Governor Dennis Daugaard's budget proposal includes a new Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Initiative. A major part of the plan is to reduce the frequency and length of residential placements of juvenile offenders—i.e., put more kids on probation instead of yanking them from their homes and locking them up.

Why does that sound familiar? I turn back to my interview with then-District 33 Senate candidate Robin Page:

Education reform isn't just about money. Page sees the education of lots of low-income and American Indian youth suffering because of shortcomings in our juvenile corrections system. Juvenile offenders with mental health and addiction issues are often placed in out-of-state residential facilities. Such programs in places like Utah and Georgia cost $250 to $500 per juvenile per day. Stays in such facilities regularly last 12 to 18 months. When young people come back from such programs, they deal with enormous disruption in their schooling. Their friends have moved on. They feel out of place among younger, "normal" students. They often come from homes that lack the resources to pursue GEDs. But without a diploma, they can't get into vo-tech programs and land good jobs.

Page would like to break that cycle. Instead of sending kids and money out of state, Page would like to invest in treatment programs that would keep juveniles, especially Indian juveniles, closer to home and family and maintain some continuity in their education. Such in-state programs would make it easier for families to participate in family therapy and other more holistic approaches to help juvenile offenders get back on the right track [CAH, "District 33 Senate: Robin Page Seeks Balance, Voice for All," Madville Times, 2014.05.24].

Ship fewer kids off to expensive residential facilities, help them stick with their families and keep up with their studies, reduce their chances of offending again—that was Page's thinking, and it's the Governor's thinking.

Alas, with respect to American Indian youth, the Governor's initiative isn't making much of an extra effort. The JJRI includes one recommendation (out of twelve) to "conduct stakeholder outreach" and develop a pilot program for tribal youth. The Governor's recommended FY 2016 budget adjustments direct just $5,000 more to the Department of Tribal Relations for the JJRI, perhaps to supply the study group with coffee and donuts... and, we can hope, to give some officials some gas money to head out to Rapid City and hear more of Robin Page's ideas.

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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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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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Nebula Group labors on Labor Day producing press releases for two of its South Dakota Legislative candidates. District 12 House candidate Ellee Spawn announces that Senator Tim Johnson has endorsed her. Spawn also cites endorsements from Senator Angie Buhl O'Donnell (D-15/Sioux Falls), Rep. Paula Hawks (D-9/Hartford), and lieutenant governor candidate Susy Blake.

Meanwhile, District 33 Senate candidate Robin Page opens fire on Klan-shielding Republican Senator Phil Jensen. Campaign consultant and Nebula boss Bajun Mavalwalla portrays Jensen as the kid no one wants to play with.

“Look, there is no denying that Jensen is simply beyond the pale and the Republicans want to get rid of him. He’s an embarrassment to the South Dakota GOP who don’t want to be associated with him.”

Prominent Republicans from across the state are distancing themselves from him. “I found his comments to be completely out of line with South Dakota values,” Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard said “I don’t agree with him and I haven’t talked to anyone who does.”

“No one wants to be associated with him. Who wants their State Senator to be a pariah?” said Mavalwalla [Robin Page for District 33 Senate Campaign, press release, 2014.09.02].

The press releases tout both Spawn's and Page's support for raising the minimum wage. Spawn also mentions South Dakota's rock-bottom teacher pay as an issue worth considering on Labor Day.

Nebula Group has announced its work for four South Dakota candidates so far: Spawn, Page, Valerie Loudenback for District 14 House, and Angelia Schultz for Secretary of State. All Democrats, and all women. (It's probably sexist of me to notice, since I've never mentioned a campaign outfit whose candidates are all men.) Could Nebula be trying to capitalize on the gender gap that all of the national GOP's rebranding can't close?

A detailed report commissioned by two major Republican groups — including one backed by Karl Rove — paints a dismal picture for Republicans, concluding female voters view the party as “intolerant,” “lacking in compassion” and “stuck in the past.”

Women are “barely receptive” to Republicans’ policies, and the party does “especially poorly” with women in the Northeast and Midwest, according to an internal Crossroads GPS and American Action Network report obtained by POLITICO....

When female voters are asked who “wants to make health care more affordable,” Democrats have a 39 percent advantage, and a 40 percent advantage on who “looks out for the interests of women.” Democrats have a 39 percent advantage when it comes to who “is tolerant of other people’s lifestyles.”

Female voters who care about the top four issues — the economy, health care, education and jobs — vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. Most striking, Democrats hold a 35-point advantage with female voters who care about jobs and a 26 percent advantage when asked which party is willing to compromise [Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer, "GOP Poll of Women: Party 'Stuck in Past'," Politico, 2014.08.29].

The GOP poll and Politico chatter focuses on opportunities for Congressional office seekers and Hillary Clinton to capitalize on Republican Neanderthalism, but perhaps Nebula's client choices in South Dakota signal their view that some feminine mosquitoes can sting the GOP in state-level races.

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Mr. Powers perpetuates his obsession with picking on Angelia Schultz by rolling in the dead-fish rumors people feed him about the supposed withdrawal of Democrat Schultz from the race for Secretary of State. Team Schultz says hold the phone, she's on her way:

The American News contacted Schultz about the status of her campaign. In a phone interview Wednesday afternoon, Schultz' campaign strategist Bajun Mavalwalla said Schultz has been assembling a team and they're finalizing their strategy to find the best and most efficient way to get her message out across the state.

"As far as my candidate, she's not missing, and she's not pulling out," Mavalwalla said. "Right now, what Angelia recognizes is what we have in South Dakota is a core group of voters who need to know what she's all about. That's why we are making sure when we put everything out that the message is synchronized and right on time" [Elisa Sand, "Secretary of State Candidate Assembling Campaign Team," Aberdeen American News, 2014.08.27].

I'll admit, now is not the time to be assembling a campaign team. Now is the time to be dispatching the campaign team that you assembled back in June to go flood the State Fair with brightly T-shirted hand-shakers and jawboners to tell everyone that you rock, Krebs is Gant in heels, Stacey is crazy, and Emmett... well, he's just Emmett. You should also be answering the heck out of your phone and angling for every bit of free press coverage you can get.

But Schultz has Mavalwalla on the job, and his Nebula Group appears to be mobilizing in support of multiple Democratic candidates in South Dakota. Better late than never—now let's see some big push!

Related: In addition to his freshly announced work for District 12 House candidate Ellee Spawn, Mavalwalla's team has also signed on to blog favorite Robin Page's District 33 Senate campaign. No word yet on whether Page's new campaign consultants have moved her poll numbers, but they have finally launched a campaign website for Robin! Whoo-hoo!

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One of the biggest reasons to be all grumbly and gloomy at the primary after-party is that Senator Phil Jensen (probably) won the District 33 Republican primary. Jensen, who proposes legislation to protect us from gays and Muslims but says the free market is all we need to protect us from the Ku Klux Klan, beat challenger David Johnson by 30 votes, 50.62% to 49.38%. That any district in South Dakota could give a majority vote to a man who says such absurd and hurtful things and advocates such absurd and hurtful legislation is an embarrassment to our whole state.

But I reject the gloomy grumbles by citing hope from Jensen's own district. District 33's Democrats and Independents had a primary choice for Senator as well. They could elect Democrat Haven Stuck, a Rapid City lawyer with decades of community involvement in the Chamber of Commerce, the Central States Fair, the South Dakota Investment Council, and other reputable activities. Or they could elect Democrat Robin Page, a single mom raising multi-ethnic foster kids in low-income North Rapid.

Robin Page, Democratic candidate for District 33 Senate

Robin Page, Democratic candidate for District 33 Senate

District 33 Dems elected Robin Page. As loyal reader Deb Geelsdottir would say, they elected the passionate poet over the lukewarm moderate. They elected an Indian woman, the best candidate on the ballot to look Phil Jensen in the eye and demand an apology for years of racism and sexism in his politics. They elected an underdog who built on what she learned in her unsuccessful 2012 bid for District 33 House, printed and mailed hundreds of letters from her kitchen table, and outcampaigned a wealthier, better-connected candidate.

District 33 elected exactly the kind of of candidate I want Democrats to elect.

Now my endorsement may be the kiss of death. But I am thrilled that Robin Page won and that she will now carry the important responsibility of holding Senator Phil Jensen accountable and convincing her neighbors to cleanse the Legislature of his bad politics.

And how is Page starting her general election campaign? By talking to her neighbors... all of her neighbors:

Good morning FB friends and family! It is official, in a very close race yesterday, I have won the Democratic Primary, in District 33, with 54% of the vote! I send my best wishes to my opponent, Haven Stuck. I am sure that this race will be talked about in Democratic circles for a long time.

It is my sincere hope that the residents of District 33, Democrat, Republican, Independents and all others, will come together and work for a strong community where hatred, racism and discrimination is not tolerated!

I put forth my honest belief that if we come together in open discussions, we can find the balance and common ground that will best serve all of our citizens.

I look forward to sponsoring several "Meet the Candidate - Listening Sessions" over the next few months. I invite ALL citizens to attend so that we can have these important discussions and together, move our community, state and nation forward!

I do these things "So the People can live"! Thank You!!! [Robin Page, Facebook post, 2014.06.04]

Robin Page for District 33 Senate—go get 'em, tiger!

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Robin Page, Democratic candidate for District 33 Senate

Robin Page, Democratic candidate for District 33 Senate

One of the last things Robin Page said to me as I interviewed her Friday for the Madville Times was something she said her grandmother told her. Echoing Lakota wisdom, Robin's grandmother said we "have to learn to walk in balance."

Running as a Democrat for District 33 Senate, Page wants to bring some of that balance to the Legislature.

Page's family history explains some of the balance she could bring to politics. Page describes herself as a "mixed-blood Chicamuaga-Cherokee." She grew up in Utah, where her conservative Mormon parents founded that state's chapter of the John Birch Society. Page recalls asking questions at JBS meetings and Mormon Sunday School challenging her elders' tenets on equal rights for blacks and women. The most important thing she learned in Sunday School was the simple exhortation, "Love one another," which Page says guides her life.

Page got her degree in political science, with a minor in American Indian studies, at the University of Utah. She says she still considers herself conservative. She wants to use taxpayer dollars wisely and hold government accountable.

She's all about economic development, but she would like to see a greater focus on developing small, local businesses. The way out of poverty, says Page, is to help people start their own businesses. Instead of pouring big money into large industrial plants that hire a hundred laborers but only a handful of managers, Page would like to see the Governor's Office of Economic Development make lots of smaller grants and microloans to individual entrpreneurs. She sees more autonomy, more possibilities, and more local turnover of dollars from a hundred tiny businesses than from one big business. Each small businessperson has the potential to expand and hire another worker in a way that each factory worker cannot. Page says GOED can still seek the big fish, but it should divert more resources to the small fry (and more West River!).

Page is pleased that Democrats are pushing the ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage, but Page says $8.50 isn't enough. She says District 33 voters working in motels and restaurants are often already making that amount and still can't afford quality housing in Rapid City. Page says she wants the state to talk to business owners and look for ways that we could use economic development dollars to help businesses weather the transition to higher wages, but she says business owners recognize that higher wages will draw and keep better workers, which would pay off in lower costs in turnover and training.

But Page won't have us putting more money into economic development unitl we've put back what the Daugaard administration took from education. Page says her neighborhood school, Knollwood Elementary, used to offer an after-school tutoring program that reached over 300 kids. She says Governor Daugaard then strangled school budgets with his 2011 cuts. At the same time, says Page, the state applied for a waiver from No Child Left Behind, which meant the state could continue to receive federal aid without meeting NCLB's tutoring requirements. Poof! went Knollwood's tutoring program. Last fall, Page says she received a letter from the school saying their spring 2013 test scores placed Knollwood in the bottom 20% of the nation. And we wonder why students get into trouble and drop out of school later?

Page says South Dakota must restore school funding to the curve it was on before the Daugaard austerity of 2011. She says that with all the "good for business" statistics the state touts, we must have the wealth to back that business climate with a comparably top-of-the-line learning climate.

Education reform isn't just about money. Page sees the education of lots of low-income and American Indian youth suffering because of shortcomings in our juvenile corrections system. Juvenile offenders with mental health and addiction issues are often placed in out-of-state residential facilities. Such programs in places like Utah and Georgia cost $250 to $500 per juvenile per day. Stays in such facilities regularly last 12 to 18 months. When young people come back from such programs, they deal with enormous disruption in their schooling. Their friends have moved on. They feel out of place among younger, "normal" students. They often come from homes that lack the resources to pursue GEDs. But without a diploma, they can't get into vo-tech programs and land good jobs.

Page would like to break that cycle. Instead of sending kids and money out of state, Page would like to invest in treatment programs that would keep juveniles, especially Indian juveniles, closer to home and family and maintain some continuity in their education. Such in-state programs would make it easier for families to participate in family therapy and other more holistic approaches to help juvenile offenders get back on the right track.

Page also wants to help low-income South Dakotans by expanding Medicaid. Page speaks very personally about the benefits of Medicaid; she has experienced them firsthand. Three and a half years ago, a man assaulted her. She suffered serious injuries to her shoulders and spine. She burned up all of her small savings to get treatment and ultimately had to apply for disability to qualify for Medicaid. Since then, she has been able to get medications and some of the surgery she needs to reduce her pain and restore some of her physical function. However, her doctor says that if she had had Medicaid-quality coverage from the beginning and could have gotten surgery sooner, he could have gotten her back to 100%.

Page knows Medicaid could help the sick and injured get well sooner and get back to the workforce. "We are turning our backs on our people," says Page, but we are also turning out backs on money, jobs, and independence for 48,000 fellow South Dakotans just like her and her North Rapid neighbors.

Page navigates racial diversity daily in her house: she has two biological sons, one by an African-Cherokee father, the other by a Dutch father. She also has seven foster children, four Lakota, three Navajo. She says her family is part of the most racially diverse district in the Black Hills. Hearing current District 33 Senator Phil Jensen say this year that government should stay out of civil rights and let the free market protect minorities was deeply hurtful to her family and her community.

Page wants to replace that "leadership" with someone who can speak for all of her District 33 neighbors, rich and poor, Indian and otherwise. When she wins the primary (she said when), she plans to hold public listening sessions so she can be the "voice of the people." She wants to engage young people more in the political process, but she is also attentive to the needs of the aging population in her district, where older folks may struggle to get decent jobs to supplement their retirement income.

Page says she can win as a Democrat, but she's not trying to sell her District on Democrats. She's selling them on her beliefs and abilities. She rejects extremism in either direction, Right or Left. She wants to meet with as many Democrats, Independents, and Republicans as possible, listen to them, and help everyone find common ground. She said she received a positive response from Republicans in North Rapid during her 2012 run for House; she believes she can build on that response this year.

Robin Page wants to help all of her neighbors "walk in balance," the way her grandmother taught. She gets to test the strength of that message in the District 33 Senate primary against Haven Stuck on June 3.

Bonus Reading: That's my distillation of Page's politics. Now check out Robin Page in her own words. Below is a stump speech Page posted to Facebook Friday. She says she is receiving some good responses to it.

For 12 long years, the citizens of North Rapid have not had a voice at the South Dakota State Legislature.

During that time, our Legislators have bowed to the whims of Governor Daugaard and failed to provide their Constitutional role of oversight, checks and balances.

They robbed our children's educational funding to support the East River development of large business ventures doomed to fail. The current EB-5 scandal, of selling permanent residency to investors from China and Korea, has barely had the Legislature's attention.

And every night, as the citizens of Pennington County lay their heads to rest, between 350 and 400 of our youth are incarcerated in the Juvenile Service Center or in out of home and out of state residential treatment facilities. Many of these youth are from North Rapid. They are on the "Pipeline to Prison". This practice placed us as the number one county in America with the highest rate of youth in the Department of Corrections custody per capita population.

Although our Legislators have replaced some of our children's education money, the education budget is still not funded at the pre-2011 level. Last fall the Principal of Knollwood Elementary reported that the students had placed in the bottom 20% of the Nation on their Spring 2013 standardized testing. Gone is the federal money for the 300 students who use to receive free tutoring to help them get caught up. That federal money was taken to pad the general state budget.

I want to bring the "Voice of the People" of North Rapid to the State Senate. For over 30 years I have worked as an advocate of the People. I have the education and employment experience that has prepared me well to serve you in our State Senate.

I am proud to live in the multi-ethnic and multi-racial community of North Rapid! And I promise, I will NEVER sponsor or vote for legislation that promotes hatred, racism or discrimination!

Please vote ROBIN PAGE FOR SD SENATE, District 33 [Robin Page, Facebook post, 2014.05.23].

What response do you think Page will get for those words among District 33 Democrats and South Dakota voters in general?

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