Press "Enter" to skip to content

SD Democratic Party Trumpets Wismer Run for Governor; No Dough for Lowe?

Last updated on 2014.01.30

Susan Wismer
Susan Wismer, preferred gubernatorial candidate of the South Dakota Democratic Party

Democrats, it appears we are receiving our marching orders from Party Central: Vote for Susan Wismer.

Rep. Susan Wismer (D-1/Britton) announced yesterday that she is challenging Joe Lowe for the Democratic nomination for Governor. Democratic House Minority Leader Rep. Bernie Hunhoff (D-18/Yankton) introduced her at her Capitol press conference. Most of the Democrats in the Legislature stood beside her to show their support.

And South Dakota Democratic Party chairwoman Deb Knecht immediately shouted "BREAKING" and issued this endorsement (should I bother with ironic quote marks?):

South Dakota is home to the smartest kids, hardest workers, and close-knit families in the entire country. It’s time South Dakota had a Governor who invested in these things that make South Dakota great.

Governor Dennis Daugaard has hurt our workforce development with huge cuts to education. He’s jeopardized the health of 48,000 South Dakotans by refusing to accept federal dollars for Medicaid expansion. And he won’t even take a stand on raising the minimum wage for 62,000 South Dakotans.

A small town businesswoman and senior appropriations member, Rep. Susan Wismer understands that the governor’s budget is a moral document with real impacts across the state. She’ll see to it that our state’s policies reflect our values of opportunity, equality, and community.

We look forward to a spirited primary between Joe Lowe and Rep. Susan Wismer with all attention on the future of our state [Deb Knecht, chairwoman, South Dakota Democratic Party, press release, 2014.01.28].

Knecht trumpets Wismer's credentials, which I whole-heartedly recognize would make Wismer a great governor (certainly better than the current governor, who can read minds but not financial reports). Last year Rep. Wismer issued a brilliant and blistering critique of Dennis Daugaard's fiscal irresponsibility that by itself explains exactly why all South Dakotans need to vote Democratic this year. As an accountant and a member of the Appropriations committeee, she understands the heck out of state fiscal policy. I like Wismer a lot (and I like Britton a lot!), and I'm glad to have her running.

Democratic candidate for South Dakota Governor Joe Lowe
Democratic candidate for South Dakota Governor Joe Lowe

But I also like Joe Lowe a lot. I'm glad to have him running, but the Party's tone suggests they'll only be glad to have him running away. When Lowe announced his candidacy on November 30, the SDDP issued no press release. Chairwoman Knecht issued no statement on Lowe's behalf.

It wouldn't be hard for Knecht to compose a comparably clapping commentary on Lowe's go for gov. Wismer has great experience, but Lowe can at least match Wismer's six years of legislative experience with his ten years in the South Dakota executive branch, which happens to be the branch for which they are now competing. Lowe is as aware as Wismer of the moral and political failings of the Republican administration in which he worked. Lowe is a businessman just like Wismer. He brings at least as much experience and fight to the table as Wismer. Lowe and Wismer together can lead a rollicking conversation about the direction of our fair state.

But the leading lights of the South Dakota Democratic Party have a tendency to pick their favorite. In 2012, the party machine sent clear signals that Matt Varilek was their chosen candidate for U.S. House over Jeff Barth. Varilek proceeded to roll up the campaign contributions and crush Barth in the primary.

Wismer sounds like she's ready to do some crushing. On day one of her campaign, she lays out the attacks she'll use to make sure Dems don't pick the other guy:

She said Lowe is a credible candidate but she is a life-long resident of South Dakota and a business owner with six years of experience in the Legislature.

Wismer comes from a strong Democratic tradition in Marshall County. Her grandfather was state Sen. Art Jones and her uncle was state Sen. Curt Jones.

She said extremists have come to dominate politics and “common-sense Democrats” are “forfeiting the game” when they don’t participate. Unless moderates get involved in her campaign, she expects to have a difficult time.

“I’m a centrist,” Wismer said. “I don’t have to be very far to the left of the group in power because the pendulum has swung so far to the right” [Bob Mercer, "Wismer to Run for Governor," Rapid City Journal, 2014.01.29].

Lifelong South Dakotan versus not one of us (that sounds familiar). Common-sense centrist vs. extremist party-wrecker. There's the primary fundraising pitch in a nutshell, one that bears the faint xenophobic whiff of the attacks Kristi Noem used to beat Matt Varilek. But hey, whatever works, right?

Wismer will have her hands full for another six weeks with the Legislative session. She tells Bob Mercer she won't kick into high gear until April 15, after she gets done doing folks' taxes back at the Britton office. Candidate Lowe thus has a brief advantage that he can use to work the crowds and the donors in person while candidate Wismer is tied up. He can use this time to make the case to the rank and file and party leaders that he can take the fight to Daugaard better than Wismer can and bring more voters to the polls in November.

But Lowe's passing advantage is thin. Wismer appears to have the backing of the Party, whose insiders will likely mobilize on her behalf to lock up signatures and contributions. Climb that hill, Joe! Bring us the spirited primary that Chairwoman Knecht says she wants.


  1. interested party 2014.01.29


  2. Steve O'Brien 2014.01.29

    I am very happy to see a candidate talk bout the "moral issues" and not have the pigeon hole view that "moral" can only mean pro-life in politics.

    It is time for the cold view of spending to be re-framed as a moral issue, and those responsible for the suffering of others are called to answer for those choices.

  3. owen reitzel 2014.01.29

    I like both candidates as well. I'll see where they both stand on the issues and pick the one I'm more aligned with. I think either one is better than who is in there now.
    It could be a tough choice. I'd like to see the state party be more neutral at this point.

  4. Les 2014.01.29

    Joe Lowe against a gal who knows and understands finance, SD political history, experience and there is a choice?
    We now get to watch the SD Dems devour themselves.

  5. grudznick 2014.01.29

    The grudznick stamp of approval goes to Jalad. Who of course was swallowed into the black hole along with Darmock when their planet collapsed as documented by Mr. Mercer.

  6. interested party 2014.01.29

    Democrats=safe water, food, shelter, sex; Republicans=cheap water, food, shelter, sex.

  7. interested party 2014.01.29

    Watch and learn, dudes.

  8. owen reitzel 2014.01.29

    I think we'l see a different primary than what we are seeing in the Republican Senate race,
    It's the Republicans eating their own

  9. grudznick 2014.01.29

    I think instead of one of your goofy star track references, Larry, the Republican Senate race is defined as 2 Knights on the jousting field, with shiny armor, and a pretty young woman holding a hankie who raised a surprising amount of coin. And one oafish heckler yelling through the gates while another fellow sits quietly watching thinking he's a Knight too.

    I wager you a hat-eatin' that neither Mr. Lowe nor this young Ms. Wismer lady will win this Governor race.

  10. Les 2014.01.29

    Many of us Repubs do not consider all Repubs our own, Owen. Obviously you understand, evidenced by your own party cannibalizing Herseth.

  11. interested party 2014.01.29

    it's a big galaxy, mr. anderson.

  12. owen reitzel 2014.01.29

    We sure ripped on Herseth but not the way some have ripped the so-called RINOs.
    Democrats might get into heated debates but we come together in ther end

  13. Les 2014.01.29

    Which end Owen? That kind of scares me!

  14. grudznick 2014.01.29

    Neither end of a rhino is to be trifled with, Mr. Owen.

  15. Jim 2014.01.29

    Mr. Grudz, you should either lobby those folks in pierre, or be appointed Secretary of Authentic Frontier Gibberish.

  16. grudznick 2014.01.29

    Jim, those both sound fun but I don't think I have the chops to handle all that these days.

  17. Jim 2014.01.29

    As I recall Pierre does a mighty fine breakfast.

  18. John 2014.01.29

    It appears from recent statewide elections that results turn on west river. Few in west river know the accountant who apparently, but for college, never left home, and has managed little - as opposed to an field experienced executive who led and managed thousands and hundreds of millions worth of resources. It appears the SD demo party should have it's head examined for having the gall to pick winners at this stage. Not a nickel to the party; just to a candidate.

  19. John Tsitrian 2014.01.29

    Lowe is a fine individual who would make an excellent governor. Dems are stupid to blow him off at this stage of the game.

  20. Michael B 2014.01.29

    Both may be fine candidates with great records, but I hope that we can elect more women to leadership roles in our state. That might mean that equally qualified men might have to lose an election. Maybe some day we can have a female governor in this state. We should've had one a long time ago.

  21. Roger Cornelius 2014.01.29

    The dude over at the press release blog has been referring to Wismer as a sacrificial lamb. Is she?

  22. Larry 2014.01.30

    I have heard both candidates and think both are great candidates. It would be good to have them run as a team. Let's see who can organize a better campaign and enunciate the issues better. Then pick that one as our nominee and other as Lt. Governor.

  23. Lynn G. 2014.01.30

    I think both are great candidates but I definitely don't like how party leadership has treated Lowe. That could definitely cost them some votes and donors. Very poor way in handling it.

  24. Rorschach 2014.01.30

    I won't be told by party leadership who our primary nominee will or should be. I like both Joe Lowe and Susan Wismer. Deb Knecht crosses the line when she uses the party apparatus to try to push some agenda of her own in favor of one candidate over the other. If Deb Knecht wants to work on Susan Wismer's primary campaign then she needs to resign as party chair.

  25. Lynn G. 2014.01.30

    If this is the common way the state Democratic Party deals with it's candidates running for office I'll just vote for Mike Meyers then. Talk about back stabbing!

  26. Jerry 2014.01.31

    Joe Lowe stepped up and slapped Denny right across the lips with his challenge to end the anti-working poor process we have here regarding the Medicaid Expansion. For that, he has my support. I could give a care about the life long South Dakotan mumbo jumbo of any candidates for unseating the present regime. If they vote here and pay taxes here, then they are here.

    From what I can tell of the "party" they do not have much of a track record that speaks power to me. I think that it maybe time for the party to just admit they cannot pick a winner, and support both candidates without prejudice.

  27. interested party 2014.01.31

    Please join me in sending both Susan and Joe some money.

  28. Jerry 2014.01.31

    Make sure its 50/50

  29. Angie Buhl O'Donnell 2014.02.01

    I'm speaking only for myself and not for a party here, but it's silly to read "party marching orders" into the fact that a number of legislators (including myself) stood behind Susan as she made her announcement. For me, Susan has been a friend and colleague for 4 years in Pierre, and has been a leader in standing up to Daugaard's policies. She asked me for my support, and she's got it. In contrast, I have never heard from Joe Lowe (who, given that he announced in November, had plenty of time to call), and I know I'm not alone among Democratic legislators in that respect.

    Say what you will about the statement from the chair, but the only thing to read into my support for Susan is that I've seen firsthand what she's capable of, and look forward to calling her Governor.

  30. advocate 2014.02.28

    Eh...I'd have more (read: any) respect for the SD Dem party leadership if I hadn't witnessed the 2010 legislative strategy firsthand.

    Heidepriem (and Jarding), Nesselhuff, et al. thought the best strategy was to avoid any proposal that might hint at raising taxes and attempted to manipulate, cajole and harass the rest of the more "layperson" legislators into legislative action that would benefit the statewide races that year.

    Fair enough - except the subsequent tepid 2010 response to cuts in pre-K were only a harbinger to the next several legislative sessions where party leadership again seemed ineffective at derailing the GOP agenda.

    It is curious that Joe hasn't payed homage to the party leadership in Pierre but if you know your audience has already made up their mind regarding who they would support bc of the personal relationships they've developed during those legislative sessions, I guess I understand why someone would want to save the gas money..

    Wismer is qualified enough, but she's bland and doesn't inspire any enthusiasm...Joe doesn't really either but his "experience" narrative seems more compelling than being an ineffective legislator in the minority party.

    Hopefully Herseth-Sandlin runs in '18.

Comments are closed.