At least he won't go hungry... (Lee Schoenbeck and friends, from Schoenbeck Twitter feed, 2014.11.14)

At least he won't go hungry... (Lee Schoenbeck and friends, from Schoenbeck Twitter feed, 2014.11.14)

Not only did the 2014 election deprive us the pleasure of testing Lee Schoenbeck's commitment to disenfranchising District 3 and RV voters, but the legislative caucus has deprived us the pleasure of Lee Schoenbeck's leadership. Despite months of machinating by Watertown's imminently Rotunda-revisiting Representative-Elect, GOP House members and members-elect picked Rep. Steve Westra of Sioux Falls as their assistant majority leader.

Rep.-Elect Schoenbeck has graced these blog pages for years with numerous intelligent, kind, and/or provocative comments. Rep. Westra has yet to contribute any thoughts to our rollicking civic discussion. One can only conclude that Schoenbeck possesses an intellect far superior to Westra's and that the SDGOP has passed up an opportunity to boost its collective IQ and Blog-Q.

We can only hope Schoenbeck will emerge smiling from this defeat and use the extra time left in his hands by his colleagues to post more blog comments... and maybe call some more Republicans S.O.B.'s who have it coming.


Sioux Falls restaurateur and known liberal Steve Hildebrand got to serve Governor Dennis Daugaard on Friday. As a tip, the Governor left a signal that if the Legislature wants to kill the minimum-wage increase we voters passed Tuesday, that would be hunky-dory:

So, Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard came into my restaurant this morning to meet with a newly elected Republican legislator who frequents the place. After their meeting and before he walked out the door, I asked the governor if he had a minute to talk to me. I asked him to not let Republican legislators repeal the cost-of-living adjustments for the minimum wage increase that the people of South Dakota just passed by a healthy majority.

His response: "I don't believe in the minimum wage. I believe we should let the market set the rates of pay." I said, great. Then people in South Dakota will work for $2.50 an hour.

And then I pointed out to him that Sioux Falls has a 3% unemployment rate, but that 50% of our school-aged kids qualify for free-or-reduced lunches - and that poverty is a REAL problem in our state. I asked him to pay attention to low wages, poverty and to take this very seriously. His aides, were very rude and escorted him quickly out of the restaurant. I was left with only one thought - the governor of my state doesn't care that families are working in poverty level jobs, can't make ends meet. Too bad he can't have a reasonable conversation with a local business owner who knows how hard it is for people to make ends meet when wages are so low.

And what a shame if Republicans attempt to repeal a law passed by the voters. Not that they haven't done it many times. But really, wages for people working in poverty-level jobs. Shame on them [link added; Steven C. Hildebrand, Facebook post, 2014.11.07].

Almost everyone is working, but with only the meager protection of a minimum wage still well below what workers deserve for their productivity, half of the families need help buying lunch for their kids. Governor Daugaard, should the market also determine which kids eat?

Blogger Michael Larson suggested that we should lower the Governor's pay to parity with the Lennox mayor's, $3,200 a year. Let's go one better: let's let the market determine Dennis Daugaard's salary. Remove his legally guaranteed salary of $107,121.62 (plus that really valuable house he gets to live in on our dime, and the nice state cars and planes that haul him and his rude aides around). Let him work, and at the end of each month, we'll conduct a poll to determine just what they think their Governor's labor has been worth. Maybe he'll get $10,000. Maybe he'll get $10, and Mrs. Daugaard will have to go jerk espresso at Pier 347 or substitute-teach.

I suppose we could argue that's how we do state executive salaries right now. We poll the "market"—comprised mostly the Governor's fellow Republicans in the Legislature—and they compose a state budget that locks in pay for the Governor along with all state employees.

But not one of these executives is anywhere near subsistence living at $8.50 an hour. Not one of these executives needs a second income to feed the kids. Not one of these executives faces the reality of a market that would throw them into welfare or bankruptcy in a month if the law didn't protect their basic dignity as workers.

Citizens, take your new legislators to coffee this month. Remind them that you are the market, and you have spoken: workers deserve at least $8.50 an hour, with indexed increases each year. Legislators, don't mess with Initiated Measure 18.

Update 14:04 CST: Todd Epp suggests some might call a Legislative repeal of IM 18 totalitarianism. Indeed, we might.


Bob Mercer agrees that the EB-5 scandal is far from over. Next Thursday the Legislature's Government Operations and Audit Committee meets to discuss what went wrong in then-Governor, now Senator-Elect Mike Rounds's EB-5 visa investment program. GOAC chairman Senator Larry Tidemann (R-7/Brookings) has invited Board of Regents exec Jack Warner to talk about changes in the contract authorization process (which obviously broke down when EB-5 czar Joop Bollen wrote himself an illegal and lucrative private contract while working for the state).

The language Tidemann uses to invite Warner is different from the language he uses to invite Bollen. To Warner, Senator Tidemann says, "The Committee requests that you be present...." To Bollen, Senator Tidemann says, "I would like to request that you respond...." And while Warner, who has done little if anything wrong in the EB-5 mess other than not realizing Bollen was running a scam for himself and his friends from the NSU campus, is called to appear in person, Bollen is permitted leave to write a letter from his comfy home in Aberdeen.

Bollen is also allowed to miss deadlines. Senator Tidemann's September 30 request asked Bollen to reply by November 5 so that committee members would have time to review his response. They'll need that time: the September 30 letter includes 75 questions. Bollen could have written up three a day and still had plenty of time to finish, but GOAC still has no Bollen response on its agenda documents page. A knowledgeable source tells me that Bollen and his lawyer (that's EB-5 player Jeff Sveen) plan to respond on Monday, November 10.

Given Joop Bollen's willingness to lie to federal officials, we should probably not expect much. But we wait with bated breath for 75 repetitions of "I do not recall," "I decline to share confidential business information, " "I plead the Fifth," and maybe, just once, please, Joop, "Go ask Mike Rounds—it was his idea."


In unspinnable bad news, South Dakota Democrats lost legislators in Pierre. We're up one Senator, but we're down five House members. That brings us to 8 out of 35 Senators and 12 out of 70 Representatives.

In the Senate, Democrats flipped seats in Districts 4, 8, and 18 (to Jim Peterson, Scott Parsley, and Bernie Hunhoff). Unfortunately, all three of those Democrats were House members, and all three saw their old seats fall to Republicans, leaving our bench thinner. Republicans flipped two Senate seats, in Districts 2 and 17 (to Brock Greenfield and Arthur Rusch).

Democrats didn't flip any seats in the House. Republicans flipped both seats in District 4 (to Fred Deutsch and John Wiik) and the single Dems seats in Districts 8, 14, and 18.

At a time when Democrats appear to need some new blood, only two out of the 44 non-incumbent Dems on Legislative ballots are taking seats: Steven D. McCleery in the District 1 House and Shawn Bordeaux in District 26A. Both of those seats were walk-ons; no non-incumbent Democrat who faced a Republican challenger won a Legislative race this year.

Wow. So tell me: is the "R" brand so powerful that even I could win a Legislative race if I just switched my registration back to Republican?


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!


Democratic candidate for District 16 Senate Ann Tornberg keeps eating incumbent Republican Senator Dan Lederman's lunch. Tornberg posts two more endorsements from local Republicans:

Karen Kirkebak, registered Republican, endorses Democrat Ann Tornberg for District 16 Senate. From Facebook, 2014.11.03.

Karen Kirkebak, registered Republican, endorses Democrat Ann Tornberg for District 16 Senate. From Facebook, 2014.11.03.

Bill and Fern Vermillion, registered Republicans, endorse Democrat Ann Tornberg for District 16 Senate. From Facebook, 2014.11.02.

Bill and Fern Vermillion, registered Republicans, endorse Democrat Ann Tornberg for District 16 Senate. From Facebook, 2014.11.02.

Ladies and gentlemen, old and young—Tornberg's hustling for the bipartisan vote in District 16! Meanwhile, Dan Lederman rips off SDPB's flyover special and puts his base to sleep with this geography lesson about District 16:

"When you first enter District 16 from the south, you know that you are leaving the states of Iowa and Nebraska..."—thank you, Professor Obvious. And the first thing he mentions: warehouses. Warehouses. Yes, warehouses are what make District 16 special.

It's time to put Lederman in storage (in Iowa) and elect Ann Tornberg to really represent District 16 and South Dakota.


In the Odd Duck Department, if it waddles like a Democrat and quacks like a Democrat, it's a Democrat, right?

Nope—it's Sioux Falls Republican and Reverend Representative Steve Hickey!

Rep. Steve Hickey (R-9/Sioux Falls) mailing to Democrats, October 2014.

Rep. Steve Hickey (R-9/Sioux Falls) mailing to Democrats, October 2014.

Rep. Rev. Hickey says he sent this flyer to every Democrat in District 9. The card implies an endorsement from House Democratic Minority Leader Bernie Hunhoff (D-18/Yankton). Hickey pulls the Hunhoff quote from a December 29, 2013, news article on Hickey's need for a lung transplant:

His legislative colleagues on both sides of the aisle are cheering him on.

“We’ll give Steve all the support we can,” said Bernie Hunhoff, the Democratic leader in the House. “Especially Steve — he’s just a caring fellow. You look at the list of the bills he’s carried and you can see, even though we’re of different political parties, just how deeply he cares about other people. I think he’ll see some of that caring bouncing back at him” [David Montgomery, "Rare Disease Sparks Defiance in Legislator," that Sioux Falls paper, 2013.12.29].

I will not call into question how much our favorite pastor-pol cares about his flocks. But I will question whether kind words spoken by a member of the opposite political party about an ailing Legislative colleague constitutes a reason to vote for members of that party to jump ship and vote for that ailing colleague.

Rep. Rev. Hickey then pitches Dems a laundry list of political positions that could indeed induce Democrats to vote for him:

Any Democrat in South Dakota could run on exactly and exclusively the above platform in complete consistency with the Democratic platform.

But District 9 Democrats, if you're looking for a Democrat to vote for, you have two Dems on your House ballot, Rep. Paula Hawks and Becky Jaspers.

Alas, Jaspers's pre-general campaign finance report suggests she's not trying too hard ($150 in from Soy PAC, $150 out to the Hawks campaign). Check with Jaspers first, but if she really isn't too enthused about going to Pierre, then District 9 Dems do face an interesting question. Should they cast just one vote, for rock'em-sock'em incumbent Rep. Hawks and let the Republican chips fall where they may? Do they take Rep. Hickey's love letter to heart and give him their vote as well to foil arguably more Republican Bob Deelstra's return?

Or do they pose the supplicant Hickey this challenge: Sure, we'll vote for you... but if you're going to walk and squawk like a Democrat, then you need to go whole duck and re-register as a Democrat.

Are you game, Steve?


Pat Powers and the South Dakota Republican Party continue to scream about Burt Elliott's questionable residency status. I continue to find the question of where we allow a citizen to register to vote practically and Constitutionally important: should the Schoenbeck argument that Elliott committed perjury by declaring District 3 his voting residence also convict the thousands of full-time RVers and college students who spend a majority of the year somewhere other than the address on their voter registration cards?

Enter former Powers patron Jason Gant, our Secretary of State. He says as far as he's concerned, Elliott has committed no foul:

The facts are simple. Elliott’s longtime residence is south of Aberdeen near the intersection of South Dakota Highway 10 and 137th Street, a house that sits within the boundaries of District 2, but not far from the boundaries for District 3. Legislative district boundaries were redrawn after the 2010 census and before the 2012 election. When Elliott filed his petition as a District 3 representative, however, an Aberdeen address in the 1700 block of South Fourth Street address was listed.

It’s an address that matches with Elliott’s voter registration, and Secretary of State Jason Gant said in order for a candidate’s petition to be valid, his or her address on the petition must match the address on his or her voter registration card. The candidate’s petition must also have the appropriate number of valid signatures.

Since Elliott’s petition met those requirements, Gant said, he was certified as a candidate.

“Everything is accurate based on that,” said Gant, a Republican.

If there’s a desire to pursue the legality of the issue, Gant said, that issue would have to be challenged in court [Elisa Sand, "Secretary of State: Elliott Residency Valid," Aberdeen American News, 2014.10.26].

Hmmm... when Secretary of State Jason Gant validated a nominating petition of a Republican Powers liked, Powers was more than happy to trumpet that candidate's propaganda. Powers also poo-pooed further court challenges, telling those he called axe-grinders to settle for changing statute next session. But now faced with his pal Gant's validation of a less-favored Democrat's petition and with the argument from the Aberdeen American News editorial board that Elliott's opponents should settle for changing voter registration laws in the 2015 Legislature, Powers goes purple with rage. He misportrays the editorial, elides Secretary Gant's reasoning, and just goes on shouting, impervious to the fact that law and his patron are not on his side.

District 3 voters are now well aware of Elliott's residency situation. Elliott has a right to be on their ballot, and they have a right to elect him and send him home, wherever home may be. Legislators upset by Elliott's opportunity should start crafting their voting-rights reform bills for 2015... and prepare to be watched closely by students, RVers, and all of us interested in ensuring the right to vote of every person who calls South Dakota home.


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