Republican Tammy Basel announced her candidacy for District 29 House last week. The Union Center woman raises sheep with her blogging husband Dallis out by Union Center. I called candidate Basel, angling for a few provocative quotes revealing another wild-eyed West River wingnut rarin' to wreak havoc on good government. Instead I got... well, darn, a Republican who sounds rather sensible about issues that matter to all of South Dakota.
I mentioned guns early in our conversation, because talking about guns is a requirement for West River politicians, right? Basel had the audacity to say that South Dakota has more to worry about than gun bills.
Basel said her top issues are agriculture, education, and small towns. She says she wants South Dakotans to be able to buy more steak and lamb and wool from our own producers. She says teachers are the "workhorses" of our state and wants to have a conversation with them and with parents and with all taxpayers to discuss where we want our education system to go long-term. She wants to promote economic development in small towns so teachers and ranchers and everyone else in rural South Dakota can come to town and enjoy decent shopping and entertainment without having to truck all the way to Rapid City or Sioux Falls.
Basel does strike a proper conservative tone when she wonders why we need to pass so many new laws every year. She says she'd prefer we just tweak existing regulations to help towns and businesses get things done. For instance, Basel thinks Meade County could use a little more freedom to levy taxes to cover costs of services during the Sturgis Rally. She proposes making it easier for Summerset to build a wastewater system to promote residential and industrial development. She'd also like to declare the New Underwood Road from New Underwood to Highway 34 a state highway to promote economic development in District 29.
Basel has been national president of Women Involved in Farm Economics. Basel says her experience in that grassroots organization has taught her the importance of networking and listening. "Learning starts when you stop talking and start listening," Basel says, appealing to the Socratic teacher in me. She says she hasn't formulated a specific policy agenda because she wants to hear what the voters are thinking. (If they're all thinking about guns, I don't know what she'll do.)
This campaign is Basel's first swing at elected office. I look forward to hearing what any Republican primary challengers (and maybe one or two brave Meade County Democrats... please? Any takers?) will have to say to challenge what at this point sounds like a reasonable approach to public policy.