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Wismer a Moderate? Kinda Sorta… and That’s Why Dems Should Vote Lowe

Let's be blunt: Democrats should nominate Joe Lowe for Governor. He says what he means and means what he says, while his opponent Rep. Susan Wismer mixes up words in an effort to excuse being an inferior candidate.

David Montgomery writes up Joe Lowe and his opponent for the nomination, Rep. Susan Wismer. Rep. Wismer repeats the claim of moderate/centrist appeal with which she opened her campaign:

"I will be the most attractive candidate to the moderates that Democrats need to attract in order to have a prayer of winning the governor's race," Wismer said [David Montgomery, "Governor's Race: Differences of Style Distinguish Democrats," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.05.26].

Just a few paragraphs prior to that quote, Montgomery reports that Lowe and Wismer both "endorse raising the state's minimum wage, expanding Medicaid to cover tens of thousands of low-income South Dakotans and making higher teacher pay a priority." Wismer sounds no more moderate than Lowe there.

Review Toby Uecker's outstanding summary of the candidates' positions, and you find even more policy agreement. Lowe and Wismer agree that South Dakota's current business-über-alles approach to economic development is flawed. They agree that our tax system is regressive and inadequate. They neither one jump to breathe fire on family planning.

Lowe has staked out more distinct positions against the Powertech uranium mine and the Keystone XL pipeline. Wismer's position on Powertech is one of agnostic duplicity: she says she hasn't researched in-situ leach mining enough, but she knew enough to vote for deregulating it as a favor to Powertech in 2011. I'm not seeing a moderation advantage there. On Keystone XL, Wismer gives us "concern". On these two environmental issues, Wismer seems to confuse "moderation" and "not telling voters what you really want to do."

Yet Wismer can sound plenty radical when she wants. Recall her blessedly prophetic (i.e., truth-saying, not soothsaying) lambasting of Governor Daugaard and Republican legislators in 2013, a speech in which Wismer declares her support for a state income tax. I like the income tax, too... but I'm a radical, like my neighbor Gerry Lange. When I interviewed Joe Lowe, he talked about increasing K-12 funding through shuffling budget priorities, efficiencies, and maybe, as a last resort, a voter-approved sales tax à la Adelstein. Who sounds more moderate there?

Uecker finds the sharpest policy gap on the death penalty, which Lowe supports but Wismer opposes. Maybe moderates flip a coin on this issue (I can hear someone arguing that mercy is moderation and killing prisoners is extreme), but if we're talking electability outside partisan lines, support for the death penalty probably gets more mileage in the middle than does opposition.

Rep. Wismer says there's an ideological difference, but the positions she and Lowe have placed on the record don't support moderation as a voting issue. Republicans can spin either Wismer or Lowe as raving liberals (and you know they will, regardless of whom we nominate). Democrats thus need someone who can vigorously and fearlessly rebut such charges, explain to South Dakotans left right and center where they stand, and explain why those positions are good for South Dakota.

That ability is where Joe Lowe is not moderate. He makes clear what he wants to do and that he will be eagerly and passionately involved in doing it. Wismer has shown less such eagerness and passion even in the campaign to win the nomination. She waited until April 15 to really start campaigning, a delay that stands at odds with her own odd statement to Montgomery that "it's more complicated to vote for me, because it takes a while to get to know me." Hmmm... if it takes a while for voters to get to know a candidate, shouldn't that candidate get out as early as possible to help voters through that get-to-know-me process?

It's not complicated to vote for a Democratic nominee to challenge Dennis Daugaard. If you want a moderate, you vote for a moderate. If you want a liberal, you vote for a liberal. If your two choices don't distinguish themselves on an ideological spectrum (and I invite anyone to show me how Lowe and Wismer do!), then you pick the candidate who can bring the fight necessary to overcome the $1.6 million Daugaard already has on hand to cover his continuation of the Mike Rounds's record of crony-capitalist non-achievement.

Both Joe Lowe and Susan Wismer would make better governors than Dennis Daugaard. Almost any Democrat in Pierre would improve South Dakota government by changing the dynamic in Pierre from monolithic one-party rule to broader dialogue and accountability. But Wismer's moderation, not in her politics but in her temperament and style, makes her less likely to kncok down that monolith.

Republicans won't fight in moderation. Neither should we Democrats. Vote for Joe Lowe.


  1. Shirley Harrington-Moore 2014.05.27

    Susan said at the Brookings Q&A that west river legislators are difficult and simplistic. She's also said rural people will be for her and urban people for Joe. Being a leader means you work with everyone and move them in the same direction. South Dakota needs a governor for ALL the people not just an eastern South Dakota Governor who is only interested in regional issues. Joe Lowe can do that. He is respected in Pierre and he can work across the aisle. Vote Joe on June 3.

  2. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.05.27

    Wow, Ms Harrington-Moore, Wouldn't that be cool after 12 years to have a Governor working for all the people, again?

  3. larry kurtz 2014.05.27

    Please join me and send both Rep. Wismer and Mr. Lowe some money. Btw: if you're a registered Democrat in South Dakota you're an idiot.

  4. lesliengland 2014.05.27

    haven't met susan yet but wonder if her concern for nukes as replacement for oil/coal/gas energy is correct with respect to insitu uranium removal?

  5. rick 2014.05.27

    Issues schmissues! In this primary race, they don't matter. Clearly, Rep. Wismer had no concept of running statewide when she took out nominating petitions. Perhaps that's because she lives in one of the state's few strongly Democrat legislative districts where Democrats don't need to start campaigning until a month before the election.

    Democrats want to see and hear candidates in a primary before they cast a vote. It was so telling that she said people like Cory H. and Minnehaha County Dem Chairman Jeff Barth were political junkies and they ranked a low priority for her attention. It's probably true that Barth is a political junkie but he heads the state's largest population of Democrats in any single county.

    "Hello Jeff? Got time for coffee?"

    Do you recall seeing Bill Janklow reach out and give regular people a big bear hug?

    Me neither. At least not in real life. But one of his TV ads showed Bill hugging people randomly and vigorously shaking hands at parades and public events. These paid-for scenes create lasting impressions that get more penetration than a lot of words and platitudes.

    Or use Dick Kneip as an example. I had not witnessed it, but the lasting buzz on Dick was his capacity to run through a room of 200 people in 20 minutes and leave the impression with everyone in the room that they had a great chat with Kneip. Another plus: Kneip had a reputation for hearing names once and remembering them.

    What Rep. Wismer doesn't get is there is a reason why they call it "voter contact." Make no contacts, get no votes. Stoicism is not a value in campaigning in either party.

    "Wow. That's one thoughtful and quietly polite woman!"

    It's a shame nobody will get to know or remember Susan Wismer from this primary. I'm sure she is smart and pleasant. Maybe this will be a lesson for her to be prepared next time she runs outside District 1.

  6. Curt 2014.05.27

    Just 2 questions re: this thread ... for Lanny, 12 yrs ago we had a Governor "working for all the people"? And for Larry K, registered Dems in this state are "idiots"? Really, "idiots"? That's not only offensive but moronic.

  7. I will remember Susan Wismer and thank her for her service in the SD Leg.

    However, Lowe is our candidate to beat Daugaard. I figured Cory you wouldn't be picking one, so I was lazy in saying anything. But yeah, as a progressive, I agree, Lowe is the guy.

    Glad to see the more liberal Democrats see it too.

  8. larry kurtz 2014.05.27

    Democrats registering as GOP during the primary cycle only makes sense: let the GOPers and unaffiliated nominate our gubernatorial candidate as both are qualified to be chief executive. Unless a Democratic US Attorney changes the path of the general election, our party has to help Lora Hubbel and Stace Nelson become the nominees for the party of earth hatred.

  9. larry kurtz 2014.05.27

    Geez: a former governor has placed three candidates in the field to monkey wrench the earth hater Senate primary and South Dakota Dems are too timid to win the battle?

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.05.27

    Rick, did she really say that about Jeff and me? Maybe that explains why she never got back to me to do that blog interview I offered....

    Shirley, I was wondering about the rural/urban comment. If all the rural Dems show up and vote for Sue and all the urban Dems show up and vote for Joe, Joe wins, right?

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.05.27

    Curt, I wear my quixotic idiocy proudly. Larry, chill!

  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.05.27

    On Larry's point, I can't advocate that all Dems jump ship play Operation Chaos on Stace's behalf. Some of us have to stick around to help pick the right gubernatorial candidate.

  13. Ron Flynn 2014.05.27

    SD is the most conservative state in the US. If Democrats want to get candidates elected they shouldn't force them to take left wing positions on every issue. Doing so in this state is political suicide. It would be a different story if this was MA, but it isn't and it's time we quit acting as though it could be any time soon.

  14. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.05.27

    I understand that practical point, Ron. So given what they've said, which Democrat appears to fit that conservative bill better, Wismer or Lowe?

  15. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.05.28

    Curt, Maybe it was just an impression as Rick pointed out in the post before yours, but remember the Spencer tornado and Wild Bill's participation in the cleanup? He also was more involved with the people. These last two clowns are only interested in one thing, promoting business for those who already have and taking risks that screw a lot of people, i.e. farmers and Anderson Seeds, farmers and school districts Keystone I, Korean and Chinese investors as well as contractors who built NBP and the workers who worked there? Need any more examples?

  16. larry kurtz 2014.05.28

    The best debate in any race this year would be between Rep. Wismer and former Rep. Hubbel.

  17. larry kurtz 2014.05.28

    DD was on Bill Janklow's idea of public radio: he has all the charisma of a dead carp.

  18. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.05.28

    larry, If they haven't been dead too long, (so that the smell is overtaking) I would prefer the dead carp.

  19. larry kurtz 2014.05.28

    Ms. Livermont and i had a bit of a twitter conversation about being a registered Democrat in South Dakota. It struck me that Rep. @susanforsd has been on the #sdleg record for many years as a champion for women's rights while Bosworth is being exploitative in her use of gender as a political tool.

  20. Curt 2014.05.28

    OK, Lanny ... just so you don't think I'm ignoring your response: All the misdeeds occurring in these past 12 years do not prove your original claim that at some point prior to that there was a Governor who cared about people. The Janklow-Spencer example is supposed to prove he cared about common folks? Sorry. I watched him crush hundreds of people - especially State employees he loved to terrorize - and relish every moment of his power and ability to abuse it. Just an aside ... every time I watch Chris Christy dance in front of the cameras, it reminds me of Wild Bill - and sends a chill down my spine.

  21. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.05.28

    Curt, please don't get me wrong. If Bill acted that way to state employees, you are correct, he was wrong. But these last two governors, disrespected their employees horribly with no increases in wages, and in the case of teachers who also happen to be public employees, as well as custodians and anyone else who works for the school district, actually cut their wages. At the same time they could find the bucks for economic development for their cronies, and continue to sit on billions in the State's coffers while treating the employees this way. There is more than one kind of disrespect, and I abhor this one the most.

  22. JeniW 2014.05.28

    Curt is correct about Janklow crushing state employees and I was never able to figure out why. State employees were fulfilling the mission of the state providing needed services.

    I was a state employee, anytime that state employees were at a training session, or some other type of gathering and he was going to make an appearance, we turned ID badges around, or covered our name tags so that he could not identify us. It was that bad.

    Sure, Janklow got some things accomplished, but at a very high cost to many people.

  23. JeniW 2014.05.28

    Lanny, thank you for your comment.

    I have not been able to understand how there could be enough money for every legislator to be a member of ALAC, and pay for legislators to go to AJAC related events, but there is was not enough money to give to the school districts.

  24. rick 2014.05.28

    Regarding her view of Barth and you:

    “I am, by character, an introverted accountant,” said Wismer, a three-term lawmaker from Britton. “It’s hard to change. But I know I need to in order to get the voters to understand that I am a good candidate.”

    She also said she’s focused on rank-and-file Democrats, rather than political junkies such as Barth and Heidelberger.

    People “whose lives center around this kind of stuff” are “not necessarily representative of the entire state,” Wismer said.

  25. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.05.28

    Thank you JeniW, I agree completely.

    Rick, In other words, those of us who pay attention to what the pols are doing, don't count? It seems like that is what she is saying.

  26. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.05.28

    Interesting, Rick! Funny; I thought that people "whose lives center around this kind of stuff" are the representatives of the entire state. Doesn't one have to be a political junkie to run for statewide office?

  27. Douglas Wiken 2014.05.28

    "SD is the most conservative state in the US. If Democrats want to get candidates elected they shouldn't force them to take left wing positions on every issue. Doing so in this state is political suicide. It would be a different story if this was MA, but it isn't and it's time we quit acting as though it could be any time soon"

    On the contrary, so few Democrats have made the case for sensible reality in the state that the GOP mythology is accepted. Democrats have to shred the nonsense.

    If Democrats want to play as mythologists, South Dakotans might as well elect Republicans and get the real trash.

  28. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.05.28

    Douglas! There! There is the spirit from Democrats I want to hear! We aren't that darn conservative. We take tons of federal money. We believe in intervention in the market to protect farmers and promote economic development. We want government to plow the roads and put out fires. And even where we are classically conservative in not wanting change, we Democrats can make a case that our values can do a better job of protecting South Dakota interests than Republican values.

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