A friend of the blog calls to express her annoyance and puzzlement at being pestered by the Republican National Committee at home today. My correspondent reports receiving a 35-second robocall this morning from some outfit with the words American, research, and survey in its name, although the robocall appeared to be doing neither of the latter. The call  instead maligned President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and urged my correspondent to weaken those two leaders by not sending Rick Weiland to the Senate. The call did not mention Mike Rounds's name. It concluded by saying it was paid for by the RNC.

My correspondent expressed puzzlement for three reasons:

  1. It's July. One might expect calls like this to roll out right before people go to the polls.
  2. My correspondent is a known Democrat. My correspondent reports that one other strong Democrat in her black book received the same RNC robocall. What political consultant thinks throwing Obama and Reid and Democrats is the most effective way to get them not to vote for Democrats? Is the RNC worried that Elizabeth Warren is going to inspire South Dakota Democrats to stop apologizing and work even harder for her friend Rick Weiland?
  3. It's South Dakota. Nobody in the national media has declared South Dakota's Senate race competitive. What evidence would the RNC be looking at to motivate them to spend money on the South Dakota Senate race?

I invite your interpretations of this minor RNC engagement in the Rounds–Weiland race. And if you get such a call, I welcome your transcript thereof!

19 comments

Livability.com screws up royally in ranking Spearfish the seventh best small town in America. They should, of course, rank Spearfish #1!

What makes Spearfish so great in Livability's eyes and mine?

Here are the six towns Livability mistakenly ranked as better than Spearfish, plus the remainder of the top ten:

  1. Los Alamos, New Mexico
  2. Northfield, Minnesota
  3. Lebanon, New Hampshire
  4. Hood River, Oregon
  5. Port Angeles, Washington
  6. Glenwood Springs, Colorado
  7. Spearfish, South Dakota
  8. Heber City, Utah
  9. Traverse City, Michigan
  10. Hailey, Idaho
12 comments

In discussing the relative merits of potential Libertarian candidates for attorney general, my Libertarian neighbor Bob Newland has noted that Republicans have selected candidates for that office whom he finds extremely objectionable, like Bill Janklow.

Bill Janklow, 1978, Chad Haber, 1998... sure, I can see the resemblance, kinda, sorta...

Bill Janklow, 1979, Chad Haber, 1998... sure, I can see the resemblance, kinda, sorta...

I remind Newland and his Libertarian cohorts that the man most publicly seeking their AG nomination, Chad Haber, likes to tout that he's just like Bill Janklow.

In March 2013, Haber's non-profit Preventive Health Strategies published a newsletter in which one article credited Haber for restoring running water to 70,000 villagers in Cabaret, Haiti. The article deemed Haber "The Haitian Bill Janklow":

Most South Dakotans knew the late Bill Janklow, a former 16-year governor, as a fast-driving, gun-carrying, extremely no-nonsense politician.

Haber knew Janklow well, as governor, Congressman, private-practice attorney and friend [Preventive Health Strategies, "South Dakotan Brings Running Water to Haitian Village," Meaningful Medicine, March 2013].

Responding to a tense clash with the local mayor, Haber recalled an alleged incident with Janklow:

“I was in a meeting once when Bill Janklow whipped out a pistol and waved it around. It probably wasn’t appropriate here, but I just laughed.”

“‘I had a friend I wish you could have met,’” [Haber] told the Mayor.

At that point, the Mayor started laughing, as well, and the meeting continued.

Haber realized he was asking for too much, but, like Janklow, he likes to get right to the point [PHS, March 2013].

Libertarians have an opportunity to nominate a candidate who would represent a real change from the status quo of Republican power politics in South Dakota. They will squander that opportunity if they nominate Chad Haber, a registered Republican who styles himself as the next incarnation of Bill Janklow.

7 comments

Secretary of State Jason Gant has refused to place Lora Hubbel on the November ballot. Yesterday Hubbel received a letter from Secretary Gant, dated July 18, stating that there is no statutory mechanism by which his office can accept Hubbel's certification of her status as Myers's running mate nor recognize the withdrawal from the ticket of the candidate Hubbel would replace, Caitlin Collier.

The procedures for the nomination of independent candidates for Governor and their running mates are covered in South Dakota Law (SDCL) Chapter 12-7. SDCL 12-7-1 provides in part "An independent candidate for Governor shall certify the candidate's selection for lieutenant governor to the secretary of state prior to the circulation of the candidate's nominating petition. The candidate and the candidate's selection for lieutenant governor shall sign the certification before it is filed." In this case, Ms. Collier was properly certified before the circulation of the petition.  Because the time for petition circulation and the filing deadline have passed, there is no statute allowing certification of another independent candidate for lieutenant governor. Additionally, an independent candidate for lieutenant governor cannot simply drop off the ballot. Article IV section 2 of the South Dakota Constitution requires that the governor and lieutenant governor be jointly elected.

If Michael Myers is elected as Governor he may appoint a new lieutenant governor subject to confirmation by majority members [sic] of each house of the legislature pursuant the South Dakota Constitution Article IV section 6 [Secretary of State Jason Gant, letter to Lora Hubbel, 2014.07.18].

I recognize the need for the secretary of state to be a stickler for rules, and Secretary Gant has demonstrated that he can be a stickler when he wants to be. But in this case, Secretary Gant is needlessly punishing Hubbel (a known bête noire among Gant's Republican friends), Myers, and the voters. No votes have been cast. No ballots have been printed. No dispute exists over the practical facts of Collier's withdrawal or Myers's selection of Hubbel. No fraud has been committed by anyone in seeking to place Hubbel's name on the ballot next to Myers's, and no harm will be done to anyone by the stroke of the pen that would align the November ballot with reality.

Quite the opposite: by refusing to place Myers's running mate on the ballot, Secretary Gant is disenfranchising the thousands of citizens who will hear Myers and Hubbel campaign and wish to vote for Myers and Hubbel in November. While citizens voting Republican or Democrat get to choose their lieutenant governor by direct vote, Secretary Gant is pre-empting the will of Hubbel voters and subjecting their choice to the will of a partisan Legislature.

As with many other electoral laws, the statute Secretary Gant discriminates against candidates who are not members of recognized political parties. Independent Myers had to get Collier to file her status as his running mate last winter, before he could circulate his petitions. Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard and his Democratic challenger, Rep. Susan Wismer, did not have to name their running mates until June. Independent running mates apparently have no right to withdraw, and Independent gubernatorial candidates have no right to replace. If either Republican running mate Matt Michels or Democratic running mate Susy Blake decided to withdraw today or during the next two weeks, statute would clearly permit Daugaard and Wismer to name replacements through August 12.

Keeping Lora Hubbel off the ballot serves no compelling state interest. The question now is whether the Myers-Hubbel campaign will take that argument to court. Challenging statutory discrimination and disenfranchisement could win Myers more support among Independents who are sick of the big-money parties rigging the system. Myers is a law professor, so he could argue his own case and minimize the impact on his cash-strapped campaign. And not that anyone should use the courts for publicity, but one could argue that fighting a high-profile court battle against the Secretary of State could bring the Myers-Hubbel campaign more positive publicity for the dollar than any other investment of their sparse campaign resources.

But time is tight: Myers has three weeks to make these arguments in court. After that, the chances of a judge raising a stop sign to printed ballots (even false ballots) diminish greatly, and we would have to wait for a legislative fix.

4 comments

The South Dakota Libertarian Party doesn't have to nominate a con-artist or a socialist French teacher for attorney general. The SDLP can choose to nominate no one. That's the question I turn over to you, dear readers: given a choice between Chad Haber and Cory Allen Heidelberger, whom should the SDLP nominate? Or in that situation, should the SDLP nominate no one, and let AG Marty Jackley ascend to a second term unopposed?

*   *   *
Chad Haber has finally poked his head out from under his shell and handed the press his jobless, degree-less résumé to support his effort to distract from his wife's impending conviction. The putative (the Spanish would use a shorter word) candidate for the Libertarian nomination for attorney general asserts that he will help the Libertarian Party by being a viable candidate:

"This'll be a real candidacy. We know how to raise money," Haber said [David Montgomery, "S.D. Politics: Libertarians Looking to Fill Gap," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.07.21].

The thunder you hear is unpaid employees, raffle ticket holders, and the folks who loaned Haber and his wife an RV to winter in all laughing.

Haber also feigns largesse by saying he'll defer to a candidate who satisfies his criteria for "more qualified":

But he said he was hoping to find another lawyer to run against Jackley, and is still willing to "step aside" if "someone more qualified steps up."

Haber said his standards for "more qualified" primarily are based on a candidate being willing to "stand up" to Jackley [Montgomery, 2014.07.21].

O.K., Chad. I'm your man.

I've been calling out Marty Jackley for dereliction of duty and the state of South Dakota in general for corporate cronyism and oppression since before Chad and Annette fled his failing mortgage scam in Utah (which, by the way, Pat Powers finally gets around to throwing in Haber's face now that Chad is attacking Pat's pal Marty... more than a full year after I brought you that story and Raymond Paul Morris's accusation that Haber ran the mortgage-Ponzi scheme that sent half a dozen people to federal prison).

So Chad, you can already drop your candidacy, because a better candidate has come along: Cory Allen Heidelberger, honest and dedicated stander-upper to Marty Jackley.

Not that the South Dakota Libertarian Party needs convincing, since every Libertarian who has spoken publicly about the Haber candidacy has rejected it, but I made this case Friday to Bob Newland and other Libertarians that I'm a better candidate for their party. Look at all the qualities I can bring to the ticket that Chad Haber cannot:

  1. Lots of Democratic voters.
  2. The highest vote total ever received by a Libertarian nominee in South Dakota.
  3. Proven rhetorical skills (read Chad's writing, especially when he tries to get technical: you need to communicate more coherently than that to campaign, not to mention produce legal opinions and speak for the state of South Dakota).
  4. No one in my immediate family distracting with felony charges.
  5. Firm grasp of South Dakota legal and political issues, including EB-5.
  6. Proven record of reporting corruption in South Dakota, including the Taliaferro/Schwab case, which I covered two years before Chad Haber ever mentioned it.
  7. An honest dedication to truth, justice, and South Dakota, not self-promotion.

Plus, I've established that I can accept at least 52% of the Libertarian platform. Haber has offered no such detailed analysis of his political views.

Libertarians should not be fooled by Chad's only other claim to qualification for candidacy, his and his wife's purported ability to raise money. Sure, on paper, they raised more money for the GOP Senate primary than everyone else except Mike Rounds (and they outdid him in April and May). But every penny documented so far covered paid Base Connect and its associates to get those donations. That money didn't promote a political agenda. It enriched clever direct mail companies and bought Annette some Starbucks. That money also came mostly from out-of-state hot-button donors who won't give a rat's toejam about an in-state AG's race.

Translation: Chad won't bring you Libertarians any money. I can promote the Libertarian agenda better with a couple speeches and a few good blog posts.

But here's the big question for the South Dakota Libertarian Party: do you want either of us?

Suppose those lawyers Emmett Reistroffer is jawboning all back out. Suppose the Libertarian Party is stuck with just two candidates for attorney general: Haber and me. We both can get press for the party, but we neither one are lawyers, meaning we neither one can carry out the primary statutory duty of the attorney general: representing South Dakota in court. The question may not be who's the better candidate; it may be which one is less of a joke?

31 comments

We spend a lot of time here in the blogosphere looking at South Dakota's wages from different angles: a regional low for workers' earning potential and for median wages, low wages motivating a quarter of our vo-tech grads to leave the state, and less cushion in average wages for folks raising families.

Let's add this new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on average weekly wages in 2013, county by county, nationwide:

Average weekly wage, by county, 2013. Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Click to access super-cool interactive map at BLS website!)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Click to access super-cool interactive map at BLS website!)

South Dakota has a tiny strip of top-quintile wage opportunity along I-29 in Union, Lincoln, and Minnehaha counties. Union County offers the best average wage in the state, $885 a week, while Lincoln and Minnehaha each crack $800. The next best average weekly pay is in Harding County, $753. The only other counties that break $700 are around the big metros of Pierre (ah, government!), Brookings, Aberdeen, and Rapid City.

I-90 isn't helping Jackson County much; the Kadoka-Wanblee metroplex offers the lowest average wage in South Dakota, $427 a week. Three other counties—Jones, Lyman, and McPherson (Charlie Hoffman! work harder!)—fail to break $500.

Before I go crazy with the analysis, let's recognize two important facts about these numbers.  The BLS is mapping average weekly wage. As is usually the case with wage data, averages are highly skewed by the handful of top wage earners. In Union County, for instance, most workers in North Sioux City are making less than $885 a week (work 50 weeks a year, that's  $44,250 annually); the handful enjoying the good life behind state-funded dikes at Dakota Dunes skew that average with their six-figure salaries.

Furthermore, this BLS dataset only counts wage earners. These figures don't fully reflect the general economic health of each county because they don't count the unemployed. For instance, Shannon County (that's Oglala County to you, wasicuhoka hey!) beats most counties in South Dakota with an average weekly pay of $681. So does Buffalo County at $666. Yet these two counties regularly top the lists of poorest counties in the U.S. because there aren't enough jobs to go around. Those higher average wages don't include all the folks earning zero.

With those caveats in mind, let's look at how well those wages put food on the table. MIT's Living Wage Calculator offers data on the income it takes for wage earners to provide for themselves and for different sized families in each state, county, and town. Remember, "living wage" doesn't mean middle-class standard of living; it means food, shelter, visit to the doctor, gas to get to work, nothing fancy.

The county figures don't differ much from county to county in South Dakota—the biggest difference between Jackson and Union counties is $43 a week. You can pick your county and compare the BLS wage data, but here, let's settle for the statewide living wage figures (I take MIT's hourly-wage data for South Dakota and multiply by 40 hours):

Hourly Wages Living Wage Poverty Wage
1 Adult $298 $208
1 Adult, 1 Child $649 $280
1 Adult, 2 Children $806 $352
1 Adult, 3 Children $1,004 $424
2 Adults $498 $280
2 Adults, 1 Child $616 $352
2 Adults, 2 Children $670 $424
2 Adults, 3 Children $782 $496

The average wage in almost every county will keep most families out of poverty. But for a living wage, add even on child to your household, and you'll be able to get by on one average full-time paycheck in 28 of South Dakota's 66 counties. Have two children, and you're down to 13 counties where a family can afford to have one parent stay home while the other works 40 hours a week—and again, that assumes you have two parents in the home and that the working parent can land a job with average pay, meaning pay that (remember the rich skew!) will be higher than the majority of jobs offer.

You want a family-friendly state? Step one is to brown up that map, increase wages, and create more jobs that allow one honest hard worker to support a family.

11 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.

30 comments

Northern Plains News puts more lie to South Dakota Republican assertions that South Dakota is a model of the GOP smaller-government philosophy. From 2007 to 2012, South Dakota added workers to government payrolls at a faster rate than our neighbors and the national average:

The Mount Rushmore State, along with fellow Northern Plains states Wyoming and Nebraska, had government employment grow by more than 4 percent during that period.

North Dakota and Minnesota had a 2 to 4 percent decrease in state and local government employees during the period while Montana’s government workforce grew by less than 2 percent and Iowa’s by 2 to 4 percent ["SD State, Local Government Employee Growth Among Fastest in Nation," Northern Plains News via Mitchell Daily Republic, 2014.07.18].

Bigger government payrolls, faster state budget growth... that doesn't sound like what South Dakota Republicans tell us they're about, does it?

Republican-dominated state government pays its workers a lot more than do local governments:

Average annual state government wages in South Dakota were $50,000 to $55,000 and $35,000 to $40,000 for local government employees [NPN, 2014.07.18].

And in a remarkable and unexpected assertion of priorities, check out which field draws the biggest government paychecks in South Dakota:

State employees working in education were the best paid, at an annual salary of $60,000 to $65,000 and the lowest paid were local natural resources employees at $30,000 to $35,000 [NPN, 2014.07.18].

State workers in education get great salaries! It's too bad the state can't shake some of that $60K down to the K-12 teachers pounding the whiteboards for $40K to help with recruitment and retention.

4 comments

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