On Tuesday, Oct 28, Senator Tim Johnson will be in Aberdeen as part of his “Tour of Thanks”. He will be at the Eagles club at 5pm. Here is the blurb sent out by the Brown County Democrats:
Senator Tim Johnson is making stops across the state to say Thank You to his constituents. Folks are invited to stop by to enjoy a short program, visit with Senator & Mrs. Johnson, and enjoy a cup of coffee and dessert.
I plan on attending the event and hope to get a blog post out of it.
PS. For all the traveling I’ve done this year for political events it just occurred to me I haven’t once run into Senator Johnson. Maybe I happen not to go to events he chooses to attend. I’ve run into Senator Thune a couple of times and spoken with him at least once, but Johnson really seems noticeably missing from SD politics.
The Brown County Republicans are hosting their monthly(ish) Reagan Lunch tomorrow, October 23rd at noon in the Aberdeen GOP Victory Center (1205 6th Ave SW). I was happy to see this also happens to be a chili feed (I’m on a high protein diet, chili is perfect!). This months guest speaker is Marty Jackley. Jackley is seeking reelection as the SD Attorney General. For those unfamiliar with Jackley, here is the blurb sent out by the Brown County Republicans about him:
Marty Jackley has been our Attorney General since September 2009. Marty was raised in Sturgis and graduated from the SD School of Mines in 1992. he then went on to receive his law degree from University of SD in 1995.
He presently serves as President of the National Association of Attorneys General.
Marty and his wife, Angela, and 2 children live in Pierre.
I did an interview with Jackley while he was in attendance at the Brown County Fair. This is a good chance to meet the Attorney General and get some chili.
This week there will be three SD political debates/forums being broadcast on TV over the next three days. There will be debates televised for the gubernatorial race, US Senate race, and the US House race. KELO and SDBP will be hosting them. Here are the details of each debate:
KELO SD Gubernatorial Debate – Weds Oct 22 – 8:00 pm CT
Incumbent Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard will face Democrat challenger Susan Wismer and Independent challenger Mike Myers. This will be fourth and final public debate between the three candidates (Daugaard limited debates to four in June). Previously the three have faced off at Dakotafest, the State Fair, and on SDPB. Tonight will basically be the last chance for Myers and Wismer to show why they should be governor over Daugaard.
SDPB US Senate Debate – Thurs Oct 23 – 8:00 pm CT
The US Senate debate on SDPB might be interesting to watch. It will be interesting to see if Larry Pressler (I), Gordon Howie (I), and Rick Weiland (D) continue to pound Mike Rounds (R) about EB-5. I’ve blogged previously about these four debating at Dakotafest and the State Fair. This is not the final debate between the four. On Weds, Oct 29, there will be a televised KELO debate for the US Senate candidates.
KELO US House Debate – Fri Oct 24 – 7:00 pm CT
Just last week the incumbent Representative Kristi Noem (R) faced off against Corinna Robinson. That was a pretty lackluster debate, yet it was somehow an improvement over the Dakotafest debate. I wouldn’t expect too much from this one either. Robinson would have to do something pretty dramatic in her KELO debate with Noem to turn the tide of this election.
My schedule this week is pretty busy, so I may not actually follow all of the debates. But for anyone that has yet to hear from the candidates I would recommend watching them.
Denny Pierson, the Democrat candidate for State Treasurer, was in attendance at the Brown County Democrat lunch last week. In the State Treasurers race he is running against incumbent Republican Rich Sattgast and Libertarian newcomer Ken Santema (that’s me by the way, but I am always nice so I’ll treat this post as if I’m not in the race). After the lunch I took the opportunity to sit down and speak with Pierson about his top priorities if he is elected to serve in Pierre.
Pierson said he would like to change how unclaimed property works. He would like to make it easier for people to get connected with their property. To do that he would try to make every County Treasury office an extension of State Treasurer in dealing with Unclaimed Property. He stated that he doesn’t mean the Treasurer would be in charge of all functions of the County Treasurers office. But he would have one person trained in each County Treasurers office that could help people with claim forms right there in each county. He says that would localize the process for people to get their money back from the state. It would be much more convenient than mail for people to have an option to visit their local county courthouse. That would meet an overall goal he has to make it less cumbersome to claim Unclaimed Property. This initiative would also be part of his goal to reduce the total amount of money in the unclaimed property fund to twenty percent of what it is today.
I then asked Pierson about the change of the State moving from five to three years in taking unclaimed property. He said the move was wrong, and believes if the powers in Pierre can get away with it they will be taking the money in one or two years. Pierson would like to go back to five years before taking people’s money. He understands he would have to work with the legislature to make that change. But he would lobby hard in the legislature as the State Treasurer to get that changed back to the longer time-period.
Pierson’s last priority was to educate the public about Unclaimed Property. He would like to have Public Service Announcements (PSAs) monthly if possible to let people know about unclaimed property and get the names of people out there that are on the list. To extend his idea of working with the County Treasurers, he says the lists should also be available for viewing at the County Courthouses.
Pierson is an interesting entry into this race. His idea of expanding the Unclaimed Property area of the State Treasurers office to County Treasurers is interesting. I haven’t looked deep enough into to see whether it is a workable idea yet, but I will admit it is something worth discussing. I think the Democrats may have chosen well when putting Pierson on the ballot for State Treasurer.
Earlier I posted about the Brown County Democrats Dollar-a-Month club meeting at Pizza Ranch in Aberdeen. After the meeting District 3 Democrat State House candidate Burt Elliott rose to talk about his housing situation for a moment. He has taken criticism from Republicans for running in District 3, while actually residing in district 2. This is a big issue. I’ve spoken with a few current legislators (including one Democrat that wishes to remain unnamed) that have stated concerns about whether Elliott will be allowed to take his seat in the State Legislature in the event Elliott wins the election. There is a possibility that the Speaker of the House can refuse to seat Elliott because he does not meet the basic requirements of a legislator from District 3.
Elliott stated that he has been in Aberdeen for fifty years. He said the apartment he bought in town was done so he can “run in the Aberdeen District. Where I live. Where I belong. Where I’ve spent fifty of sixty-seven years. Elliott says everyone in Aberdeen knows where he is all year (he is implying in Aberdeen, didn’t actually say that though). Further he said everyone in town knows his opponent (Al Novstrup) spends four months of year in Sioux Falls or Fargo. Elliott then says that during the forum a couple of weeks ago Al Novstrup made a cheap shot at his wife Elaine, who has Parkinson’s disease. Therefore he believes Al is a bully.
After this event I had the opportunity to catch up with Al Novstrup at a public meet and greet . He said he had not taken any shot at Elaine Elliott. He only wanted to point out that Burt Elliott does not live in District 3. Al says that Elliott’s residence is in District 2. His question about Elaine had to do with how moving into a basement apartment helped her reduce the use of stairs. In regards to where Al sleeps, he notes that he stays with relatives for the forty days that he sleeps in Sioux Falls for work. His wife and sock drawer remain in Aberdeen; specifically in a portion of Aberdeen that is a part of District 3.
I don’t think this issue is going away any time soon. Obviously the Republicans want to keep this seat. But going beyond that, I think everyone should be at least wary of what will happen in the event Elliott wins this race. If it is found that Elliott is not in fact living in District 3, then the Speaker of the House can refuse to seat Elliott. That will leave an open seat in the SD Legislature, and potentially lead to the Governor appointing a replacement. Even if things do not go that far it will cause a potential legal battle or continued attacks going back and forth between the two parties over the matter. I’m not sure what Elliott can do, but he needs to find a way to end this issue before November 4. If Elliott isn’t able to find a way to prove his actual residence, this small series of attacks back and forth may get truly nasty.
District 2 legislative candidates and State Treasurer candidate at the Brown County Democrats meeting in Aberdeen
On October 17 the Brown County Democrats held their Dollar-a-Month club meeting at Pizza Ranch in Aberdeen. There were four guest speakers in attendance for this meeting. First there were the three legislative candidates for District 2: Chuck Welke (Senate), Natasha Noethlich (House), and John Graham (House). As a bonus the Democrat candidate for State Treasurer, Denny Pierson, was also able to attend and speak at the event. In this post I will pass on a few key points from what each speaker had to say. I’ve also included some brief words from Burt Elliott at the end of this post.
District 2 legislative candidate John Graham was up first. Graham kept his speech very short. During the intro given to him it was mentioned that he has been to Pierre lobbying on behalf of labor. I think that is something he should be talking about when before crowds like this. Graham talked briefly about funding. Graham would like to see a day where SD isn’t depending upon the federal government for funding. But until that day happens he said it is important to use the money that South Dakota gets from the federal government where it is needed. Graham finished off by saying he is there to represent labor in Pierre.
State Senator Chuck Welke was up next. Welke is in a very tight race defending against veteran Republican legislator Brock Greenfield. Welke started out by saying that if not for the Democrat minority in Pierre that the Republican majority in Pierre “would be doing a lot more stuff they shouldn’t be doing”. He said it is important to have the party that is out of power act as a watchdog party.
Welke noted that Democrats are outnumbered by Republicans in District 2. But he says that if a good GOTV effort is done in District 2, the independents and Democrats together outnumber the Republicans and it is possible to win. Personally I think his watchdog party talking point works well with independents.
There were a number of key issues that Welke mentioned are important to him. First he mentioned education. He spent thirty-five years in education himself. During that time he had thought about leaving education, partly due to pay. Last summer there was an education summer study that Welke was a part of. He heard from many ex-teachers during that time that had left the education system in order to make higher pay in the agribusiness industry. From that summer study it was determined there was a crisis, but Welke does not believe the Republicans in Pierre agreed that it was a crisis then. And now he says the crisis has gotten even worse.
Welke contends the state has not lived up to its obligations; which has caused a tax shift to the local level. He contends lack of support for education funding in Pierre has forced schools and counties to opt-out. These opt-outs are putting more burden upon the local taxpayers according to Welke. He says the state needs to do more.
This year Welke is a member of the summer study dealing with roads and bridges. He noted the federal stimulus package helped the state highways get into great condition. But he said something has to be done for all roads or they will have fallen apart in ten years.
EB-5 was Welke’s next subject. He contends that EB-5 would not even be a known issue if certain Democrats had not been pushing for a long time. Kathy Tyler and Susan Wismer are two people he noted as having been important trying to get more information about what happened with the EB-5 situation. Welke says some legislators have been trying to get something done regarding EB-5 for a year and a half. He noted this was not a partisan issue at first. But after Tyler started pushing legislation, the lack of balance in Pierre prevented any progress from being made.
Finally Welke said there needs to be balance and accountability in Pierre. He says there needs to be a strong minority party. Welke said that right now “what gets done in Pierre, gets done behind closed doors”. That was in reference to most legislation being decided in the Republican caucus, instead of out on the legislative floors. He was the Senate sponsor of a bill that tried to change that this year (HB 1172), but that was shot down in committee. He finished by saying there needs to be a competition of ideas in Pierre.
District 2 House candidate Natasha Noethlich was up after Welke. Noethlich said she is running in part because she has spoken to many people who feel they have no access to legislators. She says there is a feeling that current legislators are “there for their own purpose”.
Noethlich and her husband are first-generation farmers. Currently the legislature has only about 10% of its members active in the agriculture industry according to Noethlich. She stated there have been changes in farming. Noethlich didn’t actually say it, but I think she was trying to make the case she should be sent to Pierre to be a good representative of the new wave of farmers.
Going on, Noethlich talked about needing to help people. She has seen the struggles of old people in nursing homes. Many of those people she has spoken to in those nursing homes are having to dig into their life savings to pay for a nursing home. She also highlighted low-pay workers that are unable to have procedures because they cannot afford it and don’t have insurance.
Then Noethlich mentioned seeing a Daugaard commercial touting the fact he didn’t have to raise taxes in his first term. She claims that local tax districts had to raise taxes due to Daugaard’s administration refusing to raise taxes. Noethlich says that Pierre needs to be fixed so local taxes don’t need to be raised anymore.
Noethlich closed by saying that candidates need to be sent to Pierre to represent everyone. She stated that “we are not cookie cutter people”.
After Noethlich it was time for the Democrat candidate for State Treasurer, Denny Pierson. One thing Pierson spoke about when going through his history was his time spent as a teacher. He left teaching after eleven years because he needed better pay to support a family. That was building upon what Welke had been talking about earlier.
Pierson noted that he was a member of the SD Legislature from 93-94. Those years are notable because the Democrats enjoyed a majority in the State Senate. He noted that during that time Governor Mickelson had to work with Democrats to get things done. In order to get anything accomplished Mickelson had to seek out Democrat legislators. Pierson says that is needed again.
When talking about the ballot, Pierson said that to be considered viable it is important that Democrat Party not to leave seats open. Pierson said this is a critical point for the Democrat Party. He says the party cannot become a majority party again if candidates are not filled for each seat. This includes everything from county-level offices to constitutional offices. He also said the Democrat Party “needs to get rid of that defeatist attitude”. Then Pierson went on to talk about rebuilding the Democrat infrastructure through fundraising and education. I don’t think anyone in the room disagreed with what he was saying.
Pierson then talked briefly about the Treasurers office. He noted the Treasury Department is not likely involved directly with EB-5. But he would like to know why the press has not asked if the State Treasury was involved in cutting checks to those involved in the EB-5 program. Further, he would like to know how that money did get out to certain individuals. He acknowledges that some of those questions have been asked, but also that many have not been answered. Pierson then reiterated that the EB-5 fiasco would not have happened if the Democrats had a little bit more power for oversight in Pierre.
After speaking, Pierson was asked a question about whether the State Treasurer was still under a gag order. Pierson said he believes the gag order is still in effect. But he stated that as the Treasurer he would be willing to go to jail for speaking the truth.
Overall I think this was a good event for the Brown County Democrats to get local activists connected with candidates. I can’t say anything new really came from any of the candidates in these speeches. But then these type of events are more about exciting the base than actually getting information out.
A little over a week ago I spent a few minutes chatting with Independent US Senate candidate Gordon Howie in Aberdeen. Howie entered the race as an independent as a contingency in case fellow Republican Stace Nelson was able to win the Primary. After Mike Rounds won the Primary Election, Howie stepped full-force into the race so he could become the choice of “true conservatives”. For the purpose of this post I will focus on what Howie told me were his top priorities if chosen to serve in DC.
Howie said a main goal would be to “provide a positive role model for Thune”. He did not say anything directly negative about Thune. Instead he expanded on the actions he would have taken differently as a Senator from South Dakota. When Senator Cruz stood on the Senate floor for hour he would have been there, instead of supporting Senator McConnell as most of the Senate Republicans did. Howie said he would have been there supporting the effort to advance conservative principles. To finish this part of the conversation off, Howie asked “Does South Dakota want another McConnell clone?” I believe Howie is hoping conservative South Dakota voters will say no to that.
A bit part of the Howie campaign has revolved around principles. Howie believes too many politicians have left their principles behind when elected. In particular, he says inevitability is the adversary of principled politics. He does not believe legislators in any level of government should vote for legislation simply because it will probably pass anyway. In order to move the country forward, Howie contends that principles must be used for every vote. Howie believes that is true whether it is a legislator voting on bills or a citizen in the voting booth.
When talking about the economic state of the United States Howie believes there are three standard things that must done: cut spending, reduce debt, and cut government growth. He said these are not new ideas, but rather they are basic conservative principles. He then asked if anyone believes any of his opponents would be likely to actually try advancing all three conservative principles. This has been a very consistent message for Howie. A lot of his time spent in the Senatorial debates has been used to show that Mike Rounds does not follow these basic principles.
National security is another big priority for Howie. He believes the immigration situation has become critical. Howie believes the US has the resources needed to secure our border. He asks why Mexico and Canada can keep their borders secure, yet the US is unable to do so. I did ask him about fell Independent Senate candidate Pressler’s idea to move troops from the European military theater and redeploy them to the border. He called that an idea “fraught in fantasy”. Howie says that proposal from Pressler was nothing more than a candidate creating a “political soundbite pandering to voters”.
Finally, Howie said legislators should spend more time being concerned about what they are doing, instead of what they are saying. He believes there is little more than rhetoric that comes from most politicians. That is why he believes the conservative vote should go to him. Where other politicians will say one thing to get elected, then vote however the party tells them once they are in power; Howie says he will actually vote according to the principles he has laid out during his campaign.
At this point all the polls I’ve seen show Howie at a very small single-digit percentage points in the race. Yet he feels there is a surprise coming up that will cause voters to support him in the end. I can’t imagine what that would be at this point, but it would make for one heck of an election night if that were to be true!