Last updated on 2014.07.23
Independent candidate for U.S. Senate Larry Pressler continues to work the Indian vote. He announced Wednesday afternoon that he has accepted an invitation from Native Sun News and United Tribes Technical College to debate at the UTTC campus in Rapid City on September 12. "I commend the Native Sun News and the United Tribes Technical College in sponsoring this debate," says Pressler, "and I hope they will set an example for many more across South Dakota.”
If the other Senate candidates accept, we could realize a hope that we discussed here in the blogosphere this spring, when Oglala Lakota College hosted a lively candidate forum in Kyle. That Pine Ridge debate, covered most avidly by Mr. Santema (see his additional posts on the OLC forum here, here, and here) was the only statewide candidate forum held on an Indian reservation during the primary season. (Does anyone know of any past statewide candidate debates held on a South Dakota reservation?) The UTTC debate isn't on the reservation, but Native Sun News and UTTC would surely focus that debate on Indian issues in a way that KELO and SDPB likely will not.
Neither Pressler nor his general election opponents attended the OLC forum; let us hope Rick Weiland, Gordon Howie, and Mike Rounds all join Pressler in making up for their absence last spring by attending the UTTC debate.
Pressler's quick acceptance of the UTTC invitation aligns with plays he's made for the Indian vote from the beginning of his candidacy. Just last week, Pressler promised immediate action if elected to fund an indigenous holocaust museum at Wounded Knee. And in addition to his UTTC debate announcement, Pressler said Wednesday that he wants to work with the tribes to bring President Obama to South Dakota to discuss tribal issues. Pressler says he will talk with tribal leaders about working together to get the President to come to South Dakota for his first visit as President. President Obama paid our Indian neighbors on the North Dakota side of the Standing Rock Reservation in June.
Pressler has already invited President Obama to come to South Dakota to discuss health care reform. Pressler suggested that meeting take place in Humboldt, so it appears Pressler is advocating two Presidential visits to South Dakota.
Wait a minute: shouldn't Rick Weiland be the one angling to get President Obama here during the campaign? Or is Pressler's Obama press really an offshoot of the deep anti-Washington strategy: just as Weiland may benefit from the apparent distance between himself and Majority Leader Harry Reid, maybe Pressler is secretly helping Weiland by playing drawing all of South Dakota's anti-Obama ire to himself. Brilliant!
Nutty conspiracies aside, Pressler is making two positive gestures toward Indian voters. Democrat Rick Weiland should make sure his team keeps up and doesn't take that Indian vote for granted.