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South Dakotans Reject Daugaard Policies on Corporate Welfare and Education

...but not the folks who vote for those bad policies.

Governor Dennis Daugaard's director of policy and communications Tony Venhuizen said last night that it was "Not a great election for Republicans nationally. But it's shaping up to be a very strong showing for @SDGOP in South Dakota."

Governor Dennis Daugaard signs House Bill 1234 with Pierre bureaucrats watching and smiling.
South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard signs HB 1234, his education reform package, into law, March 2012. HB 1234 became Referred Law 16, which we killed last night.

Sure, Republicans had a typically good night here... if you ignore the fact that voters soundly rejected the two signature pieces of legislation proposed by Republican Governor Daugaard and the Republican majority in the Legislature.

We killed Governor Daugaard's corporate welfare slush fund by voting against Referred Law 14 56.7% to 43.3%. Referred Law 16, the Governor's ideologically driven education-wrecking scheme of merit pay, test-based teacher evaluations, and attacking the teacher's union, went down even harder, with South Dakotans voting 67.2% against it.

You want a real measure of how badly the Governor lost last night? Even though Initiated Measure 15, the extra-penny sales tax for K-12 education and Medicaid, went down in flames, the ugly fact for Governor Daugaard is that 37,000 more South Dakotans voted for a tax increase than voted for his education plan. That tax increase got nearly 12,000 more votes than Daugaard's corporate welfare plan. That's like saying more South Dakotans eat brie on baguettes than roast beef.

Steve Sibson asks the profound question of the morning: "Can anybody tell me why the voters would re-elect those who voted for and publicly supported RL14 and RL16?"

Profound indeed. Consider:

  • In District 8, Daugaard lapdog Senator Russell Olson voted and eagerly flacked for both RL14 and RL16. The four counties in District 16 voted against RL16 by rates of 68.6% (Lake) to 81.6% (Sanborn). They rejected RL14 by above-average margins as well. Yet they picked Olson over Democrat Charlie Johnson, who vociferously opposed both ballot measures, 63.4% to 36.6%.
  • In District 9, GOP Rep. Steve Hickey and Rep. Bob Deelstra both supported RL14, but Deelstra split from Hickey and the Governor and voted against RL16. With the exception of strange little Minnehaha precinct 3-9, District 9 soundly rejected RL16. Yet voters there appear (subject to recount!) to have picked Hickey over Deelstra. (District 9 at least had the good sense to pick Democrat Paula Hawks! Whoo-hoo!)
  • In District 22, GOP Rep. Jim White supported both RL14 and RL16. Beadle and Kingsbury County voters picked him over Democrat Chris Studer for Senate 54.4% to 45.6%.

I welcome readers to submit other examples and counterexamples. But it appears that while South Dakotans are perfectly capable of making sensible policy decisions at the polls, some profound cognitive dissonance keeps them from applying that thinking to their choices of candidates. In simplest terms, given names on a ballot, South Dakotans choose image, personality, and party label over policy, even when those policies are staring them in the face just a couple inches away on the same ballot.

My thesis that placing Referred Law 16 on the ballot would be good for Democrats has thus proven false. Alas.

Voters didn't see RL14 or RL16 as partisan issues; they saw them as simple policy questions. They rejected Governor Dennis Daugaard's answers to those policy questions. Tony and Dennis may be able to laugh off that rejection politically, resting on the certainty of winning 60% of the 2014 vote even if the Democrats run Jesus Christ against him.

But let us hope that, inside baseball aside, Team Daugaard can look at the results on this year's referenda and realize that even if South Dakotans love the heck out of Denny and his checked shirts, South Dakotans want a different direction on policy.


  1. Barry Smith 2012.11.07

    I think that your simple explanation is the right one, especially in a presidential year and the higher turnout. Many folks that went into the booths yesterday don't have any idea who votes for what in Pierre.

  2. Shon 2012.11.07

    caheidelberger - What an "us v.s. them" mindset you have. This type of thinking will not move our state or country forward. Disappointing. Let's work together to make things better for ALL South Dakotans.

  3. Dougal 2012.11.07

    Cory, the ideas of the SDGOP were rejected by voters, but the Republican "brand" remained accepted last night. The Democrat brand was unaccepted in the very gerrymandered legislative districts.

    Linking the stupid ideas to the SDGOP legislators and statehouse officials is the task remaining to be done. Blogs are one thing, but messaging is a task the Democrats need to work on very hard, both with the press and in social media.

    Democrats have an opportunity. The hyper radicalization of the SDGOP is a flaw in the party's structure. Find the right strategy to get the right messages to the critical people to isolate the uber-right radicals, and you can pick them off in the next election. Find the right strategy to educate people how corrupt every constitutional office in Pierre is and keep the drumbeat steady. The Xcel rate hike commercial is one good example, but don't wait for the election to make the case.

    Doc Farber used to say South Dakotans elect Democrats to bring home revenues from Washington, but they elect Republicans to Pierre because somehow they think Republicans will keep taxes lower. In reality, that is no longer the case nor the perception ... but Democrats have not been effective getting that message across.

    There's plenty of ammo to use. Democrats need to figure how it can be used effectively.

  4. Stace Nelson 2012.11.07

    Mr Smith hit it on the head, and is one of the main reasons politicians fight any effort to make their voting records easily accessible online.

    The efforts to defeat those measures were not tied in with efforts to defeat those that supported them.

    Most candidates do not have the ability to do the campaign research necessary to highlight their opponents voting records. Single vote "gotcha" type attacks do not appear to work; however, cumulative votes on important issues appear to have an impact.

  5. Barry Smith 2012.11.07

    Congratulations on your win last night Stace. It is my hope that you will continue your efforts to make the voting records of the legislature more accessible. I know that it is an uphill battle but you have support from both the left and the right.

  6. Jenny Nemec 2012.11.07

    Keep fighting the good fight, South Dakota dems!

  7. Steve Sibson 2012.11.07

    Yes, this is where true conservatives and Democrats can work together...exposing the voting records of the SDGOP Establishment RINOs.

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.11.07

    Stace, Steve, I'm with you on making those voting records not just publicly available (they're all there now) but easier to understand. The problem I can see is that the LRC can certainly provide us a public searchable database that will list every vote next to the responsible candidate, but it can't go much further in helping interpret those votes. That responsibility will still fall with outside observers, reporters, and activists.

    Shon, help me out: I criticize policies that are bad for South Dakota. I thank the voters for recognizing policies as bad and rejecting. I call on the Governor to recognize the error of his past ways and listen to the people in crafting policy. How am I the disappointment and not the Governor?

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.11.07

    Dougal, did the state Dems do enough to tie the incumbent Republicans to the Referred Laws?

  10. Shon Anderson 2012.11.07

    Cory - any time I read something that categorizes all of a particular group of anything (people, ideas, etc) as good or as bad, it strikes me as being narrow-minded. Do you really believe our governor is deliberately trying to harm our state? Are all his policy ideas bad?

  11. Dougal 2012.11.07

    There is much that I liked about the campaign, except the best material came out late. The Democrats had good candidates but left far too many seats vacant and that only allowed the Republicans to use their superior money resources to blow out the more marginal races. Failure at recruitment is a cardinal sin in politics because it triggers systemic failures. Or as someone told me you miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take.

    Having said that ... Ben Nesselhuf is a good campaign leader and needs to learn never to let recruitment failure ever happen again. The state Republicans have had too many gifts from the Democrats. I like Ben's messaging but this needs a ton more work during the legislature beyond letting Bernie and Frerichs carry the ball with media ops. It won't stick with the public unless you tattoo the Republican abuses in real time on the Republican legislators and Guv DipDip. The public needs to be engaged in the controversies while they unravel, or you won't be able to get folks to remember during the election.

    Democrats can make this work. There are opportunities and vulnerabilities with the SDGOP. They are complacent and arrogant. They are lazy and fat. They expect others to do their campaigns and the lobbyists to cater their fiscal needs.

    2014 is a great opportunity to blow them out of the water.

  12. Dougal 2012.11.07 detail.cfm/daugaard-reacts-to-defeated-ballot-issuers/?id=139639

    Dig this from KELOLAND. Gov DipDip looks like an ass clown trying to spin his failures as some kind of victory. Daugaard crapped in his hat and now hopes you forget his assault on education and his corporate welfare blunders.

    Don't let get away with fraud.

    I voted for the balanced budget amendment to force the dope and his legislator lapdogs in a cage. My only regret is it did not include felony provisions to put teeth and razor wire in the law.

  13. grudznick 2012.11.07

    You sound like a straight lawyer from Harrisburg I once met.

  14. Les 2012.11.07

    Dougal, we already had a constitution requiring a balanced budget. You really think this made it better?

  15. Jana 2012.11.07

    Wow. Thanks for the heads up to the KELO story Dougal.

    I am more than a little disappointed that the governor thinks we are too stupid to understand the ballot measures that were voted against. I'm even more disappointed that he reads 15 and 16 as proof that we are happy with education funding in South Dakota.

    If you haven't watched this yet, please do. then contact your state senator and house members and let them know how you feel.

    Here's the key quotes from the governor:

    "I think it showed a little voter fatigue on the ballot when you have that many measures, some with great complexity. It's bound to happen," Daugaard said....

    "The voters don't have time to dig into and understand the facts that bare upon an informed decision and so when voters don't have that time then most are included to say, 'well, I don't have time to dig into this and so I'm going to vote no,'" Daugaard said.

    Yep, the Governor thinks we are too stupid and the one minute it takes to vote is too long for the average South Dakota attention span.

    "But I take the fact that the sales tax increase was rejected as well as this as an indicator that voters are satisfied with the education status quo," Governor Daugaard said.

    Yep, nothing to see here folks...move along.

    But then he follows it with:

    "Daugaard expects some pieces of the defeated education reform act to be pulled out and re-presented during the next legislative session."

    So if we understand this correctly, he thinks that South Dakotans believe that the education system isn't he's going to fix it anyway? Go figure that logic.

    Thanks again to Dougal for the link and here it is again.

    Might be a good time to let your newly elected legislators know that you aren't stupid and you'll be watching what they do in Pierre.

  16. Roger Elgersma 2012.11.08

    Watch the KELO link. It will disgust you how stupid the gov thinks we are. Then you start to realize that he thinks that people do not think or know the facts for a reason. He was in Pierre twelve years and did not know till two weeks before he was gov that there was a budget problem. So who does not think or do the research. Not being negative or anything, just realistic.

  17. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.11.08

    Shon: Yes, there is a bigger South Dakotan and American picture we must keep sight of. Doing what's right for South Dakota is my primary objective. Building an effective opposition to the mainstream Republican Party is a key step toward that objective. The SDGOP right now maintains monolithic control of most state functions. It gets many things right, but when it gets things wrong (e.g., abortion bans, Referred Laws 14 and 16, corruption and incompetence in the Secretary of State's office, its general anti-education bent), it faces no serious opposition party to check those harmful excesses.

    There are three obvious sources for such opposition:

    (1) the South Dakota Democratic Party, which proved itself largely impotent Tuesday night;
    (2) dissidents within the Republican Party (Senator Stan Adelstein has the money; Rep. Stace Nelson has the voice and the chutzpah; Gordon Howie has a complete lack of shame and sanity);
    (3) a serious and growing third party (which none of the existing third parties in South Dakota have the numbers, organizational skills, or pragmatic leadership necessary to become).

    There's a lot of power out there, and we've got to check it. Good wishes and calls for non-partisanship and good conscience won't do it. How do you recommend we change that system?

  18. Michael Black 2012.11.08

    You assume that just because something is Republican that it is somehow evil.

    Charlie Johnson and I had a long talk about your blog this last weekend. Charlie has the same opinion that I and so many others do, that you need to have those leaving comments identify themselves by more than their initials or nickname. Radical witness requires people to stand up for their beliefs.

  19. Douglas Wiken 2012.11.08

    The assumption that South Dakota Republicans come up with their own evil is mistaken. Daugaard and the usual suspects feed us the corporate sponsored legislation from ALEC as their own.

    The next SD Constitutional amendments will require us to better manage our to-do and grocery lists on our refrigerators. This is really, really important and needs to be in the constitution.

  20. larry kurtz 2012.11.09

    Since Tim Johns is the only new incoming legislator with an IQ in triple digits the coming session should warm the cockles of this heart throughout the coming session: expect chaos.

  21. grudznick 2012.11.09

    I predict huge quantities of goofy bills by the new legislatures. Maybe having Mr. Kloucheck sitting out a round will offset some of that. I predict insaner education bills and greediness to feed the fatcat administrators and not dedicate it to the good teachers. I predict a lot of complaining and whining.

    In short, statu quo

  22. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.11.09

    Michael, I will continue to offer my witness by name and exhort others to find the courage to do the same.

    I do not assume that just because something is Republican, it is evil. Abraham Lincoln was Republican, and he fought vampires.

    I left the Republican Party and challenge their current efforts on the basis of empirical data. They say one thing and do another. They propose some bad bills, two of which we just got done killing by referendum. I don't assume everything Republicans do is evil... but forgive me if I'm a little skeptical of their big proposals based on past performance.

  23. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.11.09

    Larry, can we trust Johns to talk sense to the caucus? Could he be another elder statesman à la Adelstein who isn't beholden to the party leaders and will call them on their bigger baloney? Or will he fall in line?

  24. grudznick 2012.11.09

    Mr. Stan is probably going to be a huge leader this year and shake some sense into the caucis.

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