SD Libertarian Party PUC candidate Ryan Gaddy at the Alt Candidate Forum

SD Libertarian PUC candidate Ryan Gaddy speaking at the Alternative Candidate Forum. Photo by Ken Santema

SD Libertarian PUC candidate Ryan Gaddy speaking at the Alternative Candidate Forum. Photo by Ken Santema

On Saturday, August 23, there was an Alternative Candidates Forum held in Sioux Falls. Among the candidates in attendance was Ryan Gaddy, who is the SD Libertarian Party candidate for the Public Utilities Commissioner six-year elected position. If Gaddy makes the ballot (I’ll get to that in a moment) he will face incumbent Republican Gary Hanson, Constitution Party candidate Wayne Schmidt, and Democrat David Allen. When elected in 2008 Hansen won with about 64% of the vote, Democrat McLarty received about 32% of the vote and Constitution Party candidate Hildalgo received around 4%.

Before going on it should be noted that Gaddy was denied ballot access by the SD Secretary of State’s (SOS) office. In a letter from SOS Gant it was decided Gaddy could not be placed on the ballot because he was not a registered Libertarian through the state on the day of being nominated as a candidate (SDCL § 12-6-3.2). Gaddy is currently fighting this decision, and the SD Libertarian Party leadership is backing him in this fight. Gaddy and party contend it is the party that sets the rules for candidacy requirements, and not the state. Gaddy did register Libertarian that morning. Laws similar to the one cited by the SOS to deny ballot access have been shot down by courts in other states. At this time I think it is likely Gaddy will win his case and be allowed on the ballot this fall.

With that in mind, I will write this post with the assumption that Gaddy will be on the ballot this fall.

Gaddy began by saying he aspires to “be a fresh voice in politics”. He says the capital building in Pierre should reflect the multi-cultural, multi-class, multi-political society that actually makes up the people of South Dakota. Gaddy said the government should legislate more with “compassion and reason, than with cash or religion”. Gaddy wants the state to more forward, but retain fiscal conservatism.

Focusing on the PUC race, Gaddy said as a PUC he would keep environmental concerns when dealing with companies that create power in the state. He expands on this later in his speech.

Later on Gaddy said the States energy concerns are a big priority, but also noted that what is best for the state budget is not always best for the land. That led into his discussion about Keystone XL. He said as PUC he would be concerned about the project because of the “land theft” done via eminent domain. Further Gaddy asked that if “black gold rush” from KXL could lead to aquifer contamination. Gaddy also asked the following questions: how much money would be spent on environmental cleanups, how much permanent damage will be created by damaging water supplies, how many health problems with there be with the workers that have to deal with the other problems, and finally “how many people will become sick in the pursuit of the almighty dollar”. Gaddy finished that talking point by saying he does not want KXL to be ramrodded down South Dakota.

Gaddy said as PUC he would defend South Dakotas environment and the taxpayers wallets. He noted taxes on basic utilities are rising. Gaddy said it is important for South Dakota to look at alternative energy sources right here in South Dakota. Hemp bio-fuel is one of his proposed solutions. It is a cleaner-burning fuel, so Gaddy asks why so many trucks are going down the Interstate polluting the air with traditional diesel. In addition Gaddy would push for more solar and wind energy in the State.

Finally Gaddy decided to ask what South Dakota Common Sense (reference to Rounds) means for the PUC office. To Gaddy true South Dakota common sense would mean that South Dakota “would safely provide high-quality reliable telecommunications, electrical, and natural gas utilities to every South Dakotans”.

Overall I would say Gaddy had some good talking points. There were parts of the speech I didn’t cover in this post because they were unrelated to the PUC run; but I can’t think of anything I disagreed with him on. I actually was really glad to hear him talk about the eminent domain abuse done in conjunction with KXL. I feel the Republican leadership in South Dakota has given up even trying to care about personal property rights by ignoring that issue. I have no doubt that Gaddy will be attacked over the next couple of months because of his in-your-face activism work done over the years. That’s OK, I think he can handle it. I just hope that in the process some people will listen to a few of his ideas and actually consider how the state can balance fiscal conservatism and caring for the environment.

SD Constitution Party SOS candidate Lori Stacey at the Alt Candidate Forum

Constitution Party SD SOS candidate Lori Stacey speaking at the Alternative Candidate Forum. Photo by Ken Santema

Constitution Party SD SOS candidate Lori Stacey speaking at the Alternative Candidate Forum. Photo by Ken Santema

On Saturday, August 23, there was an Alternative Candidates Forum held in Sioux Falls. Constitution Party State Chair Lori Stacy not only setup the event, she was also there as a candidate. This fall she will be on the ballot going for Secretary of State (SOS) against Libertarian Emmett Reistroffer, Republican Shantel Krebs, and Democrat Angelia Schultz. Stacey was on the ballot in 2010 against Republican Jason Gant and Democrat Ben Nesselhuf. In that election Stacey received just under 20,000 votes.

Stacey started out by mentioning her 2010 run for SOS. At that time Stacey said she was trying to bring attention to voter fraud issues that have run rampant in almost all states. She feels some success was gained then bringing attention to the election system. Specifically she questioned whether using computers to handle votes was not a good situation. Stacey noted computers can be hacked, have viruses, or just have general problems. There were leading experts that Stacey spoke to and heard them saying there are concerns with the use of computers in elections.

This time around Stacey says she is in the race to win. In order to win this election Stacey has outlined eight key points in her strategy to win the SOS race. Stacey called this her “wishlist of how things should be in South Dakota elections”. 

First, Stacey said that no voters should have to travel unreasonable distances when voting. Stacey said it is important for all South Dakota residents to have easy access to voting.

The second point is one Stacey spent a lot of time on. Stacey would “restore the peoples legal and natural right to recall any elected official in South Dakota, according this power that has been affirmed in the Declaration of Independence”. Stacey asked why there is a state statute that prevents elected officials in South Dakota from being recalled. She said no legislation is needed for this change, because it technically is already a right of the people to recall elected officials. Instead she says the legislature needs to create the process for recall and make sure it won’t be abused for things such as partisan politics. I agree with Stacey on this point. The right to recall elected officials is important. No matter what happens in the SOS race I hope a legislative task-force focusing on election law in South Dakota will look at Stacey’s idea.

Third, Stacey says ballot access in South Dakota is the most restrictive in the United States. Stacey says South Dakota is one of only five states that doesn’t allow write-ins for candidates. I agree with her on this. I do wish she would have also gone into detail about the petition requirements for third-party and independent candidates. It is another area of ballot access that South Dakota is horrible on. 

Fourth, Stacey says that all ballots should be counted by hand in view of the public. Then, before any ballot box can be removed from a precinct it must be tallied and reported. Stacey says this would prevent any issues that come about with the current secretive system. 

Fifth, Stacey stated that no candidate should be placed on a ballot unless they are constitutionally eligible for office. Stacey lost me on this one. She made the claim that most people think the current President shouldn’t be there because he didn’t show proof of his birth, therefore he could not be said to be constitutionally eligible. Personally I think this is an issue Stacey should have stayed away from. 

Sixth, Stacey says there should be restrictions on the right to carry firearms in South Dakota. Stacey said the SOS should not be signing off on concealed carry permits because it is unconstitutional. She is correct that concealed carry permits do come through the SOS office for approval. But an SOS not approving those permits doesn’t change state law. This is an issue Stacey would have to work with the legislature to change current codified law. 

Seventh, Stacey said residents of South Dakota have the right to vote without exception. She did note that South Dakota is much better than other states in preventing votes. Stacey talked about felons out there that have been told they do not have the right to vote. She also mentioned previous SOS Chris Nelson losing a court case where the SOS office must work hard to make sure felons understand the true SD law. Stacey is proposing to go further and make sure anyone can always vote. She says that is the most basic right of US citizens. Actually I think any of the SOS candidates should pick up on part of Stacey’s point here. There is a lot of misinformation out there about who can and can’t vote, especially for felons. A good SOS needs to make sure such information is part of any public education initiative.

Finally, in point eight Stacey says there needs to be an anonymous tip line for the press in South Dakota. This would allow the press to report when they are being censored when covering candidates. She notes there are some good reporters in South Dakota, but questions whether all of their stories actually see the light of day. Stacey mentioned the lack of coverage for third-party and independent candidates is partially proof of this. I’m not sure I agree completely with here. I think there are more reasons than media corruption that third-party candidates don’t get coverage. A big part of it in has to do with the overall collapse of mainstream media in the modern world. As SOS, Stacey said she would take any of those anonymous tips and would as SOS inform the public of violations. This is a tough one. I’m not sure if she will get a lot of support on this last point.

Overall I think Stacey had some interesting ideas in reforming the election portion of the SOS office. Most notably I think her right of recall talking point should be interesting if it comes up in the planned SOS debate in October. I am going to have to give Stacey an overall failing grade on her priorities however. It is understandable that the election process is important to her, and all the people of South Dakota. But she failed to even mention the business filings portion of the job, which has just as many (if not more) problems than the election side of things. I believe Reistroffer and Krebs will simply trample over her (in a respectful way) in the upcoming debate if she doesn’t have something business filing related in her issues by that time.

No matter what though I am happy to see Stacey in this race. It is always good to have alternatives in all elections. Her focus only on the election part of the office may be more important to many voters than anything on the business side of the office. It will be interesting to see the results of the SOS race this fall. 

Independent gubernatorial candidate Mike Myers at the Alt Candidate Forum

Independent gubernatorial candidate Mike Myers speaking at the Alternative Candidate Forum. Photo by Ken Santema.

Independent gubernatorial candidate Mike Myers speaking at the Alternative Candidate Forum. Photo by Ken Santema.

On Saturday, August 23, there was an Alternative Candidates Forum held in Sioux Falls. Included in the list of speakers was Independent gubernatorial candidate Mike Myers. I’ve posted about Myers a few times on this blog (see PS), he is always an interesting person to listen to. Today he kept his speech pretty short and focused on “fighting the machine”.

Myers opened by noting that for the first time in decades the people of SD will have a choice between a Republican, Democrat and Independent candidate for Governor. I do tip my hat to Myers on that achievement. Getting on the ballot as an Independent governor is not easy. Even harder is fundraising, it is hard for Independent and third-party candidates to raise any money because as Myers notes they “are not for sale”.

In speaking order Myers followed the Constitution Party candidate for Secretary of State, Lori Stacey (post forthcoming), and wanted to add some comments about that race. Myers described the Secretary of State as being the “hitman for the Republican machine”. Myers mentioned he had sued the SOS after being denied the right to change his running mate. The Judge ruled in Myers favor and against the SOS. Myers contends this was a chance for him to “push back against the machine”. This issue had some good talking points for Myers. The problem is the SOS probably did what was technically right in this case; the SOS office maybe could have acted different, but if he did some people may have beat up the SOS office for going beyond Constitutional limits. Current election code is outdated and will continue to create messes and bring lawsuits against the SOS like the one brought forth by Myers until election code is fixed and brought into modern times. In this case I wouldn’t attack the current SOS if I were Myers. Instead I would make outdated election law the focus of any vitriol.

Myers went on to note that SD is mentioned quite often in rankings as one of the most corrupt states in the US. He said the political machine in Pierre actually has a lot of good people. But the amount of money involved in dealing with the political machine creates the environment for corruption. Myers hinted that controlling information is the visible portion of corruption in South Dakota.

Then Myers went on the report that the muzzle of the shotgun used by Benda was more than 18 inches from his body. I’ve covered this talking point from Myers before, and actually posted a video of this being demonstrated. Just like before, I’m not really following Myers on that talking point. I agree that Benda’s death is suspicious. And if there is any illegal activity it should be brought to light. But a better path to go would be to support Bob Mercer’s lawsuit to see the death reports. Or wait to see if the federal investigator releases anything. At this point it makes Myers lose credibility by invoking a document he hasn’t seen first-hand or can prove exists. It also draws the conversation away from whether EB-5 is a program the US and SD should even be involved with.

Myers wants to get to the bottom of the EB-5 scandal by doing two things if he becomes Governor. He wants to get Rounds and Daugaard under oath, which he would prefer them to do willingly. Then Myers would appoint a special independent prosecutor, which he says is allowed to the Governor by South Dakota Codified Law.

In this event Myers didn’t really provide anything new that I haven’t blogged about before. He stayed focused on his fight against the powers in Pierre. If he is going to actually gain momentum in this race he will have to give voters a reason to actually latch on to him. Pointing out the other guy isn’t nice doesn’t mean Myers will get votes. If anything it might actually send some Daugaard votes to Wismer.

PS. It is not intentional that Myers gets so many blog posts from me. But I try to travel to as many candidate forums as possible. Myers makes sure he is at all of these events. To me the issue shouldn’t be about Myers getting so much attention, but rather the issue is why certain other candidates get so little coverage from me because they aren’t attending or hosting true public events.

SD Libertarian SOS candidate Emmett Reistroffer at the Alt Candidate Forum

Libertarian SD SOS candidate Emmett Reistroffer speaking at the Alternative Candidate Forum. Photo by Ken Santema.

Libertarian SD SOS candidate Emmett Reistroffer speaking at the Alternative Candidate Forum. Photo by Ken Santema.

On Saturday, August 23, there was an Alternative Candidates Forum held in Sioux Falls. One of the guest speakers in attendance for the event was the Libertarian candidate for SD Secretary of State (SOS) Emmett Reistroffer. Reistroffer will be facing off against three candidates on the ballot this fall: Republican Shantel Krebs, Constitution Party Lori Stacey, and Democrat Angelia Schultz. This forum gave me a chance to hear Reistroffer actually talk about his plans for the SOS office.

Reistroffer spent a good amount of time going into his political history. At 24 years old he actually has quite a bit of political involvement. He got started working with Democrat campaigns, then had some experience with Republican campaigns. Reading Ron Paul’s book The Revolution seemed to have changed his opinion on how government should operate. I think what makes Reistroffer a good Libertarian candidate is that he sees there are good solutions from both the Democrat and Republican parties; and from Independent and third-party candidates. His aim doesn’t appear to be to divide government, but work on solutions to create a more efficient government.

In his political consulting business he has worked with all fifty Secretary of State offices around the country. This was part of a project comparing Secretary of State processes. During that process Reistroffer found the State of South Dakota has one of the biggest messes to clean up in regards to election laws. Reistroffer says SD has “a laundry list of outdated and unconstitutional election codes.” He said there are enough issues in South Dakota election code to write a book about. A couple of examples brought up by Reistroffer include felons voting and suppressing early voting on the reservations.

Reistroffer’s first order of business as SOS would be to call on the Governor and Legislature to create an election reform task-force. This would be similar to the task-forces created for education and criminal justice reform. He mentioned there have been a number of lawsuits against the SOS office this year that could have been avoided if the election code wasn’t setup to favor the establishment.

Reistroffer mentioned voting by mail. He has solutions to receive ballots without putting extra steps on Auditors offices. Other states are able to do this successfully. He noted that some would resist this change due to voter fraud. Yet Reistroffer contends that voter fraud comes from the establishment by blocking candidates, tracking them, and selectively enforcing election laws. He even gave a couple of well-known examples of the establishment selectively enforcing election laws: Brian Gosch notarizing his own petition and the case of a County Auditor coming in after hours to switch parties for a candidate that wanted to run for office. He noted the system will bend over backwards for establishment candidates, and he considers Democrats part of the establishment. Reistroffer says the Democrats in SD are just as concerned about keeping the power structure as it is, just like the Republicans in charge want the two power structure maintained.

If elected to the SOS office Reistroffer noted he would step down as Chairman of the SD Libertarian Party. He sees nothing wrong with running for SOS office and maintaining his position as the SDLP Chair. However if he becomes SOS he will immediately step down as Chair and focus on making the SOS office non-partisan. I think this should be a top priority for all four candidates in the SOS race. Once elected, the new SOS will have to show the office will not be a part of some of the partisan hi-jinks the current office has been accused of.

Reistroffer then went on the business side of the SOS office. He said as a Libertarian he is all about limiting government and making it more efficient. A big part of that plan as SOS would be to call on the Legislature and Governor to transfer the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) through phases to the SOS office. He understands the SOS does not have the power to make this change, so he would work with the Legislature and Governor to try getting such a change supported and changed by law. Such a move by GOED would allow the State to create a one-stop-shop for entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs could get all of the information they need from State Government in the most appropriate way. Reistroffer noted the SOS office is procedural and bookkeeping; while the Governors office is political. He said by having GOED fall under the Governors office “it naturally creates cronyism”. This is a proposal I really like and plan to do a separate post on in the future. It is worth looking deeper into.

He wants to model some functions of the SOS office after Colorado. The SOS office in Colorado is more proactive about letting candidates know about upcoming elections. He still receives alerts from doing work with Colorado. Such a change in SD would help candidates and business owners know what is expected to be filed and when. I really like Reistroffer’s idea here. As a consultant to small business and as someone who follows election I see this as a change that is needed now. Hopefully whoever wins the office will run with this idea.

Reistroffer also mentioned an education initiative. He would offer workshops, public input hearings, and seminars for areas related to the SOS office. This would be for candidates, small business owners, or anyone using the services of the SOS office. I will note that the current SOS has a start to this with some informational videos. Building upon that would be a good starting point.

Another area he wants to work on is improving voter turnout. Other states have embraced online voter registration, and Reistroffer thinks that would get a larger portion of younger voters to participate if online voter registration was available. I agree, the current system seems somewhat outdated.

Finally he would advocate that redistricting is done by computer generated means. Reistroffer admitted it is the job of the Legislature to assign the committee that does redistricting. However he says the SOS has the responsibility to ensure fair elections. As such he would want to advocate that redistricting is done in a manner that cannot be seen as gerrymandering. Reistroffer also mentioned there would likely be more Democrats serving in Pierre if not for the previous redistricting. But he noted the Democrats are not innocent in this matter, they worked out a deal to keep District 10 and District 15 very blue so the Democrats can keep those seats. I think this another idea all SOS candidates should pick up on.

Overall I thought Reistroffer did much better than I thought he would. I actually hadn’t had the opportunity to hear Reistroffer speak about his SOS campaign before. Part of me feared he would focus purely on election reforms, because of his experience there. But he does have some thoughts about bringing both the election and business side of the SOS office into the future. And most notably, I think his idea of removing GOED from the Governor’s office and placing it under the SOS is an interesting idea worth debating. It should be interesting to see how Reistroffer and Krebs do with their visions of the SOS office going in to the upcoming SOS debate.

Posts from the Alternative Candidates’ Forum forthcoming this week

On Saturday, August 23, there was an Alternative Candidate Forum held at the Main Public Library in Sioux Falls. As far as I can tell this was the first event of this type to be held in South Dakota. This event allowed a public forum for Independent and Third-Party candidates to get their message out and answer questions from the public and/or media.

Overall I would say the event was a success. It allowed the media (and me as a blogger) to hear some alternative viewpoints which can then be passed on to the voters. Throughout the week I will be posting about each candidate in attendance and what they had to say.

Here is the list of candidates that were in attendance:

  • Larry Pressler – Independent US Senate candidate facing off against Republican Mike Rounds, Democrat Rick Weiland, and Independent Gordon Howie.
  • Ryan Gaddy – Libertarian seeking to enter the Public Utilities Commission race. He has been denied ballot access due to registration issues and will be fighting that in court. If his court battle is successful he will face incumbent Republican Gary Hanson, Democrat David Allen, and Constitution Party candidate Wayne Schmidt.
  • John English – Libertarian Commissioner of School and Public Lands candidate that will be facing off against the current Republican Deputy Commissioner Ryan Brunner.
  • Ken Santema – Libertarian State Treasurer candidate that will be facing off against incumbent Republican candidate Richard Sattgast and Democrat candidate Dennis Pierson.
  • Lori Stacey – Constitution Party candidate for Secretary of State. She will be facing off against Republican Shantel Krebs, Democrat Angelia Schultz, and Libertarian Emmett Reistroffer.
  • Mike Myers – Independent gubernatorial candidate. He will face incumbent Republican Dennis Daugaard and Democrat candidate Susan Wismer.
  • Emmett Reistroffer – Libertarian Secretary of State candidate. He will face Republican Shantel Krebs, Constitution Party Lori Stacey, and Democrat Angelia Schultz.

It was an interesting event that will give me some blog posts that I hope will help voters. Getting information out to voters is one of my two big reasons for putting so much work into this blog. The other reason is to get an alternative viewpoint out there I feel gets left out too often.

Since nobody wants to talk about whether EB-5 is right, I guess we let Myers bring attention to it with sideshows

EB-5 should be a big issue during the 2014 election season in South Dakota. It won’t be. Don’t get me wrong, I do think EB-5 will be a word thrown around a lot. But as an issue it simply won’t matter at the ballot. And the ones that are talking about EB-5 will be doing so to either point fingers at Rounds/Daugaard or to uncover massive corruption in Pierre. It is unlikely any amount of EB-5 talking points will be successful doing any of those things. The simple fact of the matter is that ‘EB-5′ as a phrase is not well enough understood by the average voter to really mean anything.

Personally I think all of the EB-5 discussion has had the wrong focus anyhow. To me the discussion shouldn’t be about what specifically went wrong with EB-5 in South Dakota. Any ‘wrongdoings’ were likely to be legal. And any illegal activities will likely be linked to someone who is already dead and cannot defend himself. No, I would prefer the EB-5 discussion to revolve around whether the program should even exist within the United States. I would say such a program doesn’t belong in the US.

Over a year ago I wrote this about EB-5:

There is nothing free-market about any of the Northern Beef debacles. The EB-5 program is corporate welfare and has nothing to do with free-enterprise. At its core the EB-5 allows foreign investors to buy a green card; at the same time politicians get to funnel a LOT of money to their favored businesses. It’s a win-win. Well, it’s a win if you happen to be one of those investors or politicians. However if you happen to be someone working for an EB-5 welfare recipient it isn’t so good. These programs are well-known for being ineffective and falling way short of the “created jobs” promise that they were created for.

I stand by what I posted then. At its core the EB-5 program allows for massive amounts of money to be used in picking winners and losers in the market. Even ‘successful’ dealings with EB-5 should not be considered a good thing. The use of this EB-5 money corrupts the free market and provides ample opportunities for corruption. I still find it odd that anyone who cares about the free market or fiscal conservatism could advocate for such a program. More and more the evidence clearly shows that fiscal conservatives love to invoke ‘free market’ as a talking point, yet these same fiscal conservatives fail to actually live by those talking points.

Well, since nobody in politics will have the true discussion of whether EB-5 is right or wrong, I guess its time to look at what SD Independent gubernatorial candidate Mike Myers is doing. He is publicly calling out the Attorney General’s office for covering up the details of Richard Benda’s death. At Dakotafest last week Myers said he knew of a federal document that would prove Benda couldn’t have committed suicide in the officially announced way. Further the document allegedly states that the barrel of the gun used by Benda was at least 18 inches away. It should be noted that this document cannot be produced or corroborated by any other source. Until another source can be found the claims by Myers have to be taken with extreme skepticism (as should anything coming from any politicians).

Below is the video of Myers and Hubbel demonstrating how difficult it would be for Benda to have committed suicide in the officially stated manner. Since the candidates, media, and even bloggers, really don’t care about having a discussion about whether EB-5 is a good program; it creates a situation where candidates such as Myers and Hubbel have to create these sideshows just to get attention to the matter. Personally I think such sideshows are counter-productive. But since Myers did decide to go this route and I was there, I decided to record the event and let people decide for themselves.

Here is the video:

I know some will likely attack me for posting the video. OK, go ahead. Such attacks will just reinforce my point that people care more about the sideshows than the true conversation about whether EB-5 is a program the United States should even have.

The Dakotafest US Senate Forum put Weiland, Pressler, and Howie against Rounds

US Senate candidates at the Dakotafest forum. Photo by Ken Santema

US Senate candidates at the Dakotafest forum. Photo by Ken Santema

The agricultural trade show Dakotafest in Mitchell South Dakota included three political forums. The first forum between US House candidates Kristi Noem and Corinna Robinson was pretty low-key. But the second forum for the Governors office between Daugaard, Myers, and Wismer was actually pretty good. Now it is time to see how the third forum between US Senate hopefuls Howie, Pressler, Weiland, and Rounds went.

If the forum could be summed up in a few words it would be “lets team up on Rounds”. I don’t think there was an actual winner if this forum would be counted as a debate. But I do think Rounds lost the forum by having to go on the defensive (I’m assuming his plan was to refrain from attacking back at anyone). This isn’t the first time Rounds has chosen to attack back when coming under fire. Back in April at the SDNA debate Rounds attacked back at Stace Nelson. I’m actually looking forward to future debates to see if Rounds will try to keep a cool demeanor like Daugaard has in the Governors race, or will continue to fight back. I don’t really know which way is better to go for him, but seeing what he will do will add an extra layer of anticipation to the debates.

Here is a brief rundown of the forum [edit, OK I planned for it to be short]. It won’t be as much detail as I sometimes would for these events. The whole forum can be watched on the Argus Leader website.

Opening Statements

Gordon Howie came out saying America is in serious trouble. He says the country got where it currently is by sending politicians to DC who are worried about their next election. Even though Howie is running as an Independent he still sees himself as a true conservative lifelong Republican that wants to lead the party back to being principled. With a shot towards Rounds and the EB-5 mess he said that citizenship isn’t something should be bought.

Mike Rounds made the case that his ten years in the legislature and eight years as governor shows he knows how to work with others and get things done. He reminded the attendees that he had to pass a balanced budget each year as Governor. Rounds said big government needs to get out of South Dakota, especially out of farm ponds. Shots at the EPA are always a winner with a SD farm crowd. He also mentioned that the Keystone XL pipeline needs to pass and the carbon tax needs to be gotten rid of.

Larry Pressler said he is running as an Independent because of the broken relationship between Republicans and Democrats in DC. He then said he is the same fiscal conservative Senator that South Dakota had sent to DC as a Republican. But being an Independent allows him to work in a bipartisan fashion. Pressler then mentioned that revenues have to be enhanced and the budget needs to be balanced. Finally he said as a one-term Senator he would be pretty powerful.

Rick Weiland said he is angry with Washington. He talked about DC being broken government that big money has hijacked. He said over the last year has been traveling to every town in the state, held over 200 town hall meetings, and listened to people. Weiland contends that people are looking for someone to stand up for everyday folks. To get a shot in at Rounds he said that EB-5 is a local example of big money gone bad.

Actually I thought all four did a pretty good job with their opening statements. I think the best message of the four might have been Howie with his return to principled approach.

First Priority

Weiland’s first priority is to figure out how to get big money from setting public policy. He said the government needs to be taken back from big money. Weiland also went into a topic I think the conservative candidates should be agreeing on: why is so much money paid to Big Ag through the farm bill; very little of that money actually goes to SD farmers. When talking about healthcare, Weiland said ACA leaves the insurance companies in charge of healthcare. I wonder if Rounds would agree more with that talking point if he wasn’t in the insurance industry….

Howie said he would want anyone that didn’t vote to repeal Obamacare should be replaced. His top priority in DC would be cut spending. Howie contends that principle has been removed from government. Further he states that free market principles are needed in DC.

Rounds said his top priority is to get control of the EPA. He says the EPA is doing more damage than almost any other bureaucracy. In order to get rid of the EPA he says Reid has to go. He went on to say the budget needs to be balanced like it is in South Dakota. When talking healthcare Rounds said he would repeal and replace ACA piece by piece with consumer-based solutions. Then came Rounds first boo, he made the claim that $700 billion has been taken from Medicare to fund Obamacare. This has been debunked and de-debunked many times by various organizations. The simple truth though is the number comes from the CBO, and they still publish that number. Whether the $700 billion line is a lie really depends upon personal opinion and cannot truly be proven until the future when historical data actually comes in. Supporters of ACA use the CBO’s numbers to tout ACA often, they can’t ignore this one because they don’t like it. At most they can claim that Rounds is taking the $700 billion out of context. And those against ACA can’t really use the $700 billion number with good conscience because they are not putting it in context with other numbers the CBO puts out. The $700 billion line is nothing more than a way to excite a candidates voter base.

Pressler said he wants to restore honesty in budgetary policy. He noted special interest money makes this hard. Pressler also pointed out that over the last ten years Republicans have voted for deficit spending more than Democrats have; although both parties are guilty of deficit spending. He then noted Obama is his friend and the resolution to impeach him is bad. I find it odd that Pressler is trying to connect himself with Obama, but the Democrat candidate Weiland is trying to distance himself from the President. Pressler wants to work with Obama to get the EPA to work with the state. He also says the EPA is not part of any land grab.

Overall I would agree with any of the cutting spending talking points from the candidates. I think the smartest move was done by Rounds though. The $700 billion line gets his opposition worked up into a tizzy, but I’ve also seen it get his base worked up in favor of him. He might be using that $700 billion line more as a way to get his base worked up as part of a GOTV effort, instead of trying to gain votes from it.

Congressional Approval Ratings

Howie says that voters lack straight talking people in DC. He pledges to never vote for tax increases in DC; and pointing out he is the only candidate to make that statement. He then called out Rounds for not ruling out tax increases. He said the government needs to be reigned in and that the country doesn’t have “taxed not enough” issues.

Rounds says that people want results. He said South Dakotans want the government to live within its means and to tax only to do appropriate things. Rounds sniped back at Howie a bit by saying that the tax pledge doesn’t actually stop spending. Rounds says new expenditures need to be justified. And finally he mentioned getting rid of the Department of Education and the five thousand bureaucrats that work for the DOE.

Pressler focused on how powerful Independent Senators can be, mostly because they can work on both sides. He said the two parties fighting is a huge issue. Pressler then reiterated his one-term pledge and said that frees him up to actually work, while other Senators will spend half their time raising money for the next election. Pressler then went on to say he would reduce the overseas military presence; he would move troops from overseas and station them on the US/Mexico border. He cannot see immigration reform happening without securing the border first. I wonder if that is an attempt to grab some Republicans away from Rounds?

Weiland started with getting big money out of politics. He said big money politicians are not representing the voters of their states. He also mentioned the “dark money” of Super-PACs. He then went on to defend the Department of Education from “Mike” (he used Rounds first name a lot during this forum). Weiland said getting rid of the DOE is not realistic and asked what we as a state would be giving away by making such a move. He then went on to mention the teacher shortage due in part to consistent cuts made to education by Governor Rounds over the years.  He also mentioned that Rounds had added around 1500 bureaucrats to Pierre while Governor.

Actually I liked Howie best in that round. I wish there would be a full debate on the DOE. It would be interesting to watch Rounds and Weiland go back and forth about who the bigger big government supporter is. It also would be interesting to have seen all four panelists talk immigration and see how they compared to Presslers proposal.

ACA – Repeal and Replace? or Fix?

Rounds had already answered this, but he reiterated he would repeal and replace ACA section by section. He noted the costs of ACA keeps rising and that it will simply not work long-term. He said coverage need to be focused on consumers. He also said he supports the REINS ACT, which would require Congress to approve major regulatory rules made by the executive branch. He said that would prevent government from growing without approval from Congress.

Pressler says ACA is here to stay, but would likely have voted against it had he been a Senator when it passed. Pressler then mentioned he had invited Obama to South Dakota in order to discuss healthcare. He contends a lot of portions of South Dakota want something like Obamacare (he failed to mention specific parts). Pressler went on to say there are some good things in ACA and supports retaining ACA with some changes.

Weiland called out Rounds for the commercial with his dad and $700 billion line. He called a worn out argument that was debunked (see my comments above, yes that was debunked, and the debunk has been debunked, and on and on). Weiland says ACA is not affordable enough and that people like Medicare. He would prefer to open up Medicare to everyone. Weiland contends such a move would create a more solvent Medicare system. Weiland also contends that ACA had fixed some things in the healthcare industry.

Howie said a full repeal is needed. He mentioned that as a legislator Howie had introduced a bill in 2010 to counter ACA and that the Rounds administration had killed it. Howie calls ACA a budget buster. He then went on to mention the 2010 budget that Governor Rounds used to increase the budget and ended up leaving the state with a huge deficit the next year. Howie also made the connection to the state trying to kill the raw milk industry in South Dakota. Finally, Howie made the connection between Common Core and Governor Rounds. Rounds was a member of the NGA board that brought Common Core to South Dakota. Howie would prefer an education system that leaves the power to make education decisions in the hands of teachers.

Actually I like Howie’s answer the best again on this topic. I agree a full repeal is needed. Plus I think he did the best job of taking it to Rounds. Everyone has to aim hard at Rounds to pull votes away. But for second place I go with Rounds. Supporting the REINS ACT is a good stance for Rounds to take. I should also give points to Weiland for taking it to Rounds. Pressler really didn’t give me a lot to like about him on that one though…

ACA Part II – Rounds Defends himself with a rebuttal round

Rounds took direct aim back at Howie by saying that Federal law cannot be changed at the state level. Rounds shot back at Weiland by stating the CBO still says $716 billion is being taken from Medicare. Then he went into talking about the rationing panels that are part of ACA (in the past called death panels by Palin).

Howie said other states had passed the law Governor Rounds failed to support against ACA. He also reminded Rounds of the 10th Amendment and states rights.

Weiland to a shot at Rounds being proud of a balanced budget in SD by stating that a balanced budget is constitutionally required in this State. He also says Rounds is not completely honest about how the budget is balanced, since so much of the state budget is filled by using federal dollars. He also noted that since Rounds supported the Ryan Budget, Rounds therefore must support the voucherizing of Medicare included in that budget.

Pressler said the deficit is a huge issue for the agricultural industry and that would cause the dollar to collapse. (OK, I agree with him, but I think Pressler forgot what the rebuttal was supposed to be about).

In the rebuttal I will give Rounds the loss. I think he would have been better off not responding to Howie. I just can’t see why he would fire back at someone who polls in the single digits. I will give some points to Howie for invoking the 10th Amendment and Weiland for mentioning that most of the farm bill helps Big Ag, and not the average farmer.


This is a question Pressler chose to go after Rounds on. He said the EB-5 situation in South Dakota must be investigated much more thoroughly. Pressler said it would leave South Dakota with a “wounded Senator” if Rounds is elected. He went on to say that Rounds should disclose everything now in a “Memorandum of Fact” so nothing can surprise voters after the election. Pressler also went on to say South Dakota doesn’t have enough money for true investigative journalists; and that if Rounds is sent to DC there are plenty of investigative journalists there that would find anything Rounds is hiding about EB-5.

Weiland said EB-5 needs to be repealed and replaced with something that doesn’t lead to corruption. He joined Pressler in beating up Rounds this question by saying the people of South Dakota deserve an explanation. He also mentioned that Iowa US Senator Grassley, who Rounds has been fundraising with, has been against EB-5. Weiland contends the state has lost millions of dollars on a scandal created by the Rounds administration. Weiland says that type of scandal just isn’t like SD.

Howie noted EB-5 is a federal program and that the problems with EB-5 had more to do with how it was administered in South Dakota. Howie doesn’t think a Memorandum of Fact from Rounds is enough. He wants Rounds to tensity under oath. Further Howie state there is corrupted form of Republicans in charge of the government in South Dakota.

Rounds also noted that EB-5 is a federal program. He mentioned there are around five hundred EB-5 regional offices around the country and they each compete with each other. He also said the EB-5 program was moved out of the state office. Rounds tried to clarify that EB-5 only allows for a visa, and does not actually sell citizenship. He touted the program for bringing economic development to South Dakota and that is a good thing. Finally he said he would have fired Benda if he knew what was going on. To finish it off, Rounds said the Beef Plant in Aberdeen brought in more tax revenue than the state had paid out to the program.

Honestly I didn’t like anyone on this question. It was fun to watch the other three gang up on Rounds. The answer I agree with the most was Weiland saying the EB-5 program needs to be replaced. But EB-5 is a bi-partisan concept that I feel a big government type like Weiland would normally support if there hadn’t been a scandal. Plus Howie didn’t really talk bad about EB-5, just how it was handled. Pressler’s Memorandum of Fact was an interesting approach that gives him some points.


Really none of them had anything interesting to say in closing (either that or I was tired of listening to them by this point and my idea of what is relevant changed). As I said before I don’t think this forum had a clear winner. But I do think Rounds lost by having to go on the offense to defend himself against Howie. Howie also was surprising in this forum. I found myself agreeing with him more than I thought I would. We’ll see if that stays true after a forum that has some social issues…


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