Chris McClure, Democratic candidate for District 14 House, Sioux Falls, SD, 2014.08.23

Chris McClure, Democratic candidate for District 14 House, Sioux Falls, SD, 2014.08.23

I'll bet Dennis Daugaard wishes this philosophy major would take up welding. Democrat Chris McClure wants to bring his political philosophy and experience to Pierre as District 14 Representative.

McClure emphasizes that he views himself as a moderate. He says he sees no need to raise taxes or impose an income tax. He considers the state's fiscal situation to be pretty good. He supports small business. Harkening to his working-class upbringing (Mom and Dad both worked retail), he believes firmly in personal responsibility. At the same time, he supports social programs that help hard-working families advance.

McClure applies a bothersomely cautious moderation to women's issues, specifically to abortion. He says he's personally pro-life but respects the Constitution. Unfortunately, he also says he would leave South Dakota the way it is, which those of us fighting for women's reproductive autonomy will tell you is mean and misogynistic. McClure says that as a male, it's not his place to comment on whether South Dakota's 72-hour abortion waiting period is appropriate (if we were philosophizing, I'd say he's inconsistently yielding to those males who think it is their place to impose such a waiting period).

We all can understand why McClure and other Democrats in South Dakota may shy away from abortion as a campaign issue: speak up for abortion rights, and it's far too easy for Republicans to mobilize the rabid right and distract us from discussing the shambles GOP policies are making of our schools, roads, and workforce. And as I found with my Catholic socialist neighbor Gerry Lange, we South Dakota Democrats can't afford litmus tests.

But moderation that allows women to be second-class citizens is bad moderation. I'll keep working on McClure.

Now if I got really cranky and exclusive, I could tell McClure to take his moderation to the GOP. McClure says Republicans have indeed tried to recruit him. But he won't bite. "I believe in being the party of reason," says McClure, and that means being a Democrat (yes!). He sees the right wing taking the GOP so far right that Democrats now represent the center. There is no far left in South Dakota, says McClure, among candidates or in the media. McClure says that if he were in Massachusetts, he might be a Mitt Romney Republican... although he carefully points out that he means Governor Mitt Romney, the guy who invented ObamaCare, not 2012 Mitt Romney, the guy who tacked unconvincingly right to get the ultra-conservative donors and votes.

However moderate McClure may be, his main issues mirror those his cross-town counterpart Ellee Spawn puts at the front of her campaign: teacher pay (raise it!), Medicaid expansion (do it!), and minimum wage (boost it and more!).

When I ask if he has a plan to raise teacher pay, he says yes, he does: "Pay teachers more!" There's no complicated socio-economic phenomenon depressing teacher salaries: we pay teacher rock-bottom "because that's what Republicans want to do." McClure calls it "ridiculous" (did someone say moderate?) that South Dakota pays teachers $17,000 to $18,000 less than Wyoming, Minnesota, and the national average.

He says we need to pull more money from the surplus and from economic growth into education, cut other programs, and establish reliably dedicated funds. But voters don't trust Pierre to do that because they have seen that Pierre does not prioritize education, and that's the fundamental problem that we must solve.

McClure says that moderates and conservatives alike should be able to agree that Medicaid expansion roacks from a fiscal perspective. McClure says we're giving up 1,900 jobs and $420 million in federal funding over three years by refusing to expand Medicaid. We'd help workers get health care, which means they'd stay healthy, work more, and boost the economy. Either way, we're paying taxes to cover the expansion, but our recalictrance means we get zilch in return. That, says McClure, is a "very bad financial decision."

McClure says Initiated Measure 18, which will boost the minimum wage to $8.50 an hour, won't create a living wage, but it's closer. He says 70% of South Dakotans support raising the minimum wage and predicts IM 18 will pass. McClure argues that, just like expanding Medicaid, raising the minimum wage makes sense, since lower-income workers are more likely than anyone else to spend their additional dollars and stimulate the economy. Boost the minimum wage, and you boost everybody.

At 32, McClure is the youngest candidate in District 14. Yet his résumé makes a strong case for his ability to legislate. He worked as head attorney for the state's child support enforcement division. He saw children and parents suffering under loopholes in the state's child paternity laws, and he helped the 2012 Child Support Commission revise those laws to establish a clearer process for determining paternity and better protect children's best interests (see 2013 House Bill 1021). McClure is now an associate at Swier Law Firm in Sioux Falls.

Prior to his work in government and law, McClure was student body president at Augustana. He helped start the Big Event concert series, which has brought some pretty big musical names to Sioux Falls. McClure points to that organizing experience as evidence of his ability to defy expectations and get things done.

McClure majored in philosophy at Augustana. Plato said that we'd get the best government when philosophers became kings or when kings started philosophizing. But have no philosophophobia: McClure won't fill you full of abstractions. He'll get a little Socratic, saying that we must recognize that we cannot know everything and thus that our intellect can always err. But he says that knowledge of our fallibility must not stop us from doing our best and acting against injustice. McClure says he'd like to hear more politicians acknowledge their fallibility, admit when they are wrong, and not fear changing their positions for the good of the state.

And that's about as philosophical as McClure gets on the campaign trail. He says the key to winning votes is (his slogan!) "Hard Work and Common Sense." For McClure, hard work means knocking on more doors than the other candidates, who in District 14 include fellow Democrat Valerie Loudenback and Republicans Larry Zikmund and Tom Holmes.

Hard work also means getting people of all political persuasions back to talking to each other. In that spirit, McClure says, "Let's do lunch!" Really! McClure extends an open invitation to any resident of District 14 to join him for lunch between now and November 3 to talk legislative issues. It's first come, first served, so call or Facebook McClure, pick a date, and have lunch with candidate McClure.

I'll remind my new philosopher friend that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue. But McClure will remind his friends and neighbors on the campaign trail that his moderate political philosophy and useful experience can bring good policy for District 14 and South Dakota.

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Proud blog sponsor Sioux Falls Democratic Forum invited me to speak to their noon meeting today. Thank you, friends, for having me and coming out to listen! (And thanks to an eager reader for catching some of these photos!)

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Democratic candidate for governor Rep. Susan Wismer says she's still surprised when folks hand her a microphone. Forum chair and District 11 Senate candidate Tom Cool (at the podium) would agree with me, Susan: you shouldn't be surprised after Wednesday's rock-'em-sock'em Dakotafest debate! People want to hear you preach that Democratic gospel of good schools, good roads, and good government!

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Wismer's running mate Susy Blake and I enjoy hearing the good news from other Democrats at today's Forum.

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Former legislator Denny Pierson is excited about (a) running for state treasurer and (b) his new website, coming soon! (Denny, send me a link when it's hot!)

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"I mean every word I say": I tell Susan Wismer to her face, as well as the rest of the crowd, what an awesome job she did in Wednesday's Dakotafest debate.

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Susy Blake breaks the great news straight from Twitter that, in a stunning reversal, Senator Larry Tidemann has asked SDRC director Joop Bollen to speak to the Government Operations and Audit Committee about the scandalous EB-5 program. That isn't a subpoena, but it's a great step forward for all South Dakotans who want answers about how Mike Rounds, Dennis Daugaard, Joop Bollen, and others have used the state's authority and good name to promote the EB-5 program and economic development.

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What, you expected me to speak without waving my arms?

Sioux Falls Democratic Forum meets every Friday at noon at the VFW on South Minnesota. They will be hosting lots of legislative candidates in the coming weeks, so come learn about and discuss the great South Dakota issues of the day with your neighbors!

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Well, that's one way to get to Sioux Falls....  Photo by Charlie Hoffman, on the prairie northeast of Eureka, South Dakota, 2014.08.19

Well, that's one way to get to Sioux Falls.... Photo by Charlie Hoffman, on the prairie northeast of Eureka, South Dakota, 2014.08.19

Hey, Sioux Falls readers! After loads of fun in Spearfish, Piedmont, Manderson, Mission, Eureka, Mitchell, and the Colman backcountry, the rollicking statewide blog tour is now in the great Queen City of East River, Sioux Falls. Here are the big public events:

  1. At noon today, I'll be speaking at the Democratic Forum at the Sioux Falls VFW, on South Minnesota just north of I-229. Folks from all parties and from no party are welcome!
  2. At 4:30 p.m. today, KSOO Radio will allow me the privilege of speaking on the public airwaves as a guest on Viewpoint University. Rick Knobe and friends can't fit spectators in the studio, but you're all welcome to tune to AM 1140 for all the fun and excitement (and, as you listen, for the full effect, be sure to imagine me waving my arms).
  3. From 9 a.m. to noon tomorrow, I'll be hanging out Tweeting and blogging at Josiah's Coffeehouse. I'd love to see you there, just to have the chance to thank you for reading, commenting, sharing, and making this blog the best political blog in South Dakota.

I'm also conducting more interviews, with more great road posts to come. Stay tuned, and come join the fun in Sioux Falls today and tomorrow!

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Governor Dennis Daugaard wants you to believe that he came up with a really great idea with his 2013 criminal justice reform omnibus bill. But a report last week from John Hult suggests that counties were already getting on top of the incarceration problem:

Minnehaha County actually was doing nearly most of the things prescribed by 2013's criminal justice reform package long before it passed. Plenty of counties, were, frankly. Repeat DUI offenders and methamphetamine users regularly got suspended prison time and six months in jail.
Charles Mix County commonly used a "30-30-30" sentencing scheme prior to the reform, former State's Attorney Pam Hein told me. That meant thirty days in jail and a year on the 24/7 sobriety program, which requires twice daily breath tests.

...The truth is... that plenty of places in South Dakota were busy with felons and looking for ways to deal with them long before criminal justice reform passed [John Hult, "Sioux Falls Area Crime Rate Leaps 78 Percent," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.08.04].

But whatever good the county and state initiatives are doing to reduce prison populations may be swamped by a surge in felony filings in Minnehaha and Lincoln counties:

Felony charges have grown 78 percent over the past five fiscal years in the Second Judicial Circuit.

A number like that is bound to put pressure on the county jail.

There were 1,763 felony cases filed in fiscal year 2009. For FY 2014, that figure was 3,114 [Hult, 2014.08.04].

There were 2,267 felony filings in the Second Circuit in FY2013. After Daugaard's criminal justice reform passed, FY2014 Second Circuit felony filings jumped 37% to 3,114.

(Funny: I don't recall Governor Daugaard mentioning that felony spike while he was telling the Manhattan well-to-do what a wonderful place Sioux Falls is to do business.)

Daugaard's criminal justice reform may borrow some good ideas from the counties on what to do with criminals once they end up in the system. But maybe we need a little more emphasis on policies that keep people from committing felonies and landing in court and jail in the first place.

48 comments

Governor Dennis Daugaard has declined the Rapid City Journal's invitation to debate in Rapid City in October, saying he's too busy with all of his gubernatorial duties...

...like hobnobbing with rich people in New York City to promote Sioux Falls:

South Dakota's governor and economic development leaders are leading a campaign to encourage national companies to relocate to Sioux Falls.

The delegation is in New York City this week to promote the state's largest city to financial writers in the hopes of attracting development, said Sioux Falls Development Foundation president Slater Barr.

"The real reason behind these types of visits is we recognize a disparity between the reality of crunching the numbers and the perspective of executives as to the viability of Sioux Falls and South Dakota as an attractive business location," Barr said of efforts to attract new business.

...Joining Daugaard on the New York trip are two leaders from the Governor's Office of Economic Development, commissioner Pat Costello and Steve Watson, business development director [Carson Walker, "Governor Promotes Sioux Falls to Promote Investment," AP via Sacramento Bee, 2014.08.05].

Wait: Mayor Mike Huether isn't on this trip? Whose job is the Governor doing?

Of all cities in the state, one would think that Sioux Falls is best positioned to promote itself, without state assistance. But in true GOP fashion, Governor Daugaard keeps working to help the rich get richer.

*   *   *

Among his media stops, the Governor gets ten blurpy minutes on Bloomberg TV:

The panel of interviewers seem to have trouble sticking with one line of questioning or following up on Governor Daugaard's statements. The Governor credits our population growth to out business-friendly environment of low taxes and low costs of doing business but says nothing about Indians having more babies.

One interviewer notes that economic development is not just about taxes but also about amenities and infrastructure. Governor Daugaard responds that South Dakota has concerns about federal Highway Trust Fund that "all the states depend on" but offers no statement about what South Dakota is doing to promote better roads, schools, and parks.

The interviewer asks about high-speed Internet access, Governor Daugaard brags that he has fiber-optic cable at his place in Garretson. Daugaard's respons epitomizes Republican "I've got mine!" thinking, and the interviewer fails to follow up on whether anyone is doing anything to ensure better Internet and infrastructure for all of South Dakota. The interviewer does return to the topic toward the end of the chat to ask who laid that fiber: Governor Daugaard manages to say his local co-op without saying the word socialism. Daugaard's co-op, Alliance Communications, spent $66 million over eight years to build that fiber network; some of that money came from federal Universal Service Funding. Alliance is seeking more federal dollars to expand its rural broadband service. Ah, self-reliance.

Asked about partisan polarity, Governor Daugaard says South Dakota Republicans and Democrats "get along pretty well" and "treat each other with civility." His Beltway-focused hosts chortlingly encourage Daugaard visit Washington with his lessons in civility, not asking Daugaard why his party has hired Dick Wadhams to launch personal attacks on Democrats.

Opining on how Washington obstructs entrepreneurship, Governor Daugaard says the feds burden us with uncertainty: would the stimulus affect the economy in the way it was hoped, would the sequester take hold, would the government shut down. Governor Daugaard ignores the fact that the stimulus worked except for the drag his own party put on it by (among other things) hamstringing government hiring. He also ignores the fact that the potential for economic destruction from sequester and shut down came from his party's kamikaze politics.

When asked for his five-year plan for South Dakota, Governor Daugaard offers no new ideas, just the typical Republican faith in marketing: South Dakota just needs to "get the word out" about its business climate. But remember: in Republican circles, "getting the word out" means sharing unchallenged sound bites with New York journalists, not fielding questions from local journalists who know what questions to ask in front of challengers for your job.

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Travis Betsworth, general manager of the Original Pancake House in Sioux Falls, categorically denies an accusation that it fired an employee for praying with customers.

Mr. Betsworth said this afternoon, "We would never fire anybody for praying." Quite the contrary, Betsworth says he himself has taken time to pray with customers at their tables during regular business hours. Many church groups come to his restaurant; Betsworth estimates some sort of Bible study or other church-related activity is taking place in his restaurant five days out of each week. Many religious customers leave church cards in the store tip jar.

Betsworth was responding to an accusation leveled by a paid political spokesman for failed Senate candidate Annette Bosworth. The spokesman claims that waitress Shauna Rose was fired for praying with Bosworth and her spokesman just before the primary:

The first time I met Shauna was just before the June election. She was working as a waitress at the Original Pancake House in Sioux Falls. I went in with my friend Dr. Annette Bosworth when we were on our way to a press conference. We prayed at the table before breakfast and Shauna, who knew Dr. Bosworth, bowed her head with us.

Shauna was fired by the Original Pancake House a couple of days later. She was told by a co-worker that it was for praying with us.

Guess where I’m not going to eat pancakes again? [paid spokesman for Annette Bosworth, "Update on Dakota Reporter and RIP Shauna Rose," "Dakota" Reporter, 2014.07.25]

Betsworth says he has no knowledge of the alleged interaction between Bosworth, her spokesman, and Rose. Betsworth says that if he had witnessed such a prayerful interaction on the job, he would have praised Rose for treating customers so well. He would not give further details on managerial decisions affecting Rose's employment at Original Pancake House, but Betsworth flatly denied that Rose would have been fired for praying with a customer. Betsworth says he and the restaurant's two other managers make staffing decisions cooperatively, and no such decision to fire any employee for praying has taken place on his watch.

Rose died in a motorcycle accident on July 16. Betsworth says Rose was "very loved" at the restaurant. Many employees attended Rose's funeral, says Betsworth, and he believes the owners of the restaurant sent flowers.

Independent candidate for lieutenant governor Lora Hubbel made a public statement online yesterday citing the Christian discrimination accusation to discourage people from eating at the Original Pancake House, whose Sioux Falls shop on West 41st is the Oregon-based company's only South Dakota franchise. Betsworth says that prior to his interview with the Madville Times, he was not aware of any calls for boycott, complaints made to the store, or the original accusation of religious discrimination. Betsworth says no other bloggers or reporters had contacted him to inquire about Rose's employment at Original Pancake House prior to this Sunday interview.

273 comments
Arc of Dreams™, concept by Dale Lamphere

Arc of Dreams™, concept by Dale Lamphere

Fundraising is underway to create the capstone to the Sioux Falls Sculpture Walk: the "Arc of Dreams™," a 70-foot-high almost-arch spanning the Big Sioux River between 6th and 8th Streets. The design looks pretty cool. But in the spirit of leaping forth with our dreams, and at peril of incurring the wrath of Arc™ designer Dale Lamphere, I propose the following ten improvements to this mighty work of art:

  1. For a memorable welcome to Sioux Falls, make the Arc™ taller so planes approaching Joe Foss Field can fly under it.
  2. Draw Trekkie dollars: reshape the Arc™ into a bat'leth (or two dueling bat'leths! Qapla'!).
  3. Make it wide enough for joggers and bicyclists to get to the top. Leave the gap: let folks jump across to bring to life the dreamers' leap of faith the gap symbolizes.
  4. Close the gap and build one at every intersection as a non-motorized overpass so SUV drivers can rush into traffic without watching for annoying cyclists.
  5. Paint it rainbow colors, in celebration of the inevitable victory of Jennie and Nancy Rosenbrahn.
  6. Install sprinklers to create a soothing, shimmering curtain of mist making rainbows all day long.
  7. Make it a giant Tesla coil, with spark shows after sunset every evening.
  8. Hang a rope from each end into the water to promote fishing (pranksters are already designing 30-foot carp to hang from the ends in the middle of the night). Ropes can also catch boaters and tubers paddling underneath to cool off in the mist curtain on hot summer days.
  9. Add a natural-gas nozzle to the sprinklers, combine with the Tesla coil—Arc of Flame! Install a barge below, and host an outdoor KISS concert!
  10. Widen the gap and install a slingshot for kayakers (yes, I mean load the kayaker in the pocket and wheeeee!). Also use to celebrate outgoing mayors.

The sculpture fundraisers would prefer your dollars, not your wise-guy ideas. A thousand bucks gets you your own quartzite plaque in the surrounding Walk of Dreams; $50K gets you a quartzite-and-steel pillar. So how much will get me the Tesla coil?

Related: Speaking of Sioux Falls iconography, blogospheric neighbor Scott Ehrisman urges us to vote for his design for a flag for Sioux Falls. The Committee to Establish a Suitable Flying Banner for the City of Sioux Falls is conducting an online survey to pick a flag for our eastern Queen City. There appear to be 90 flags to rate. Uff da! (Yes, that's it! A nice sky blue field with UFF DA! in bold white letters... and the Arc of Dreams™ in the background.)

41 comments

District 15 in northern Sioux Falls has three candidates for its two House seats. Two of the candidates are the incumbent Democrats, Patrick Kirschman and Pastor Karen Soli.

Eric Leggett, Independent candidate for District 15 House (he's the one with the whiskers). Photo: Celebrations Photography

Eric Leggett, Independent candidate for District 15 House (he's the one with the whiskers). Photo: Celebrations Photography

So naturally, I go talk to the third, Eric Leggett. The 23-year-old evangelical Christian and University of Sioux Falls history/political science major is running for his first political office on an interesting mix of conservative, Libertarian, and (dare I say?) liberal policies.

Leggett takes the standard conservative stance on health insurance. He opposes expanding Medicaid because he opposes the Affordable Care Act, saying the ACA causes "less competition, higher costs, less choices, and an even poorer quality of care for our poorest citizens." Leggett shares Governor Dennis Daugaard's concern that we might expand Medicaid, then find the federal government bailing on its financial commitment and leaving us holding the bag.

Translating that concern to the 39.6% of our state budget that comes from federal funds, Leggett sounds downright Daugaardian, advocating self-reliance in all state budget areas before the "inevitable" budget reductions from Washington:

...we should be fairly aggressive in gaining independence from federal funds. It's going to hurt, but if we can get away from federal dependence and find solutions for funding ourselves, it will protect us from a much worse budget shock in the future. I don't think we have a choice. Either we reduce the dependence on Washington ourselves, or they do it to us when the inevitable slashes to spending occur. I think we're in line for another economic winter [Eric Leggett, interview, Madville Times, 2014.07.19].

Leggett diverges from Daugaard on the gasoline tax, saying he does not support an increase. Holding a more conservative line, Leggett doesn't advocate alternative funding mechanisms for fixing our roads and bridges; he says "we're just going to have to make do."

Leggett gives off Libertarian vapors when he says the real problem for wage-earners is not raising the minimum wage (see below!) but reining in the Federal Reserve Bank and its inflationary policy of "using fuzzy math to excuse the continuance of quantitative easing." Griping about the Fed is a favorite Libertarian pastime. Leggett at least has the sense to acknowledge that legislators "have little impact on our monetary policy" and brings up the Fed simply "because it's something to [be] aware of."

Leggett also shares the Libertarian desire to decriminalize marijuana. Leggett says we waste resources incarcerating weed smokers. Throw drug users in jail of they are driving and putting people at risk; otherwise, if we can't wholly legalize, just ticket drug users. Leggett also wants to change South Dakota's policy approach to addiction:

We have a big problem with drug addiction, especially meth. Governor Janklow clamped down hard on drug use. Yet, the problem didn't get better. It got worse. Other states and countries have started treating addiction as a health issue. I think we should follow suit [Leggett, 2014.07.19].

Leggett advocates the veterans court model, a topic which was his first research assignment as an intern for the Legislature during the 2014 session, to deal with addiction issues.

But when Leggett realizes those Libertarian savings in corrections, he wants to go what we might call liberal and use those savings to raise teacher pay. Leggett did home school until high school, but, unlike the Reps. Haggar down the street, home school didn't turn him against the K-12 system:

I look forward to working with our schools and finding a way to raise our teacher's salaries. Education is an investment, and should be viewed that way. While there is truth to the arguments about our cost of living, dead last is not a place we want to be when we are talking about compensating some of the most important people in our society [Leggett, 2014.07.18].

Yet on the liberal side, Leggett supports Initiated Measure 18, the proposed increase and inflation-indexing of South Dakota's minimum wage. Leggett pulls out his USF economics minor and says the impact of higher pay at the low end will have "negligible" effect on unemployment in South Dakota.

Perhaps even more liberally, Leggett wants to abolish the sales tax on food. Reps. Kirschman and Soli have supported the reduction or repeal of the food sales tax in a variety of bills (2014 HB 1149; 2013 HB 1154; 2012 HB 1214). Leggett takes the liberal moral position that we shouldn't fund government on the backs of poor folks buying groceries. But Leggett also takes a the practical economic position that repealing the food tax would boost the economy by drawing shoppers from Minnesota and Iowa.

Ideological labels get messier when Leggett turns to the hot-button issues like the death penalty. Legislative intern Leggett was in the committee room when Rep. Rev. Steve Hickey presented his bill to repeal the death penalty last winter. Leggett says it was a very intense and emotional hearing. Leggett sides with Rep. Hickey, saying he "shudder[s] to think of how many completely innocent people we may have killed in the name of justice." He points to Texas's high rate of executions and high rate of crime as an example of the failure of the death penalty to make society safer. And he says fiscal arguments can't support the death penalty: even if the data showing that executions cost more than life sentences are wrong, killing prisoners to save money is immoral.

Leggett sounds a bit more clearly Christianly conservative on abortion and other women's health issues, but not quite. Leggett says he supports South Dakota's current abortion restrictions. He says other medical procedures require counseling and waiting periods, so making women seek counseling during a 72-hour or longer waiting period is acceptable. He says that as a legislator he will stand up for those who cannot speak for themselves, which is standard evangelical political talk for putting the rights of fetuses above the rights of women (but I told Eric I'd keep my editorializing to a minimum).

Yet Leggett, who was adopted at age 2 after being born by a 13-year-old mother, tells his fellow Christians that they could do more real good by finding ways to support young pregnant women rather than waving signs in front of clinics. He will legislate to limit abortion, but beyond the Legislature's reach, he sees the need for social change, for men to hold themselves accountable and not bail on the women they impregnate.

Leggett also says contraception should be none of the government's business. He doesn't view the Hobby Lobby decision as cause for celebration.  He says Hobby Lobby's contention that certain forms of contraception are abortion is scientifically wrong. But Leggett accepts conservative Justice Alito's assertion that the state must yield to religious believers' alternative science, no matter how demonstrably wrong that science may be.

That said, Leggett says Hobby Lobby could have avoided all this litigation in the first place by decoupling employers and health insurance. Just let companies pay their employees more and let employees buy their own insurance on the individual market.

Leggett's diverse positions support his desire to avoid political labels. While he interned for Republican Reps. Steve Westra and Kristin Conzet last winter, and while he is speaking at the Libertarian convention in August, Leggett does not want to carry either party's label. He  has been a registered Independent throughout his brief voting eligibilty. Leggett sees increasing voter interest in an alternative to the two-party dominance that they see creating gridlocking the federal government. He wants to be part of that alternative.

Absent partisan gridlock in one-party Pierre, I tried to get Leggett to clarify what alternatives he can offer that District 15 cannot get from their Democratic incumbents. But Leggett wouldn't bite. He said he won't spend his campaign talking down other people. Instead, he's more interested in finding common ground with voters on Democratic turf (like repealing the sales tax on food), then pitching his own merits and letting the voters decide. He does plan to include his youth and lack of political polish among the reasons he'd be good in Pierre. The "fresh face!" swing worked as well as a rubber golf club in South Dakota's U.S. Senate and Legislative primaries; we'll see if it comes any closer to the hole in District 15 in the general election.

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