The District 33 Senate race should not even be close. Sane, civil, and compassionate Robin Page should be beating the paranoid, xenophobic, and Klannish Republican Senator Phil Jensen by a Daugaard–Hubbel or Jackley-Haber margin. But factor in the power of "R" and the disturbing extent to which South Dakotans share Jensen's unhealthy views, and just the fact that a female Native American Democrat can run a competitive race in the Black Hills.

Contrary to a previous report, Jensen has been able to raise some money for his camapign. Jensen's pre-general campaign finance report shows $3,720 from individual donors (including $200 from District 5 Senator Ried Holien—Schoenbeck! get your caucus in line!), $950 from utilities and the state physical therapists group, $100 from the Pennington County Republican Women, and $3,950 from state and national PACs (including $200 Dan Lederman's Rushmore PAC, which apparently is fine with racism, homophobia, and anti-Muslim bigotry). On top of that $8,720, Jensen has put up $9,083.91 of his own money.

Meanwhile, Page has drawn $2,548 from individual donors, $200 from the local party, $2,700 from South Dakota PACs, and $900 in free labor from Bajun Mavalwalla's Nebula Group. That's still a good chunk less than Jensen has poured into his campaign, but it's enough that Page has been able to mail and knock and get out the word that she is a viable alternative to Jensen.

Page has also benefited from some third-party mailings. One card sent around town reminds voters of Senator Jensen's 2011 effort to legalize the murder of abortion doctors. Jensen's bill provoked nationwide disgust and sent South Dakota Republicans, including Governor Dennis Daugaard, running for cover. The mailer duly reminds voters that Jensen regularly humiliates South Dakota and distracts from bread-and-butter policymaking.

Jensen spins now as he did in 2011 to say his bill didn't say what is said:

“This bill pertained to illegal acts, such as assault or manslaughter,” wrote Jensen, who would only correspond with the Rapid City Journal in writing. “This bill had nothing to do with abortion or abortion doctors because abortion is a legal act. Upon assurance from Attorney General (Marty) Jackley that this protection was already provided for by South Dakota law, I voluntarily withdrew the bill” [Seth Tupper, "Phil Jensen Versus Robin Page for State Senate a Clash of Opposites," Rapid City Journal, 2014.10.31].

Page responds with one of the most grown-up things you'll hear from a candidate:

“I guess I don’t have a problem with it, because I’m sure I’ll be held accountable for the things I say or do, as well,” Page said. “That’s just part of the job” [Tupper, 2014.10.31].

Robin Page won't have to make excuses for her bills; because she won't propose stupid, hateful, dangerous bills. District 33, put Phil Jensen out of our misery. Vote for Robin Page today!

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The push to get out the Indian vote continues:

RockLakotaVoteNov2014Rock the Lakota Vote comes to Sinte Gleska University in Mission next Saturday afternoon, November 1, Little Wound School in Kyle next Saturday evening, and United Tribes Technical College in Rapid City next Sunday afternoon, November 2.

Sheriff Jim Daggett, greeting Indian voters at Shannon County's early voting station, October 2014.

Sheriff Jim Daggett, greeting Indian voters at Shannon County's early voting station, October 2014.

The program features the 1491s, the comedy troupe who appeared in the famous September Daily Show segment on the racially offensive football team from our nation's capital. Also appearing is Frank Waln, Sicangu Lakota hip-hop artist from Rosebud.

No word yet on whether Shannon County Sheriff Jim Daggett will be joining his constituents for the Kyle performance. Sheriff Daggett was called twice to the Shannon County early voting station in Pine Ridge this month when supervising auditor Sue Ganje got antsy about how many politically active Indians were showing up at the tiny office to exercise their Constitutional rights. Perhaps the sheriff should come to Kyle for some good music and a good laugh... not to mention his constituents' healthy and legal exercise of their First Amendment rights.

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Here's one sign that Democrat Robin Page may beat Phil Jensen out of his District 33 Senate seat:

Campaign signs, one block west of Pennington County GOP HQ, West Main St., Rapid City, SD, 2014.10.22.

Campaign signs, one block west of Pennington County GOP HQ, West Main St., Rapid City, SD, 2014.10.22.

This photo comes from one block west of Pennington County Republican headquarters on West Main Street in Rapid City. We see the expected Republican signs for Daugaard, Rounds, Krebs, and Gosch. But we see no sign from the GOP incumbent Senator Jensen. Representing District 33 is Democratic challenger Page.

Remember that Senator Jensen drew disdain from his own party last spring for his hangup on social issues and his awkward commenters on racism. Senator Jensen only narrowly survived a primary challenge. Page is now working hard with direct mail and door-knocking to put Jensen out of a part-time job.

This vacant green hosts a couple other non-Republicans amidst the usual conservative suspects. District 34's GOP Rep. Dan Dryden has his sign up, but instead of fellow Republican Jeff Partridge, we find Democratic candidate Steve Stenson advertised. And from District 35, we get the strange mix of Tea-flavored spokesmodel Lynne Hix-DiSanto and Democrat Dave Freytag, with no visible sign from incumbent GOP Rep. Blaine "Chip" Campbell.

One would think every Republican in the neighborhood would want to get his or her name up next to the party leaders on that street and crowd out those pesky Democratic interlopers. But it could be that the Republican sign-minders down the street are sending a message to Jensen in tolerating Page's challenge.

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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.

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Josie Weiland, at home in Piedmont, South Dakota, 2014.08.16

Josie Weiland, at home in Piedmont, South Dakota, 2014.08.16. (That snake on her arm isn't permanent; she was entertaining kids with face-painting at her uncle Rick's fundraising concert Saturday.)

Josie Weiland just graduated from high school. She's headed for Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. Her uncle Rick is running for U.S. Senate.

Josie Weiland made her own political news last February, when she stood up at a crackerbarrel and challenged Senator Phil Jensen's absurd assertion that his proposal to let businesses discriminate against homosexuals was really an "anti-bullying free speech bill." She took a break from entertaining the kids at the fundraising concert her dad Kevin hosted for her uncle Rick yesterday to talk about what led her to political activism.

You might think that her politically minded family led her to her political consciousness, but Josie says that's not the case. Her own political curiosity (Weiland genetics?) led her to start reading up on homosexuality and equality issues on the Internet. She read about the combination of mounting empirical evidence and political action that led the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from the list of mental illnesses. She raised the subject of homosexuality and social responses to it at home, and while her family openly discussed the topic, she formed her own views.

Weiland sees most of her generation understanding and accepting homosexuality (a view shared by her young East River political counterpart Cody Hausman and supported by this 2013 Washington Post/ABC poll). But a vocal minority of her peers motivated her own interest in LGBT equality. She attended a conservatively oriented school where she regularly heard students tossing about ignorant anti-gay insults like, "It's Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve." Despite more positive messages about LGBT tolerance from at least one teacher, Weiland left that school her freshman year. Yet even in a somewhat more diverse and tolerant environment, she still heard ignorant attitudes causing others harm. That injustice provoked her to action.

Initially she didn't plan to speak up at the February 1 crackerbarrel in Rapid City. But the night before the event, she thought more about the injustice inherent in the discriminatory legislation proposed by Jensen and other legislators across the state and nation and decided to prepare some remarks and a question to defend gay and lesbian fellow citizens from discrimination.

After she confronted Senator Jensen, Weiland was distressed by the legislator's unwillinginess to engage in open dialogue. She dealt with sloppy journalism and personal attacks online with pretty good aplomb for a high-school senior unaccustomed to the invective political activists can draw.

But Weiland has not let those negative reactions from others drag her into similar tactics. Her interaction with equality opponents and supporters alike has shown her the advantage of positive messaging. She recalls that at the crackerbarrel, she and other supporters started a rallying chant in which they listed states that ban gay marriage and shouted "Shame!" after each name. One member of her group interrupted the chant and asked that they replace the shaming with something more positive. So instead of "Shame!" the group started responding to the list of states blocking equality with, "Yes we can!" Weiland says that simple change in language changed the emotion and energy of the group to something that felt more hopeful and proactive.

Weiland sees her generation ready and able to engage in politics. However (again reflecting views reflected by Hausman last spring), Weiland sees traditional political activities like crackerbarrels as "old school" and says young people see more ease and usefulness in social media. When a friend invited her to attend the February 1 crackerbarrel, she first thought of the restaurant, not the public forum.

Yet Weiland says that even with such powerful learning and organizing tools in their hands, young people seem largely apathetic to political issues. She thinks part of the problem may be too little discussion of politics in school. In her government class, Weiland says her teacher avoided discussions of "taboo" subjects like gay rights and abortion. Weiland thinks avoiding such topics deters students from discussing controversial issues. They get frustrated and tune out.

Weiland counters with her experience on the high school debate team (ably coached by Pennington County State's Attorney Mark Vargo). Debate is all about sharing and testing ideas and letting opposing views contest each other. Weiland says that letting more students experience that vigorous and healthy contest would incline more students toward engaging in politics.Weiland would like to continue engaging in politics, although she does have a few other important things to do, like figuring out a major. When she finishes university, Weiland doesn't envision running for high office like her uncle, but she likes the idea of involving herself in local politics. But above all, she wants to do her civic duty by reading, learning, and speaking up about LGBT equality and all the other issues affecting her community and encouraging others to do the same.

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RickstockCrowd Hey, what are all those people doing in Dr. Kevin Weiland's yard?

Take It Back Band Why, listening to Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Rick Weiland and the Take It Back Band...

Rickstock2014 ...on a beautiful evening in the Black Hills.

Clean Water AllianceFolks at this show don't want any uranium mining...

Seamans Clanton...and these ranch men will have no truck with pipelines...

KurtzPipe ...but pipes are fine, especially with Kurtz classing up the smoking section.

BlogReadersatRickstockRick voters and blog readers are also cool with flower power and adult beverages in moderation.

WeilandatRickstockCandidate Weiland had a moment between sets to chat about the campaign. Before playing the big show Saturday at his brother Kevin's Piedmont place, Rick walked the Central States Fair parade through downtown Rapid City. Parade in the morning, working the stage and working the crowd all afternoon and evening (and before the sun dropped below the ponderosas, it was hot on that stage!)... you tell me who the hardest working man in the Senate campaign is!

Rick noted that the last time he marched in the Central States Fair parade (another campaign, another decade), he recalls folks actually booing at him. Saturday morning, he said parade-goers were cheering and stepping out to shake his hand. That's long-term momentum!

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Corinna Robinson is working to reverse that downward Q2 fundraising trend. The Democratic candidate for House is speaking at a fundraiser tomorrow (Friday) evening at the Rapid City home of Dr. Nancy Babbitt and Steve Babbitt. Team Robinson staffer Valerie Parker tells me all interested parties are invited. The campaign tweets the where and when:

  • When: Friday, July 25, 5:00 – 7:00 p.m.
  • Where: 1121 Settlers Creek Place, Rapid City, SD 57701

Dr. Babbitt and Team Robinson would like a heads-up on how many people are coming, so please RSVP to campaign staffer Adam Schantz at aschantz@corinnaforsd.com.

offers this statement from Dr. Babbitt explaining her support for Robinson:

“I’ve become a big believer in who represents us in Washington has a major impact on how physicians get to deliver healthcare," Dr. Babbitt said. "And as someone who is frequently called upon to give input on healthcare reform issues, healthcare legislation, and questions of how we provide quality, affordable healthcare for South Dakota seniors, children, veterans etc., I've found Corinna Robinson to be an open- minded, common-sense voice on this issue. We're excited about the event and we're honored to host it" [Robinson campaign, press release, 2014.07.23].

Dr. Babbitt has publicly challenged Senate candidate Mike Rounds's false scare tactics and Governor Dennis Daugaard's detachment from reality on the Affordable Care Act. Now let's see if she can help Robinson set Kristi Noem's bad record on health care reform straight.

 

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Ah, the Fourth of July, when we all come together as Americans with a shared love of country and dedication to our common cause in building a free and democratic community...

...unless you're in Rapid City, in which case the mayor and city council members continue to throw rocks at each other. Last week, Mayor Sam Kooiker said that racism may have driven council members Charity Doyle and Bill Clayton to turn down his first choice for Rapid City police chief. Now council member Bonny Petersen takes to John Tsitrian's blog to say the mayor is unjustly and divisively playing the race card to distract from his own inability to lead:

The Mayor knows the real reasons the vote was no, he knows it has nothing to do with heritage, yet that is what he suggests. He attacks two council members to divert attention from the real facts—that the selection process was adequate until it got to Mayor Kooiker. Once there, Mayor Sam Kooiker failed to do his due diligence. Let me repeat, Mayor Sam Kooiker and only Sam Kooiker failed to do his due diligence. He chose to ignore information that eight of us could not. He can say whatever he wants and point his finger outward, but the fact remains he made a mistake. The eight no votes were a no to a bad decision; it was not a vote for a preferred candidate....

The negative methods that Mayor Kooiker clings too and has mastered so well are the reasons the majority of the council no longer trust or respect him. Is this the fault of the individual council members? I think history clearly shows there is something about the way Sam Kooiker conducts himself that alienates people that work closely with him. (It is not his causes—many of us support his causes—it is his techniques.) Not playing well with others is fine until it undermines the city—and Sam Kooiker pointing to racism on this vote though predictable is beyond disappointing—it is outrageously irresponsible [Bonny Petersen, quoted by John Tsitrian, "Rapid City (SD) Alderwoman Bonny Petersen Responds To RC Mayor Sam Kooiker's Post Dated 6/27," The Constant Commoner, 2014.07.03].

Alas, Petersen doesn't tell us the real reasons for the council's rejection of Lt. Elias Diaz as police chief. Petersen says she cannot tell us, since council members are legally bound to keep personnel matters confidential. She says the mayor takes advantage of that confidentiality to throw mud at council members that they can't wash off with the confidential truth. But she does contend that playing the race card makes it hard to deal with real racism in Rapid City:

Our city has real race issues without making them up for political gain. We have police out on the streets twenty-four hours a day and the last thing they need is our Mayor claiming governmental racism, when he knows it had nothing to do with the vote. He betrays our community by using race as a political weapon. He undermines the huge efforts made throughout our city every day to alleviate the effects of racism [Petersen, 2014.07.03].

You won't find Mayor Kooiker and Councilor Petersen sitting together at the Independence Day concerts at Main Street Square this afternoon. But before and after the hot-dog-eating contest at 3 p.m. (not during—it's impolite and bad strategy to talk with your mouth full), feel free to discuss with your neighbors the causes and extent of the division between mayor and council and among different groups in Rapid City... as well as what can be done to bring those opposing parties together to sustain a functional community.

 

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