Charley Najacht of the Custer County Chronicle offers a brief summary of the debate that took place in Custer on Monday, November 4, between Republican U.S. Senate candidates Stace Nelson and Larry Rhoden. Check out the exchange on taxes:
Nelson challenged Rhoden’s voting record on a number of issues, including tax increases and fees in light of the state’s $50 million budget surplus last year.
Rhoden said there was a lot of misrepresentation in what Nelson was saying about his voting record in the state legislature. “User fees have been successful in South Dakota government to cover specific government services,” Rhoden said.
Rhoden said he also voted for a continuance of the half cent tourism tax to help fund advertising and marketing for the state. Nelson said he voted against the tourism tax, as he has voted against many other tax and fee increases [Charley Najacht, "Candidates Spar over Issues," Custer County Chronicle, 2013.11.07].
Nelson says he follows the Republican platform and votes to review and reduce taxation. He says Rhoden does not. Rhoden responds by saying he votes to increase taxes, but for good purposes.
Rhoden's response is perfectly reasonable. It's the response I'd give. But I'm a Democrat. Rhoden's not (at least he hasn't been, officially, since 1998). Rhoden's not talking to Democrats. He's talking to Republican primary voters, to whom Nelson is saying, Rhoden doesn't vote like a conservative Republican! Rhoden's response doesn't say, I am so a conservative Republican! It says, Being a conservative Republican isn't the right way to go.
Confused as he may be in proper Republican debate responses, Rhoden nonetheless appears to have the favor of local Republican leaders. An eager reader who was there says that, as usual, Nelson was handing out his voting scorecards, which include information on tax and fee votes that come straight from AWOL opponent Marion Michael Rounds. Recall that back in July, Team Rounds released a list of 56 votes Rhoden cast to increase fees and taxes. Nelson has updated that list to show his votes alongside Rhoden's.
Rhoden took grave offense at Nelson's effort to educate voters about Rhoden's policy choices and demanded that Nelson take back his flyers. The Custer County Republicans in charge of the event agreed and ordered that Nelson not distribute those flyers. I hear they even required people to hand back any such flyers that voters may have received.
So Rhoden can shout "Misrepresentation!" and Custer County Republicans automatically censor his opponent's information. That hardly seems fair. Nelson is saying Rhoden voted for tax increases. The record shows Rhoden voted for tax increases. Rhoden is welcome to make the argument that some tax increases are good, but he's misrepresenting Nelson's statements of fact as falsehoods.