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Stace Nelson, Lance Russell Address Tea Party, Almost Declare Nelson for Senate

70-plus people dropped by the "Constitution Rally" held by the South Dakota Citizens for Liberty (that's the local Tea Party) at Memorial Park in Rapid City yesterday afternoon... including me. Just another day hanging out with right-wing radicals in South Dakota....

Rep. Stace Nelson was the first speaker of the event. He gave his standard stump speech—country boy and highway patrolman's son turned Marine cop/prosecutor turned reluctant politician; Christian, conservative, Republican, in that order;

Rep. Nelson held out to his Tea Party adherents this endorsement of non-partisanship:

I went to all the campaign schools and I listened to what they had to say on how to run for office. And they tell you don't tell people where you stand on the issues. Don't talk about religion. Give vague statements that, hey, you're a good guy, yadda yadda yadda, you should vote for me. And only knock on those good Republican doors.

Well, I never served overseas all those years as a partisan. I served my fellow South Dakotans and Americans without regard to their party affiliation. And I'll be doggoned if I was going to ask them to serve them as a representative and become all of a sudden worried about what the party wants [Rep. Stace Nelson, speech to Tea Party rally, Rapid City, SD, 2013.05.04].

As Rep. Nelson railed against omnibus bills and the lack of fealty among his SDGOP leaders to the Republican platform, his youngest daughter worked the crowd, handing out her dad's pens and business cards. His friend and fellow challenger of the GOP status quo Daniel Willard followed with Nelson bumper stickers.

Rep. Lance Russell (R-30/Hot Springs) took the show further into campaign mode. He arrived late and came to the podium to express his regrets for missing his ally Nelson's speech, which he called "the most important speech of today." But politically speaking, Russell's was the most important. He got a little distracted, as Tea Partiers are wont to do, with abstractions and high-sounding Revolutionary irrelevancies as he waved his copy of the Federalist Papers (which he almost forgot at the podium when he finished). But then he turned his speech to what every faintly attentive observer should characterize as the first public "Stace Nelson for Senate" campaign speeches of the 2014 primary season.

Rep. Russell threw numerous rhetorical punches at declared GOP Senate candidate M. Michael Rounds. He reminded this Tea Party Audience that as Governor, Mike Rounds twisted arms to get the Legislature to reverse itself and pass the current onerous driver's license requirements to satisfy the federal government (a Tea Party trifecta: bureaucracy, federal power, and ID!). He tied Rounds to ObamaCare. He lambasted Rounds's fiscal policy, saying he coasted on the legacy of fiscal prudence left him by Governors Janklow and Mickelson, spent more money than the state took in in seven of his eight years in office, and left the state with a $127 million deficit. He called Rounds a "collaborator" (that's a Tea Party code word, playing to the assumption that something like Nazis have taken over the country and that the folks in the audience are members of the Resistance) and advocated Nelson's candidacy for Senate:

Our country is on the precipice of bankruptcy because of poor policy and going along to get along. We do not need to send another collaborator to Washington DC. We need a fixer. We need somebody like a Ted Cruz, or maybe a Stace Nelson [Rep. Lance Russell (R-30/Hot Springs, speech to Tea Party rally, Rapid City, SD, 2013.05.04].

(The applause to that campaign cry was so strong it knocked my camera out of alignment. Sorry about that!)

Playing again to the Tea Party's historical delusions of grandeur, Rep. Russell noted that the Tea Party crowd at this rally outnumbered the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, and five them were tortured and killed (now there's a recruitment pitch). More relevantly, Rep. Russell noted that there nearly as many people came to hear Rep. Stace Nelson yesterday as came to hear Governor Dennis Daugaard at the previous night's Custer County GOP dinner. (Yeah, but Lance, the people celebrating Old West Republican values at Sylvan Lake Friday wrote bigger checks.)

Nelson hasn't updated the banner on his website to read "Nelson for U.S. Senate" yet. But the tenor of the Nelson-Russell Tea Party tandem tells me the odds of that declaration are higher than 50%.


  1. mike 2013.05.05

    Nice speech by Russell. One gets the impression that he is the driving force behind Stace Nelson. Nelson lacked the passion Russell had.

    My original thought was that these guys were just a ploy to get Noem into the race but they never once mentioned her name at any time. (most likely because she and rounds are exactly the same)

    One wonders how many people Russell and Nelson can reach who are already not 100% like minded and how many legislators would publicly back Rounds over Nelson?

  2. grudznick 2013.05.05

    If Mr. Nelson can get 60 or 70 current legislatures to go out and ask their people to vote for him he has a chance.

  3. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.05.05

    It was an interesting contrast, Mike, that reflected some of the conventional campaign strategy that Nelson claimed to reject: send your candidate out to play the good cop (literally, in Nelson's case!), and let your surrogate come out and play bad cop.

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.05.05

    60 or 70? That's a high bar. There are 81 Republicans in the Legislature. One in each of the 35 districts would do the job.

  5. Stace Nelson 2013.05.05

    Sorry folks, no such collusion going on. My speech was impromptu and uncoordinated with Lance. I have not talked with him in over a week and last we spoke, it was not about this event. Lance has been unabashed in his enthusiasm in trying to recruit a Conservative Republican to run against Rounds. One of his early targets to encourage, was Brock Greenfield.

    Regarding legislative endorsements. Rounds will surely garner the majority of them no matter who steps up. This is a legislature that raised taxes, increased state spending, and created more government. In addition to being closely akin to Rounds' administration, many received campaign contributions from Rounds.

    In 2010, Jon Hansen received Daugaard's endorsement weeks before the general election, and in 2012 Jim Putnam had significant backing in the primary, and Kyle Schoenfish had several former legislator's endorsements. In all three of those races, the only endorsements I cared for and sought, were the most important ones of Mom & Pop South Dakota. If I run for office again, they will remain the only ones I will continue to seek.

  6. MC 2013.05.05

    Or course he has a chance.

    I think he could do the job very well. However I believe the cost of him doing that job could be higher than I care to pay

  7. Rorschach 2013.05.05

    If Stace is considering a senate run he can't do it alone, or even with his close knit band of SD loyalists. He will need to hit the national conservative funding networks for financial help. And he will need to recruit an experienced campaign manager who has worked on senate races somewhere before, because Marion Mike Rounds and his people know how to run a campaign.

  8. grudznick 2013.05.05

    It is not a surprise that Mr. Nelson is leading in the polls I have been told about.

  9. mike 2013.05.05

    I totally welcome Stace into the GOP primary. At least there is some contrast between him and Rounds. There isn't a difference between Rounds and Noem to make a difference between the two's voting record. Both will vote with Thune all the time where Stace would probably play politics less and vote with Rand Paul, Cruz, Lee and Rubio more.

  10. Jana 2013.05.06

    Remember when the TEA party stood for Taxed Enough Already.

    John Thune voted for a tax increase today.

    Not holding my breath for the outrage at their GQ poster boy.

  11. grudznick 2013.05.06

    Ms. Jana, are you against the TEA party, or against putting our local merchants on the same playing field as we put out of state merchants, or are you against increased taxes? They are not mutually exclusive, so you may be against any or none of them. I'm just confused.

    Or perhaps you're just looking to criticize the TEA party or Mr. Thune and floundering for a good reason to do it. I'm just confused. But I'm old and lame of body, and sound of spirit and mind. I think you might be the insaner.

  12. Jana 2013.05.06

    Thanks for the diagnosis Dr. Grud. Are you prescribing gravy for breakfast? You know what that does to arteries that carry blood to the brain...right?

    Grud...just pointing out the hypocrisy of the GOP and the Taxed Enough Already party. Taxes for ALEC...good. Taxes for schools...bad. Taxes for the elderly...bad. Taxes for out of state business owners...good.

    But I am sane enough to recognize that the conservative authoritarians and political opportunists get chills up their leg when TEA Party propaganda is preached and at the same time have no problem holding two opposing thoughts in their head without recognizing the cognitive dissonance.

    Calling me insane only shows the mental gymnastics that the GOP and TEA party faithful are enduring to see their golden boy unfriend Grover Norquist and the TEA faithful on their respective Facebook pages.

    Wait...what? Are you saying that taxes are good in some instance when other people pay and it helps local government and economies?

    Carry on.

  13. Bree S. 2013.05.16

    Any Conservative who chooses to run against the Establishment should thank the Administration for the boost.

  14. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.05.16

    (Hey, you guys! It's Bree! Hi, Bree! Can we get you to primary Mike or Kristi... or maybe even Dennis?)

  15. Bree S. 2013.05.16

    Hi Cory. :)

    Due to the libertarian leanings of my youth, I lack the appropriate political biography. I also lack the requisite charm, lol.

  16. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.05.17

    Baloney! You ride horse, don't you? That's all you need to take a chunk of Noem's donor base.

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