To the Republicans Are Really Marxists file, add this statement from Lieutenant Governor Matt Michels on preparations for the as-yet nebulous Blue Ribbon Stalling Tactic on education:

We might be smart individually but collectively we're brilliant [Lt. Gov. Matt Michels, interview with WNAX Radio, 2015.02.24].

In other words, Lt. Gov. Michels and his boss Dennis Daugaard value groupthink over individual genius. Hey, that's why we have Common Core, right?

Update 11:08 CST: Blogger John Tsitrian questions the Daugaard-Michels Administration's collective brilliance given our state economy's soft performance.


Yesterday was the deadline for South Dakota candidates to submit their pre-general campaign finance reports to the Secretary of State. Governor Dennis Daugaard and his running mate Lt. Gov. Matt Michels both have their reports in; so do Democrat Rep. Susan Wismer and Independent Mike Myers. (Myers's running mate Lora Hubbel has also reported, but her filing shows no money in or out.) Here are the totals that have flowed in an out of the gubernatorial campaigns over the last four months:

Raised Spent Cash on Hand
Dennis Daugaard (R) $702,918.35 $878,672.73 $1,460,323.18
Matt Michels (R) $70,616.26 $46,165.02 $24,951.24
Susan Wismer (D) $207,852.50 $238,716.93 $18,391.64
Mike Myers (I) $325.00 $3,688.10 $156.07

Note that Myers has contributed a few thousand out of his own pocket to his own campaign. The Raised numbers here reflect the dollar votes of confidence from others.

As one would expect, Team Daugaard is moneywise untouchable. Daugaard and Michels have $1.5 million on hand to paint every Interstate billboard with Dennis's checked shirt and Matt's manly mustache... or, more likely, to shore up fellow Republicans. Since June, Daugaard's campaign has poured over $143,000 into other GOP campaigns, including $100K to the South Dakota Republican Party, $10K for Shantel Krebs's Secretary of State campaign, and $18.5K for Republican Legislative candidates. (He also gave $250 to the Colton Volunteer Fire Department... perhaps to help put out the fire around Mike Rounds's EB-5 barn?) Michels has greased the state GOP with another $40K, plus a grand for Rounds for Senate.

The Wismer campaign, by contrast, has not been able to spread any such largesse to other Democratic candidates. Before building love with folks down-ticket, Wismer will need to pay off her dad: the $18K Wismer has on hand is less than the $25K loan Maurice Jones loaned the campaign. Dems, better turn on the spigot now to get Wismer out of debt and make that last get-out-the-vote push!

As for Myers... well, I hate to make this comparison, but financially speaking, in the last four months, this blog has outperformed the Myers campaign in numbers of dollars and donors. (Thank you, dear readers, for ringing that tip jar!) In other words, if fundraising means anything, this blog could mount a more effective statewide campaign than the Independent gubernatorial candidate.


From the Department of Awkward Twitter Juxtaposition, West River rancher Dallas Basel reacts to Governor Dennis Daugaard's emergency declaration in southeast South Dakota:

Dallas Basel: "1 day after flood in east SD Gov DD declare disaster. Waited 3 wks to declare Atlas.  west SD screwed again."

Daugaard chief of staff Dusty Johnson tweets Lt. Gov. Matt Michels's comment from the Governor's disaster response press conference in Union County this afternoon:

Dusty Johnson tweet: "Lt Gov Michels: 'Concentrate on those you love.' @SDGovDaugaard

Perhaps worth noting: to fight the flood in Union County, the state will build a levy across four lanes of I-29 to divert water to McCook Lake. (Someone remind me: does I-29 have six lanes by Dakota Dunes?)

Update 22:14 CDT: And definitely worth noting is the distinction between emergency and disaster declarations.


In the dog-bites-man column, Governor Dennis Daugaard says that Sen. Phil Jensen's defense of KKK-style discrimination is "completely out of line with South Dakota values."

It's not hard to gang up on a Republican Senator who says stupid things that are winning himself and South Dakota universal bad press. Jensen has it coming, and South Dakota has it coming for having a district that would elect him.

But Governor Daugaard hasn't spoken up very strongly about the discrimination Jensen tried to write into law last month. Asked by Mr. Montgomery about the bills Senator Jensen and others sponsored to absurdly disguise anti-GLBT bigotry as civil rights legislation, the Governor swung a softer stick:

"Most of them were solving problems we haven’t seen here," Daugaard said. "More legislation driven by things that are occurring in other places. I guess I don’t see those problems here in South Dakota that the legislation attempted to address."

I asked him about criticism by some that those laws were “mean-spirited” or “hateful.” Daugaard demurred.

"I don’t know that I could characterize the motivations of anybody who introduces legislation," Daugaard said [David Montgomery, "Daugaard on the Anti-Gay Rights Bills," Political Smokeout, 2014.03.19].

Montgomery notes that Lt. Gov. Matt Michels spoke much more strongly against those reprehensible bills while they were bubbling through the Legislature last month:

"There’s no place in our laws for these kind of words," Michels said, adding that he believes most South Dakotans agree. "There’s too much hate in the world and we don’t need it here" [Montgomery, 2014.03.19].

The Governor and other prominent Republicans stayed shamefully silent for too long about three-term legislator Jensen's bigotry. It has taken surging local pressure and the embarrassment of a national media firestorm to shame them into shaming Jensen.

Now let's see that shame turn into real change: Republicans backing any alternative candidate to Jensen in District 33.


Matt Michels has asked to scale back his lieutenant governor duties to half-time for health reasons. No, he didn't catch mad cow disease from his pink-slime sandwich in South Sioux City. Michels tells Josh Verges he messed his back up during the Missouri River flood last year:

Michels said he developed muscular pain in his back last year while leading the state's efforts to combat flooding on the Missouri River.

"Everybody was running around, not getting much sleep," he said. "I haven't addressed it correctly, and it's aggravated by driving."

Although Michels lives with his wife in Yankton, he has been driving to and from Pierre for work each week throughout the year. Going forward, he'll work mostly from Yankton, communicating with the governor and staff by email.

He still plans to be in Pierre at least one week each month and he will continue to run the Senate when the Legislature is in session [Josh Verges, "Matt Michels Reduces Role as Lieutenant Governor," that Sioux Falls paper, 2012.04.18].

Reading the various signs and whispers about the South Dakota political cosmos, I've hypothesized the following order of succession ordained by the Daugaard ascension of 2010:

  1. Dennis Daugaard 2011-2018
  2. Matt Michels 2019-2026
  3. Dusty Johnson 2027-2034 (after returning from four terms in Congress)
  4. Tony Venhuizen 2035-2063 (declares self Governor for Life in 2041; deposed in coup led by underground network of SDSU alums and very large extended family from McCook County)

Shy of Dems finding the magic candidate who can crack the 40% ceiling, I might regard a 2019 Michels Administration with something less than dread, given his willingness to defend the idea that the government is us.

Now Michels appears to be stepping out of that order. Dusty Johnson is moving up, taking on Michels's duties running the Bureau of Personnel and the state employee health plan. How many other young eager Republicans are imagining their point of entry moving eight years sooner on that hierarchy? Jon Hansen 2034?

I do not begrudge Lt. Gov. Michels his choice. I hope spending more time back on home ground and less time in the car does his back some good. But I do wonder: does Michels's return to Yankton precurse a full return to the private sector in 2014?


There are still some sane Republicans. Newly full-time Lieutenant Governor Matt Michels rejects Tea Party government-bashing and tells his Yankton neighbors that the government is us:

Another purpose of government is to take care of people who cannot take care of themselves, he stated.

"Please don't ever forget it," Michels said. "It's not them and us — it's us. It's us working together to either improve lives or advance causes to make sure people are well. To have a gap, and have a view that people who are serving us in our state government are leaning on a shovel, is wrong. I'm not saying that's a pervasive view. I have just taken it upon myself to say we are blessed" [Nathan Johnson, "Michels: No Separation Between Gov't, People," Yankton Press & Dakotan, 2011.05.21].

I'd gladly come to a Lincoln Day Dinner to hear Lt. Gov. Michels lay that beat down against the government-villainizing rhetoric we get from some other conservatives.


Our new frugal Governor Dennis Daugaard is raising his lieutenant's pay 578%. As part-time lieutenant governor, Daugaard made $17,699. As governor, Daugaard is elevating the lieutenant's position to full-time status and paying Matt Michels $120,000 to do the job.

Ms. Golden goes easy on her fellow Republicans, noting that Daugaard is cutting more executive salaries in Pierre (including his own!) than he's raising. I might go easy, too. Looking at the job itself, the vice-CEO in an organization with thousands of employees providing vital services to 800,000 people has pretty important responsibilities. In general, to lure a talented guy away from a better-paying job as lawyer for a big hospital (law and health care---a serious convergence of big money!), you usually have to pay good money. If Daugaard is going to work Michels six times harder than Rounds worked Daugaard in the looie's seat, great: let's pay Michels accordingly.

I might even rationalize the odd inversion that has the lieutenant making $22,000 more than the governor. Daugaard is cutting his own pay from $115,331 to $98,000. Does that mean Daugaard plans to do 18% less work than Michels? I do so want to keep teasing Denny about going to the lake... but I'm willing to entertain the notion that he's just the kind of boss who settles for less in his pocket and believes in sharing the wealth with others who serve.

But if we step away from the personalities and look at labor and economics in general, sextupled looie's pay may pose a problem. We measure the value of work with the money we pay for it. It's an imperfect measure (we pay moms nothing), but over most of the economy, money is the best proxy for value we have. Governor Daugaard is making a fiscal choice that places a high value on Lt. Gov. Michels's labor. He's valuing that labor more than any of our neighboring states do. Minnesota's looie gets $78,197. At $120,000, our lieutenant governor's pay will be the twelfth-highest in the nation.

This same administration is turning to the 9000 or so public school teachers of this state and asking them to accept a budget cut. Our teachers have been 51st in the nation for salary for years; Pierre may propose cuts equivalent to the current salaries of 1500 teachers. Such fiscal choices indicate our leaders do not value the labor of those teachers.

I value the work that public officials do. They should be paid a salary commensurate to the effort they have to make and the awesome responsibility they bear to wield power justly and effectively. That applies to everyone on the public payroll, from the governor and his lieutenant on down to your local English teacher.

Governor Daugaard is asking Matt Michels to do more as lieutenant governor and paying him more to match. That's fine. South Dakota's public school teachers have been asked to do more for years---more certification hoops, more standards, more No Child Left Behind, more social instruction---without any such proportionate boost in pay and in utter disproportion to the value they would receive in competing states and competing fields. That's not fine.

If we can find a 587% raise for one valuable public servant in the midst of a fiscal crisis, we can find a 5.87% raise for some other valued public servants, our K-12 teachers.


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