While my comment section lights up with debate about whether Jeff Barth agrees with us on enough policies to chair the South Dakota Democratic Party, Republican Rep. Steve Hickey announces he's teaming with Democratic consultant and über-barista Steve Hildebrand to put a payday loan interest cap on the ballot:

Though they disagree on issues like same-sex marriage, they do agree on one thing: payday loans exploit South Dakota’s poor and elderly.

“We are planning, and have been planning, to bring this thing to the ballot in 2016,” Hickey said. “The polls are on our side, the people in South Dakota understand that 36 percent is enough interest rate for a person to make some money” [Todd Epp, "Hickey, Hildebrand Form Group to Put Payday Loan Interest Cap on Ballot," Northern Plains News, 2014.11.26].

Rep. Hickey got burned by the payday lenders last session, when the usury industry betrayed him on viable compromise legislation that the industry recommended to check abuse of consumers. Rep. Hickey is now following up on the initiative vow he made last winter to subject the payday lenders to the rate-capping wrath of the voters, and he's getting Steve Hildebrand to help bring the fight.

Hickey and Hildebrand are one of the oddest South Dakota couples we could cobble together. They disagree vehemently over social issues. But if they birth this rate-cap initiative, they could model for us all how South Dakotans can work around their radically different views to identify common goals and produce practical solutions.


What's more newsworthy than Republican U.S. Senate candidate Annette Bosworth's attempt to portray Democratic campaign mastermind and possible Sioux Falls mayoral candidate Steven Hildebrand as a faithless filthy capitalist? Hildebrand's one-line assessment of the greatest flaw in Sioux Falls' economy... and perhaps South Dakota's:

When a community has 3% unemployment and yet 1/2 of all school kids qualify for free or reduced lunches, it means wages are too low [Steven Hildebrand, Facebook post, 2013.11.08].

In 2011, the most recent full data I have casually handy, 95.2% of South Dakota's workers had jobs. 41% of kids needed help paying for their lunch.

Good question, Steve: If darn near everyone is working, why does anyone need a subsidy for his or her kids' lunches?


I've been committed to my partner for just over ten years. Steve Hildebrand has been committed to his partner for twice as long. My partner happens to be a lady. Steve's partner happens to be a dude.

Because Steve Hildebrand appears to take his relationship as seriously as I take mine, he finds Matt Varilek's failure to lead on marriage equality reason to withdraw his political support for the Democratic campaign he helped launch:

Hildebrand said gay marriage is a crucial issue for him.

"I'm unhappy with any candidate, Democrat or Republican who oppose equal rights for gay people," he said. "It's time to end the bigotry and injustice and move forward. Gay people are our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, teachers, doctors, farmers and carpenters.

"We are no different than straight people and we deserve all the rights afforded to straight people."

...Hildebrand was an early backer of Varilek and helped launch a Facebook page in 2011 that urged him to run for Congress. But his support for Varilek is over, he said Wednesday... [Tom Lawrence, "Gay Marriage Now an Issue in SD House Primary," Mitchell Daily Republic, 2012.05.17].

Varilek supports Hildebrand's right to enter a civil union, to share health benefits and hospital visitation rights, and other legal protections. Varilek just falls into some Romneyesque wobbling about states rights and the definition of marriage. And according to Fox News's latest Presidential poll, the last thing we Dems want is a Romney carrying our flag.

Now notice that Hildebrand only says he can't help Varilek any more, not that he's switching to the Jeff Barth camp. Barth, naturally, is hoping he can get traction with this first attention-grabbing policy issue to distinguish the candidates. In his comments to Lawrence, Barth suggests Varilek may be wobbly on abortion as well. Varilek says nuts to that, saying he backs the majority of South Dakota voters who turned down abortion bans in 2006 and 2008.

I urge Barth to swing hard on gay marriage and demonstrate his ability to lead an important conversation, and push Varilek to defend his view or change it. I'd also urge him to push Kristi Noem here, too: while Lawrence hears back from Senator John Thune and Senator Tim Johnson on the issue (Thune says no to gay marriage; Johnson weasels and says leave it to the states—Tim! Come on, back equality, and back the Prez!), Rep. Noem declines to comment. Hmmm... does Noem have a surprise in her closet? Or did her new spokesman just not have time to scribble a notecard for her? Either way, Barth may have a chance to put Noem on defense, just as he has put Varilek on defense. Press that advantage!


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