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Pressler Considers Senate Return; Angling for Independents, Indians

Former Senator Larry Pressler might want his old job back. He told Native Sun News this week that he's considering running for South Dakota's open Senate seat in 2014 as an Independent.

Go ahead, laugh it up. But Tom Lawrence warns detractors not to understimate Pressler:

Pressler’s life has had its challenges. Like most South Dakotans in 1974, I had never heard of him when he sought the state’s First District congressional seat. That was when we had two House seats, and he ran against better-known, better-funded opponents in the GOP primary. Amazingly, he won.

He then unseated Democrat Frank Denholm, and at 32, Pressler was a congressman. It was an impressively swift rise [Tom Lawrence, "Larry Pressler Ponders a Comeback," Prairie Perspective, 2013.11.08].

Lawrence acknowledges that a Pressler comeback is unlikely, but...

But if Rounds is damaged by the still-emerging story about visas for foreign investors, if the story becomes a scandal, that could change. If one of the other three lesser-known and more-conservative Republican candidates claim the Senate nomination, and the Democratic candidate — right now it looks like Rick Weiland — doesn’t catch fire, just maybe there will be a chance for a centrist like Larry Pressler to return to the Senate.

That seems highly unlikely. But [his] winning in 1974 did, too [Lawrence, 2013.11.08].

In his last electoral outing, in 2002, Pressler lost 2-to-1 to the GOP establishment as embodied by Bill Janklow. Up against the current incarnation of that establishment, Marion Michael Rounds, Pressler seems unlikely to fare any better (expect the SDGOP to edit their anti-intellectual Varilek ads from 2012 to show Pressler globe-trotting and wearing a beret at a Left Bank café). But Pressler isn't talking about winning a primary; he's talking about playing to the growing contingent of Independent voters who don't care to associate with the tottering monolith that currently controls Pierre and the Washington Republicans who seem determined to crash the economy.

We Dems might cheer a Pressler candidacy as one more way to improve Democrat Rick Weiland's chances of winning, but remember: Pressler made this announcement in Native Sun News. He's playing up his tribal cred:

While in the Senate, Pressler was instrumental in preventing the Tribally Controlled Colleges from being placed under the jurisdiction of the state colleges. He instead saw to it that the Indian colleges were placed under the jurisdiction of the tribal governments.

When the Oglala Sioux Tribe was attempting to bring a lawsuit against the United States Government in the late 1970s and ran into a road block that would have prevented them from suing, Pressler oversaw the actions that opened the way for them to sue the Government which resulted in the Black Hills Claims Settlement.

“I’ve always tried to work with the tribal governments and in fact I made it a part of my policy to meet annually with all of the elected tribal leaders to get their input on any legislation that would impact them and their people,” Pressler said [Karin Eagle, "Former South Dakota Senator Considers Run," Native Sun News, 2013.11.07].

Pressler is angling not just for the Independent vote but also for a key contingent of the Democratic vote. Clever devil! Sciences Po didn't invite him to teach in Paris for nothing. Allez, Larry!


  1. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.11.09

    What is Pressler'a age now?

  2. joseph g thompson 2013.11.09

    Must say, could be convinced to vote for him.

  3. grudznick 2013.11.09

    My friend Larry is right. People lots older than this Pressler fellow are still up and walking about.

  4. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.11.09

    So does anyone know Pressler's age? It seems to me that he's been around forever. I remember when he was a young, fresh-faced, neophyte. I remember that my parents didn't like him.

  5. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.11.09

    Okay, I found him on Wikipedia. He was born in 1942. Even with my defective mathematical skills, I believe that makes him 71 years old.

    Hmm. How effective might a 71 year old be? I'd say it depends on his health and the quality of his staff.

  6. Mark 2013.11.10

    "How effective might a 71-year-old be?" Seriously? When the first posed question is about his age followed by a statement suggesting he's 'been around forever" before any commentary regarding his policy and political positions suggests ageism.

  7. grudznick 2013.11.10

    People older than Mr. Pressler can be might effective indeed.

  8. Mark 2013.11.10

    And often are. Making an issue of age in this instance is just silly.

  9. owen reitzel 2013.11.10

    I can see why Pressler is running as an Independent. He's too liberal to be a Republican.

  10. Douglas Wiken 2013.11.10

    Pressler needs to run on the opportunist ticket.

    And, Deb, for somebody who rails against racism in all imagined forms, this 70 year old is appalled, yes appalled, or even worse at the ageist suggestion that
    Pressler at 71 might be too old for public office.

    And while not on a too serious track here, a joke which probably doesn't apply to Pressler.

    A priest in a small town was retiring. There was a celebration and the most prominent politician from the town was expected to make a few comments. He was however late because of botched plane connections.

    The priest decided he could offer a few comments and memories while they waited for the prime speaker. The priest started off with his first day in the community when somebody in the confession box told him that he had multiple affairs. Was a serial adulterer. Had cheated his business associates and customers, etc. etc. The priest said that at the time, he thought he was really in for problems in the community, but with that first exception, he thought he was blessed to be in such a community.

    After a few more nice words, the politician finally arrived. He started his speech with an apology for being late, and then noted, "I am really glad to be hear to honor our long-serving good father. I am also proud to say that I was the very first person to confess my sins to him here."

    Some days are better than others for politicians of all stripes.

  11. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.11.10

    Calm down folks. There was no attack on Pressler for his age. I asked a legitimate question. It does seem to me that he's been around forever. My father sold the farm in 1987. That's been about 16 years. Seems like longer.

    Mark, in your comment you quoted me "How effective might a 71-year-old be?" Seriously?' Yes indeed, seriously. Asking that is no less legitimate than the people who asked if Tim Johnson could continue as an effective senator after his stroke.

    All of you need to note that I followed that question with this statement: "I'd say it depends on his health and the quality of his staff."

    So if Pressler is in good health and has a good staff, I am concluding that he ought to be able to be an effective legislator.

    Please note that nowhere in my comments do I say that a person's age determines their ability to do the job. Nowhere do I suggest that 71 year olds are incapable. All that came from what you inserted into my comments, not from what I said.

  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.11.10

    I'm cool with that, Deb! The question is fair: is he up to the job? He can demonstrate that by running a vigorous campaign.

    Pressler spoke with Denise Ross at the Mitchell paper. One way he tells her that he'll maximize his effectiveness is by running for only one term. Instead of spending his whole term raising money for the next election, he promises to spend his time actually doing his job. Not a bad suggestion... although given that he's already been a Senator, he'd have less of a learning curve. Could we universalize Pressler's one-term proposal to every Senator, or would an all-rookie Senate manage things badly?

  13. Winston 2013.11.10

    Hillary will be going on 70 in 2017..... I am just saying...... I believe Mondale was 74 back in 2002 when he lost to Coleman. Heck, when Strom Thurmond was in his seventies he was merely in the half life of his senatorial career.

  14. grudznick 2013.11.10

    Ms. Clinton is not only insaner than most, she also would need less advice to carry it out. That is why she is scary. It is not her relatively young and youthful appearance, it is her old and deceitful mind.

  15. interested party 2013.11.10

    governor moonbeam: nuff sed.

  16. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.11.10

    Too bad Thurmond even lasted that long. The nasty, hateful old man.

    Hillary Clinton has been a favorite target of rightwing extremists' lies and distortions. Are there confirmed facts to back the slander up? Nah.

    Clinton's biggest faux pas was being her own independent very intelligent liberal woman. She would be so much better regarded if she had simply shut up, stood by her man, and baked those cookies. The old school conservatives, especially the religious types, never have forgiven her for that.

  17. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.11.10

    Funny Doug.

  18. Roger Cornelius 2013.11.10

    I'm gearing up for "Hillary 2016"!

  19. Mark 2013.11.11

    Deb - I apologize if I inserted anything into your remarks. I thought I was quoting you verbatim. In any case, we certainly can agree on the obvious re good health and competent staff would contribute to a senator's effectiveness, regardless of age. Please don't infer that I was accusing you of ageism. My implication was your comment "suggested" it, and I meant no offense.
    I'm curious though: Why didn't your parents like him (initially?) and did they change their minds about him?

  20. Mark 2013.11.11

    Cory: As to an all-rookie US Senate, I share a lot of citizen frustration about certain politicians and political institutions, but I'd simply pass along caution with two words: Ted Cruz.

  21. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.11.11

    Thank you Mark.

    My parents were populist rural folk. They joined NFO and participated in various actions. They were Democrats, distrusted big business, banks, etc. They were pre-teens in the 1930s, and strongly influenced by their families' struggles through the Great Depression. Pres. Hoover was symbolic of Republicans because he let people suffer. FDR was symbolic of Democracts because he cared for the less powerful.

    They felt that Pressler was a Hoover Republican and would not help small farmers. The switch from Family Farms to Corporate was in its infancy then.

    Over time they felt that Pressler was less toxic than they had feared. I'm quite certain they never voted for him. It seems to me that they strongly disliked Karl Mundt too. Jim Abnor, a Republican, wasn't so bad. George McGovern and Dick Kneip were wonderful.

    (This is all to the best of my recollection. I was born in 1953 so I was very young. Both my parents have died.)

  22. Jenny 2013.11.11

    Although I've always greatly respected and admired Hillary I don't know if I could vote for her. She's too much part of the establishment now. Elizabeth Warren would be a better choice - someone anti-establishment. I would like to believe Elizabeth Warren wouldn't preach change like Obama did and then turn around and appoint Wall Street mob men (as I call them) to his administration. There very same characters that caused the housing market collapse and wall street crash - think Geitner.

  23. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.11.11

    I'd LOVE a President Elizabeth Warren. That woman is solid courage, top to bottom.

    And Jenny, I have some reservations about Hillary too. She wouldn't be my first choice, but she would precede many others. And I hold out hope that she would feel that she could safely return to some of the more idealistic positions of her earlier years.

  24. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.11.12

    I'd vote unabashedly for Elizabeth Warren... but we're not going to get into the whole thing about her angling for the Indian vote with her Cherokee heritage again, are we? And is Pressler part Indian? ;-)

  25. Winston 2013.11.13

    My problem with Hillary is actually a problem I have with both Clintons... They are too pro-business... Warren in '16!!!

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