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Kephart 2: Struggles with Insiders, Inevitability

Last updated on 2013.09.04

With four Republicans contending for the 2014 U.S. Senate nomination, I'm posting an extended interview with 2008 GOP Senate candidate Sam Kephart from Spearfish. Yesterday Kephart explained how abortion politics figured significantly in his 66%-to-25% loss to Joel Dykstra. Today he tells us where his campaign got traction.

Heidelberger: Who was your 25%? Where and with whom did your 2008 message resonate most?

Kephart: As might be expected, the bulk of my votes came from West River, where I had some small name recognition because of my active previous support of various party activities. Joel was from Canton, a farming community just south of the Sioux Falls metro area, so he pretty well locked-up the relatively massive I-29 corridor votes.

The voters who did support me had some inherent sense that the GOP was controlled by a bunch of “insiders” and they wanted to use me, an outsider, to shake things up.

My message tended to resonate well with the more analytical voters who actually were paying attention to the substance and issues of the campaign rather than just acquiescing to the inevitability factor of Joel Dykstra, who was the ‘pre-approved’ candidate, and typically spent most of his speeches telling his family story.

I had several very prominent folks approach me separately to tell me that they would quietly support me, but they couldn’t be seen doing so.

Some of them held gatherings at their home where the contributions were mostly cash and just under the individually reportable amount. That was a little weird for me; it was obvious they liked and wanted to support me, but they wouldn’t go so far as to publicly endorse me.

While obviously disappointed, I was beginning to understand.

There were also some biases embedded into the Lincoln Day Dinner schedule across the state. In several towns, Joel Dykstra was given 20 to 25 minutes to speak and I was given 5-8 minutes. I eventually complained about this gross unfairness to Karl Adam, who was then the State GOP Chairman.

Karl is a very decent guy, however, he just looked me in the eye and said "The rules say equal time should be given to ALL the candidates, but... we don’t enforce them. You’ll just have to deal with the facts on the ground." Ouch!!