Wheezing about a nation in peril to enrapt dozens at Tea Party rallies may set your heart racing, but it doesn't win the GOP primary.

To win the primary, Rhoden needs to peel away a big chunk of the mainstreamers who right now view Rounds as the inevitable nominee. He needs to give them reason to at least hold off on writing those checks to Team Rounds, make Mike miss his Q3 fundraising goals, and make Mike nervous. He needs to get Mike to start throwing those ugly Dick Wadhams punches early (which will be a challenge, because whose Republican dog has Larry Rhoden ever kicked?), then respond, "Whoa, what brought that on? I'm just telling the truth about Rounds's inability to manage the state's books."

Rhoden also needs to keep Stace Nelson out of the Senate race. Better yet, he needs to get Nelson to run for U.S. House. Mike Rounds and Kristi Noem are both empty GOP suits with enchanting fundraising smiles. Played right, a Rhoden-Nelson tandem could juice up voters, making them think they aren't just voting for a man but for a movement, an outsider team twice as likely to shake up the Establishment. If Rhoden and Nelson both fire broadsides about Rounds and Noem being big-money Washington candidates, they just might have a shot.

But Rhoden and Nelson would have to work together to generate that primary synergy, and I haven't heard much Nelsonesque Mugwumpery from the man from Union Center lately. (I've also never heard anyone say "Nelsonesque Mugwumpery"—put that on a t-shirt, and send me the royalties!). If Nelson runs against Rhoden, then it's Munsterman-Knudson 2010 all over again, splitting the underdog vote and leaving Rounds cruising safely to the nomination.

A Rhoden victory will depend significantly on the Benjamins. it may hinge just as much on the Nelson.


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