You'd think I'd spend an episode of Inside KELOLand cheering the Democrats and throwing shoes at the Republicans. But on last night's Inside KELOLand discussion with four South Dakota legislators, my Democratic friends left me as barefoot as the Republicans, as the Dems failed to attack the noodle-headed policies of the GOP regime in Pierre.

My Democratic friends seem to be stuck in South Dakota Nice. Senator Scott Parsley (D-8/Madison) talked about a Democratic amendment to the road-repair plan that would have directed the excise tax toward local governments. Local roads and bridges are in worse shape than state infrastructure. Republicans killed that amendment. But Senator Parsley didn't explain to voters how Republicans had killed a sensible Democratic plan to direct dollars where dollars are needed most. Senator Parsley mildly said, "it was a good debate, good discussion."

Senator Parsley was similarly gentle on in an argument about property tax and roads. Senator Dan Lederman (R-16/Dakota Dunes) said he thought that spending property tax for road repairs went too far (because, you know, that property you own has nothing at all to do with the roads that you use to get to that property). He said the original bill created a new property tax, and such new taxes ought to be subject to a vote of the people. Senator Parsley responded that the proposal was not a new tax, that property taxes already fund roads. But he prefaced his argument with the mild, "Not to argue with Senator Lederman...."

Senator Parsley, you are arguing with Senator Lederman. You should argue with Senator Lederman. He has it coming, because he is wrong. Let the voters know that he is wrong. Let the voters know that Republicans are costing counties money by forcing them to hold an expensive election every time they want to raise money for local infrastructure instead of leaving it to citizens to decide under the referendum power they already have whether they want to put a bridge-repair levy to a vote.

Rep. Paula Hawks (D-9/Hartford) was similarly far too gentle in the face of the Republican baloney served by Rep. Don Haggar (R-9/Sioux Falls). Rep. Haggar said he did not expect the Legislature to offer any more than the 2% increase the Governor has proposed for K-12 funding. Rep. Hawks replied, "I generally agree we're not going to see anything over that 2% as ongoing money."

Back up, Rep. Hawks. You should never open a comment on the ongoing Republican strangulation of K-12 budgets with the words, "I agree." Or at the very least, you say, "I agree the Republicans in the Legislature aren't going to give us more than 2%, because Republicans don't think our kids are worth the investment. But we should do more than 2%. We have to do more than 2% if we're going to stand any chance of recruiting teachers and maintaining educational opportunities."

Rep. Hawks misses another point-making opportunity on a question about the Governor's proposed "Blue Ribbon Task Force" on education. Rep. Haggar says the task force is "absolutely" a "great idea." He then happily babbles away from the fundamental question of the teacher shortage, saying we need to look at whether the education funding formula "promote[s] the right behaviors." Rep. Hawks, who should be rolling her eyes, who should be giving Rep. Haggar a Seth-and-Amy Really?!?, instead mildly replies that she is "pleased" that we're going to spend time looking at education. Rep. Hawks notes that she gets "a little concerned" that the task force may just be "pushing... down the road another year" a problem that we already understand. Rep. Hawks outlines that problem—years of short funding leading to teachers leaving the profession and college students not entering the field—but instead of speaking with the pain and passion of a veteran teacher who has seen the damage done by the state's neglect, former teacher Hawks states these issues somewhat nonchalantly, as if we've heard the words before and there's no need to get excited about them. She then punctuates her comments by saying she's optimistic that the task force can produce results. By opening and closing with an endorsement of the task force, Rep. Hawks sends the primary message that Rep. Haggar and Governor Daugaard are on the right track and that her concerns are secondary.

My mild-mannered Democratic friends could argue ("Not to argue with blogger Cory, but...") that they are simply drawing flies with honey. But on the big issues, these Republicans need swatting. They are neglecting critical problems, and voters need to know it. If we Democrats are going to be an effective opposition party, we need to oppose, and we need to take advantage of every opportunity (like 23 minutes on the top-rated TV station in the state) to pitch that opposition to the public.

The South Dakota Democratic Party is in the process of hiring a new executive director (that position was supposed to be filled by the end of January; we're working on that, right, Central Committee?). One can hope that the new executive director will model the sort of captivating and mobilizing fire that our Democratic legislators should be using to challenge the Republican neglect of the public welfare.


A quick perusal of the Secretary of State's current list of filed candidates brings a few important names and races to our attention:

Larry Rhoden's petitions for U.S. Senate are in! Rhoden evidently submitted those petitions yesterday. He and Stace Nelson are the only two candidates so far to submit petitions for the highest office on this year's ballot.

Democrat Scott Parsley is ready to take another shot at District 8 Senate. Parsley first tried for Senate in 2008 against GOP patronage beneficiary Russell Olson. Olson beat Parsley by ten percentage points that year. Parsley sat out 2010, then ran for and won a House seat in 2012. Olson stepped down from his Senate seat in favor a plum promotion to general manager of Heartland Consumers Power District. Parsley thus sees a good chance for Dems to take that Senate seat. No filing yet from Daugaard appointee Chuck Jones on whether he'll want to come back for a full term.

Dustina Gill wants Susan Wismer's District 1 House seat. With Rep. Wismer focusing (eventually, someday) on running for Governor, the traditionally Democratic northeast corner of the state has an opening for another good Dem. Gill tells me there are three people in the race so far, but she's the first one done with petitions. District 1 includes a lot of Indian votes, but Gill says she is the first Native American woman to run in District 1.

Update 109:10 MST: Two interesting battles are on tap in West River. Democrat Oren Lesmeister of Parade (!) has filed to challenge gun-nutty Betty Olson for the District 28 Senate seat. Oren, call me, and tell me you won't be crusading against reflector poles.

Down the road in District 29, Republicans get a Senate primary. Newcomer Susan Cheshier is challenging Rep. Gary Cammack for the State Senate seat Larry Rhoden is leaving for his higher aspirations. Expect shooting and roping to be required events at the District 29 debates.


While my colleagues in the South Dakota blogosphere were off listening to a pretend Senate candidate and fishing for her ad business, I went to hear a candidate who will actually be on your ballot next year.

Weiland greets Madison 20130716-sm

Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate greets friends, relatives, and neighbors at Mochavino in Madison, July 16, 2013.

Democratic candidate for Senate Rick Weiland kicked off his 100-town tour yesterday with a trip through familiar country, visiting Dell Rapids, Trent, Flandreau, Colman, and Wentworth before finishing the day in his hometown of Madison. He spoke to three dozen or so voters at Mochavino on Main Street.

Rick Weiland addresses voters at a campaign stop in Madison, South Dakota, July 16, 2013.

Rick Weiland addresses voters at a campaign stop in Madison, South Dakota, July 16, 2013.

Weiland delivered a heartfelt extemporaneous speech (expect nothing less: he's an alumnus of Madison HS debate from the Judy Kroll days). His daughter Taylor (to Rick's left) played the guitar this time.

Weiland Boots-sm

Rick's campaign boots

Does Mike Rounds have boots that look this comfortable and well-worn? Some of the dust on them is from Trent, where he went door to door Tuesday noon.

Weiland Parsley-sm
Rick offered the mic to Rep. Scott Parsley (D-8/Madison), who like every good politician (not an oxymoron) knows you never turn down a chance to speak to a crowd. Scott vouched for Rick and mentioned that he's pretty sure he'll be on the ballot with Rick in 2014, running to keep his state House seat (woe unto the District 8 GOP!).

Pat Orval Leah Rick 20130716-sm

(right to left) Rick Weiland visits with small-business owner Leah Keating, theater professor and director Dr. Orval Van Deest, and DSU physical plant director Pat Keating.

After speaking to the thirty-some audience, Rick spent well over another hour talking with voters, press, and even one troublesome blogger (whose interview is coming up shortly!). Rick even set out pie for everyone. (Hungry but anticipating trouble, I asked about "food for votes"; Rick said his pie is FEC-approved.) He said he'd eaten three pieces already Tuesday and was going for pizza pie with his family at Skipper's afterward.

Note the line from Whitman painted on Leah Keating's café wall. It comes from "Song of the Open Road":

From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines,
Going where I list, my own master total and absolute,
Listening to others, considering well what they say,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
Gently,but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.
I inhale great draughts of space,
The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine.

—Walt Whitman, "Song of the Open Road," Leaves of Grass, 1856

Not a bad verse for Rick Weiland to have in mind as he spends this summer driving around South Dakota listening, contemplating, and winning the hearts and minds of the electorate. Allons, Rick!


I managed to watch the final District 8 Legislative candidates' forum this weekend, courtesy of KJAM's diligent election videography.

Here's what I learned:

  1. Charlie Johnson could have become a lawyer. In his introduction, Johnson said he was accepted into USD's law school but turned that down to work as a small-farm advocate.
  2. The man Johnson wants to replace, Senator Russell Olson, doesn't understand the disconnect between what he says and what he does on education. He says he's deeply concerned about raising teacher pay. He says he opposes Initiated Measure 15 because it doesn't guarantee that the new revenue goes to teachers. He says he supports Referred Law 16 because it is the first time he and his fellow legislators have made an effort to pay great teachers more. But Russ, if paying teachers more is such a priority for you, why didn't you get around to it until the sixth year of your time in Pierre?
  3. Leslie Heinemann isn't a complete GOP tool. Instead of the vague, evidenceless claims that Senator Olson and fellow House candidate Gene Kroger make for Governor Daugaard's education agenda, Heinemann admits his reservations about the bonus program for teachers. He says he can "discriminate" in his small business and pay more to the employees he thinks are working hard. He recognizes, however, that it's difficult to impose the private business model on public schools.
  4. Charlie Johnson sums up Referred Law 16's merit pay plank best: "I don't cultivate, fertilize, and harvest only 20% of my acres. I take care of all my acres. That's the way we have to do education, take care of all of education." He says Russ and the Governor are using Referred Law 16 as a "diversion tactic" to keep us from focusing on the real problem if their neglect of K-12 education funding.
  5. Amendment M is not going to pass, and even Russ Olson doesn't care. He says the amendment on corporate voting and regulation would create a more business-friendly climate in South Dakota—and when Russ says "business-friendly," he means crony-capitalist. But Russ acknowledges that there hasn't been much effort to educate the public on the merits of M, so he appears to shrug at its prospects, as did most other candidates at the podium.
  6. As I expected, Gene Kroger is least equipped to deal with policy issues. On Initiated Measure 15, while the other candidates addressed the regressive nature of the sales tax, the size of the proposed increase (excellent rebuttal from Roy Lindsay, explaining that IM15 is not the largest tax increase in South Dakota history), and the merits of spending the money on K-12 education and Medicaid, Kroger reverted to his Grumpy Old Party talk about inflation and how he has to pay twice as much for his pork and beans. Note to Gene: under President Barack Obama, monthly inflation has averaged 1.6%. Under President George W. Bush, it was 2.8%. From 1914 to 2008, it was 3.4%.
  7. Asked about rising student debt, Kroger again shrugged his grumpy old shoulders and said students have to "decide if this is what I want to do and do I want to pay the price to do it." He asserted that South Dakota tuition is lower and students have less debt than in other states, which is GOP code for "Quit your bellyaching." It's also only one-third true. South Dakota graduates have the median student debt in the country, which happens to be less than the national average. But South Dakota has the second-highest percentage (76%) of students graduating with debt. And given that our wages are the second-lowest in the nation, those students have an even harder time paying off their debt.
  8. All six candidates expressed their eagerness to use government to create jobs by protecting and expanding Dakota State University. Senator Olson confirmed that he is hoping to arrange for the state to acquire the current Madison Community Hospital property when that organization builds its new facility on the south side of Madison.
  9. While Russ Olson thinks getting DSU more land and buildings will help the university, Charlie Johnson says that if we want students to fill those buildings, we need to find more state support to keep tuition affordable. 

On the whole, if you have to pick a Republican in District 8. He at least shows signs of critical thinking that go beyond what Fox News or Governor Daugaard tell him to think.

But the joy of living in District 8 is that you do not have to pick a Republican. You have a full slate of Democratic candidates. Charlie Johnson, Scott Parsley, and Roy Lindsay will legislate with more concern for the common good and sensible, evidence-based policy than their Republican counterparts.

Comments Off on District 8 Legislative Candidates’ Forum: What They Said

Friday, October 26 was the deadline for all South Dakota candidates to submit their pre-general election campaign finance reports to the Secretary of State's office. Here's the data for the District 8 Senate and House candidates:

District 8 Pre-general campaign finance 2012

(click to enlarge!)

The Senate race is a swamper: Heartland Consumer Power District's permanent lobbyist Russell Olson outpaces farmer Charlie Johnson 13 to 1 in campaign contributions, 6 to 1 in ad spending, 9 to 1 in total expenditures, and 104 to 1 in cash on hand. Charlie, you have a lot of knocking and handshaking to do this week!

The House race is tighter in dollar terms. I can't give a complete report yet, since Roy Lindsay's report is not yet available (there's a paper copy in the mail, right, Roy?). I'll update that as soon as Sec. Gant does. But from the reports in the hopper, we see that while Scott Parsley has raised $4,800 more than Leslie Heinemann, Heinemann has out-advertised Parsley by $12,800. Yet Parsley's cash-on-hand advantage is just $2,600.

Where has Parsley's money gone? In a sign of either Democrat selflessness or self-confidence, Parsley has given $14,100 to other candidates around South Dakota, $4,000 more than he has spent on himself:

Campaign/Committee receiving donations from Parsley for House campaign Date Amount Type
BILL ANTONIDES FOR HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES 10/01/2012 $500.00 SD House of Representatives
HAUSMAN FOR HOUSE 10/01/2012 $500.00 SD House of Representatives
HAWKS FOR HOUSE 10/01/2012 $750.00 SD House of Representatives
KLOUCEK FOR SENATE COMMITTEE 10/01/2012 $100.00 SD Senate
MAYNARD J. KONECHNE 10/01/2012 $500.00 SD House of Representatives
SOUTH DAKOTA DEMOCRATIC PARTY 10/01/2012 $11,750.90 Political Party

Meanwhile, Heinemann has kicked a hundred bucks toward 8-mate Kroger's campaign.

While raising just 38% of Senator Olson's obscene haul, Parsley has spread 58% more green love to his party and fellow candidates. Here's how Olson has thrown his love around so far this fall:

Campaign/Committee receiving contributions from Olson for Senate campaign Date Amount Type
CHICOINE FOR SENATE 10/04/2012 $500.00 SD Senate
CHRISTINE ERICKSON FOR HOUSE 06/14/2012 $250.00 SD House of Representatives
FRIENDS OF DAN LEDERMAN 10/04/2012 $1,000.00 SD Senate
FRIENDS OF KENT JUHNKE 10/04/2012 $1,000.00 SD Senate
GENE KROGER FOR HOUSE 09/18/2012 $500.00 SD House of Representatives
JOHN S MEYER FOR SENATE DIST 21 10/04/2012 $500.00 SD Senate
OMDAHL FOR STATE SENATE 09/17/2012 $500.00 SD Senate
OTTEN FOR SENATE 09/17/2012 $500.00 SD Senate
ROMNEY FOR PRESIDENT, INC. 09/25/2012 $1,000.00 Other Committees
RUSHMORE PAC 10/04/2012 $500.00 Political Action Committee
RUSHMORE PAC 10/13/2011 $50.00 Other Committees
SHANTEL KREBS FOR SENATE 10/04/2012 $500.00 SD Senate
SOHOLT FOR DISTRICT 14 SENATE 09/17/2012 $500.00 SD Senate
SOUTH DAKOTA RETAILERS ASSOCIATION PAC 09/28/2012 $125.00 Political Action Committee
VAN GERPEN FOR STATE SENATE 10/04/2012 $1,000.00 SD Senate
VOTERS FOR MILES 10/04/2012 $500.00 SD Senate

Both Parsley and Olson are working to build their party as well as their own political fortunes. But the amount Olson is spending on himself suggests that he perceives a much greater threat to his continued grip on power than Charlie Johnson's bankroll would suggest.

But wait! Russell Olson makes up that love-spreading gap with his Leading South Dakota PAC. Check out these contributions:

Campaign/Committee receiving contributions from Russell Olson's PAC Date Amount Type
CHRIS NELSON FOR PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION 09/01/2012 $250.00 Public Utilities Commission
DEB PETERS FOR SENATE 05/21/2012 $1,000.00 SD Senate
FRIENDS OF BRUCE RAMPELBERG FOR SENATE 05/21/2012 $1,000.00 Political Action Committee
GENE KROGER FOR HOUSE 09/01/2012 $500.00 SD House of Representatives
HEINEMANN FOR SD HOUSE 10/01/2012 $500.00 SD House of Representatives
KRISTI FOR CONGRESS 09/01/2012 $500.00 Other Committees
KRISTIE FIEGEN FOR SOUTH DAKOTA 09/01/2012 $250.00 Public Utilities Commission
MARK JOHNSTON FOR DISTRICT 12 SENATE 05/21/2012 $1,000.00 SD Senate
MICKELSON FOR DISTRICT 13 HOUSE 06/01/2012 $250.00 SD House of Representatives
PETER NORBECK PAC 09/01/2012 $5,000.00 Political Action Committee
SOHOLT FOR DISTRICT 14 SENATE 09/01/2012 $500.00 SD Senate
TOM NELSON CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE 05/21/2012 $1,000.00 SD Senate
WESTRA FOR DISTRICT 13 HOUSE 10/12/2012 $250.00 SD House of Representatives

The $5000 contribution to Mike Rounds's Peter Norbeck PAC gets me scratching my head. Mike Rounds gave Olson's PAC $1,000 last December; his PAC gave RussPAC another $3,000 in August. I'm sure this money-go-round makes sense to someone in Russ's office... but maybe such bookkeeping machinations are why Russ has burned up $2200 in mere administrative expenses.


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