I'm not ready to hit the top stories of the year cycle quite yet (six days left! who knows what could happen?!), but Bob Mercer is. South Dakota's last full-time statehouse reporter picks five top South Dakota political stories of 2014:
- Rounds wins Senate seat.
- Krebs wins Secretary of State.
- Democrats nominate women for governor and lieutenant.
- State retirement fund earns 18.9% net return.
- Voters increase minimum wage.
Mercer does not lay out criteria for "top political stories." Most of his choices seem to revolve around ongoing impact on South Dakota's politics and economy. Ousting the last Democrat from statewide office certainly has ongoing impact on the political landscape. So will changing our top election official: smarter and tougher Shantel Krebs can promote the Republican agenda of Democratic vote suppression much more aggressively than half-checked-out Jason Gant. Our recovering retirement fund promises future economic security, while our minimum-wage hike provides a little economic boost and economic justice right now. The minimum-wage hike also affirms the power of Democrats to promote their pro-working-class agenda through initiatives.
But Mercer's #3 seems the odd woman out. The Dems' executive office nominees, Susan Wismer and Susy Blake, are nice people. But their all-female candidacy is "historic" only in the driest, textbook sense of the word. Wismer and Blake didn't win. They didn't blaze new trails in campaign organizing, fundraising, or get-out-the-vote activities. They didn't capitalize on their womanliness to raise awareness of or change the conversation about women's issues in South Dakota. The Wismer-Blake ticket seemed to win nothing more than its own Trivia Crack™ South Dakota Edition entry, and even that achievement is twinned with failure: political gurus discussing the first all-gal ticket will inevitably mention that ticket was also the biggest loser, ceding the Governor's office to the incumbent by 45 points.
I welcome your critique of Mercer's list and your own lists below; stay tuned in the coming days for my own blog-based lists of big South Dakota news, based on your comments and my own criteria... once I've recovered from all those Christmas Swedish meatballs and pickles! Mmmm....