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SD gubernatorial debate at the State Fair highlights

Daugaard, Myers, and Wismer at the SD State Fair gubernatorial debate. Photo by Ken Santema.

Daugaard, Myers, and Wismer at the SD State Fair gubernatorial debate. Photo by Ken Santema.

Today was the SD gubernatorial debate at the South Dakota State Fair in Huron. All three candidates were in attendance: incumbent Republican Dennis Daugaard, Independent Mike Myers, and Democrat Susan Wismer. Compared to the Dakotafest gubernatorial debate I would say this one was pretty lackluster. It was noted by quite a few attendees after the debate that EB-5 was not a topic of discussion. I’m not sure if this was on purpose, or just because there wasn’t enough time.

Here are some highlights from the debate with a few of my thoughts added in. I’m not doing a complete rundown like I did with the past debate; I’ll only be highlighting new stances or thoughts (don’t get too excited, that doesn’t mean this post will be short). I guess this post is more about getting a viewpoint in the debate that felt missing. The moderator chose only questions about agricultural policy and rural issues.

Opening Statements

Daugaard – During his opening statements Daugaard mentioned he “eliminated the deficit caused by the recession”. This was interesting because the non-Republican US Senate candidates have been beating up Rounds (the governor before Daugaard) for leaving the state with a huge deficit at the end his term. I think the thought here was to make sure he is able to tout his accomplishment of eliminating the deficit without throwing Rounds under the bus. Pretty smart move on his part.

Myers – Most notable from his opening remarks is Myers saying “Governor Daugaard and Susan necessarily are for sale. I’ve got a list of the names of people who uh, that bought these people”. Myers then went on to note how little he had raised. I think Myers was trying to point out that both sides are being supported with people who want something in return. Myers on the other hand is saying he only wants to work for the people of SD.

Wismer – I don’t think Wismer said anything in this speech I hadn’t heard from her before. So I’ll take this opportunity to say that Wismer is doing much better at public speaking; compared to a few months ago. I’m not sure if she got a coach, or if it is just from experience over this long campaign. No matter how she improved I am glad to see it. I may not support her as a candidate, but I want a good race and she is doing much better than I predicted in the past.

Funding to repair Roads and Bridges

Daugaard – Daugaard mentioned the State and Federal highways are in pretty good shape. He conceded this due in large part thanks to federal stimulus money received at the beginning of the recession. The small government part of me cringes every time I hear a Republican proud to have used federal dollars to maintain something that should be handled locally. Daugaard then mentioned the County and Township roads are in fair or poor condition. Since Daugaard is committed to improving roads, he says he will not promise this time campaigning that there will be no tax increases. I don’t think Daugaard will get beat up too badly if any tax increases go to the county and townships, where it can be managed and spent locally for infrastructure maintenance.

Myers – Myers noted he has longtime admiration for Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D Roosevelt. Going back to FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps (ccc), Myers wants to create the South Dakota Infrastructure Core. Then, according to Myers, whenever someone wants unemployment benefits they “will be given a shovel and put on the road”. He says that is the method of infrastructure repair he will promote. Myers lost me on that one. Public works projects like CCC and the one proposed by Myers don’t really help the economy, they more skew resources and make things look better than they are. But I will give Myers credit for having a solution, albeit one that makes government bigger…

Wismer – I didn’t hear much new from Wismer here (have I been to her events too often?)  So for this one I’ll use one of her talking points to make a point I think is worthy of discussion. Wismer once again noted that SD gets more back from the federal government than paid out from the gas tax in South Dakota. She wants to keep that great deal. Unfortunately both the Republican and Democrat candidate are OK with SD taking money from other states to maintain our infrastructure. Personally I think the federal Highway Fund needs to go away and let each state (including SD) decide how to maintain its own roads. That would also mean the federal gas tax would go away and would likely be replaced equally or higher at the state level. Yes, I realize SD would receive less gas tax revenue that way, but it would also have less burdensome and costly requirements that come with the Federal Highway Trust Fund.

No rebuttals this round.

Healthcare and Nursing Homes closing

Myers – Myers said “our healthcare system is taking us into political and economic bankruptcy”. He proposes instead creating a South Dakota Health Insurance Cooperative. That way people will own the system, and not the “big corporate boys”. As to nursing homes, he is proposing the Medicaid expansion with a waiver to prioritize nursing homes. He did come out against Medicaid expansion in the previous debate; but this time he seems to only want to expand Medicaid to bail out the nursing homes. The federal government has been pretty strict on the waivers for Medicaid expansion, I’m not sure his proposal would work. Plus, the fiscal conservative part of me is worried about the federal deficit and debt. The total collapse of the dollar would make current healthcare problems look minor. Its time to be fiscally responsible and avoid expanding Medicaid at the cost of higher national debt.

Wismer – Wismer opened by saying she would stay away from talking Medicaid expansion (which she seem to always talk about), and instead focus on other areas. Wismer said many nursing homes only exist because they benefit from non-profits and paying customers subsidizing them? I’m not sure what she is deriding here. To me it sounds like she is saying the free market has found a solution, and that must be fixed? That just seemed odd to me. She did note that since South Dakota isn’t paying its Medicaid cost, it is imposing more costs on paying customers. She also said SD’s mishandling of Medicaid dollars is causing nursing positions to go underpaid. I’m not sure about that. She really lost me by trying to make the case that non-profits and customers paying for nursing is a bad thing.

Daugaard – Daugaard mentioned SD has very good healthcare. He touted how Avera, Sanford and RC Regional are so great. Here is where Daugaard loses me now. These are the very institutions that are promoting and extending the current healthcare system that drives massive profits to them, while taking people’s hard-earned money for very little in return besides bureaucratic nightmares and never-ending unforeseen costs (now mandated through ACA, anyone really think these institutions truly opposed ACA?)

Wismer Rebuttal – Wismer mentioned SD recently modified the State Employee Health Insurance Plan that makes employees travel to SF or RC for major procedures instead of using mid-size hospitals. This was in reply to Daugaard speaking about rural healthcare issues. I’ll have to look into this more. Wismer’s description is different from I understood it to be.

Myers Rebuttal – Myers noted that monthly insurance premiums are what mortgages used to be. Actually, I know more than a few people who have higher health insurance premiums that are higher than their mortgage payments…

Daugaard Rebuttal – No Rebuttal

Ethanol

Wismer – Wismer noted her uncle was responsible for the local coop installing the first blender pump in the country. I’m not sure that’s really relevant, but its a pretty cool political tidbit. Wismer said ethanol has brought an economic boon to farmers. She disputed two myths that have come up about Ethanol recently with the following facts: E30 is not illegal, and E30 does not harm engines. She then went on to ask Daugaard to put the whole state fleet on E30. I don’t know, apparently I’m out of the loop. I hadn’t heard the rumor E30 is illegal or harmful. I’ve heard it’s actually pretty safe and provides a good octane boost at a low comparative cost to alternatives. I still don’t know if that means E30 for the whole SD state fleet of cars is a good idea, but it is worth considering at least.

Daugaard – Daugaard mentioned all large fuel pumps used by the state already use E15 for its fleet. I think it would be worth it for him to look into E30. He also has sent letters to the EPA supporting higher ethanol blends. He also mentioned SD has more blender pumps than any state in the nation. Daugaard received some cheers outside of his staged crew on this one. SD sure loves its ethanol!

Myers – Myers brought this question to Industrial and Agricultural hemp. He noted hemp doesn’t need fertilizer and it is a good source of ethanol that doesn’t impact the food sources. Many farmers I’ve spoken about in NE SD about hemp seem excited about possibly growing agricultural hemp. It would possibly allow a new agricultural economic boon.

No Rebuttals.

Economic Development

Daugaard – Daugaard basically said this area is doing well and SD should stay the course. I’ll agree with him, except for “incentives” given to corporations. I would prefer that the SD government get out of picking winners and losers in the market.

Myers – Myers noted that economic development begins with education. He said there are huge gaps between education being provided and what the market needs. To fix this, Myers would work to make sure education is aimed towards what is needed. Wow, this will be a tough one. Traditional higher learning facilities love to stay stuck in their bureaucratic ways….. I like that talking point. But I also wish he would have talked about how current GOED operations will or won’t change in his administration.

Wismer – Wismer said she would not allow her GOED to recommend small towns (some “unsophisticated”) be taken advantage of by companies that promise false jobs. Wismer wants to make sure that any company backed by GOED actually backs its claim. I would prefer to hear Wismer say she wants to get her GOED out of picking winners in the market. Why does GOED have to back any particular company over another? At its core, Wismer’s talking points don’t sound too different from the Republican economic development she derides.

No Rebuttals

Education Cuts – Teacher Pay

Myers – “We like the paper shufflers don’t we” Myers began with. Myers said teachers are at the bottom of the scale. Yet at the same time, he notes administrators in healthcare are ranked number twenty-four. If I follow him right, it pays much better to be a paper shuffler in the healthcare industry than it does to be a teacher. Not unrelated in my opinion, ACA puts more administrative overhead on healthcare, which will probably make Myers claim even more true. Myers also said as Governor he would urge the legislature to repeal Common Core in SD. He said “corporate boys and lobbyists” have taken over healthcare and education, and they need to be removed from it. Its worth noting that Myers is the only of the three gubernatorial candidates that actually oppose Common Core.

Wismer – This is a topic Wismer has spoken on many, many, many, many (did I say many?) times. But I do agree with her that the governor sets the tone of the conversation on education, and perhaps its time for a different governor. I’m just not sure she would do good as that new tone of conversation, she tends to attack back at anyone that thinks school boards should be held accountable right along with the state.

Daugaard – Daugaard mentioned the NEA stat that SD is 51st in the nation for teacher pay (which Wismer often touts). But he also noted the same NEA numbers also have SD as 39th in revenue per student to schools. I think his point is well made here. It is the local school boards that actually set salaries. Perhaps there are valid reasons more money is needed per student in South Dakota (more rural schools, different local needs, etc…). Wismer never really does a good job countering the NEA per student revenue talking point. Because of that it makes it look like Daugaard is looking at the whole picture, and Wismer is only looking at what her political bias says she should say (that may not be true, but it appears that way).

Wismer  Rebuttal – Wismer said the $127 million didn’t have to be cut in the budget cut year, and contends it wasn’t needed to balance the budget that year. She also noted education did not get restored with the same percentages as other areas of the budget. Actually, here it sounds like Wismer also believes Rounds didn’t really leave a structural deficit.

Daugaard Rebuttal – Daugaard said cuts could have been avoided, but reserve funds would then have to be used. He said that wouldn’t be good because it would be spending more than we take in. I have to admit, I agree with Daugaard on this one.

Myers Rebuttal – Myers called out Daugaard and Wismer to ask if the would repeal Common Core. The moderator didn’t allow for the answer.

Sales Tax – is the 4% sales tax on used farm equipment fair?

Wismer – Wismer noted there are many inputs farmers don’t pay sales taxes on. She then danced around the definitions of input. In the end she really only said “fair is in the eye of the beholder”.

Daugaard – Most notably here, Daugaard said SD taxes both goods and services, where most states only tax goods. That has allowed the tax base in SD to keep a consistently low tax base.

Myers – Myers noted SD doesn’t like big gov, but SD does like other people’s big gov. That makes us hypocrites. He said because of that he would grab every federal dollar if he was governor. At least he’s honest about it. But, I don’t think he is right. I do think SD can survive without federal dollars (if we send less to the feds). I think a good governor could lead the state down that direction, although it would likely take decades and multiple governors to do so… So in the end I suppose Myers is right, SD is going to remain reliant on the fed gov for quite some time…

Overall this question was odd. It was too direct for broad answers.

No Rebuttals

Closing Statements

Daugaard – Overall Daugaard stuck with his talking points. Which means it was pretty boring. Wismer and Myers didn’t really bring anything at him hard enough to ruffle his feathers.

Myers – Myers spent time talking about the political machine in Pierre. This is a talking point he has used often. More notable though is Myers going after Rounds, Daugaard and Boolen. He said he would like Daugaard to put his hand on the bible and tell all he knows. During that part of Myers speech, Daugaard said “bring it on” a few times. That was the most reactive I’ve seen Dauggard be in a debate. Kudos to Myers for that. But, unless Mercer gets access to the Benda death records with his lawsuit and something is found from that, it is unlikely EB-5 will impact this election at all.

Wismer – Standard Wismer talking points. The only talking point I will counter is that the state government is “handcuffed by extremists on the right”. I disagree. I know more than a few Tea Party members, they all seem pretty confused by Wismer’s talking points. Democrats such as Wismer are giving establishment Republicans such as Daugaard an out by blaming Tea Party types incorrectly.

SD Libertarian Commissioner of School and Public Lands candidate John English at the Alt Candidate Forum

John English, SD Libertarian candidate for Commissioner of School and Public Lands, speaking at the Alt Candidate Forum. Photo by Ken Santema.

John English, SD Libertarian candidate for Commissioner of School and Public Lands, speaking at the Alt Candidate Forum. Photo by Ken Santema.

On Saturday, August 23, there was an Alternative Candidates Forum held in Sioux Falls. One of the fun things about covering political events, especially for alternative candidates, is the chance to see and hear from someone new to politics. The South Dakota Libertarian Party delivered a pleasant surprise this year with their Commissioner of School and Public Lands (S&PL) candidate John English. English was not just someone who threw his name on the ballot; he actually appears to be qualified for and seeks out the CS&PL position. In this race his opponent is the current Republican Deputy Commissioner of S&PL  Ryan Brunner.

Before the event I took a few minutes to speak with English, just to get to know him a bit. Speaking with him reminded me of conversations I have had with Brunner in the past. English and Brunner both have economics knowledge and both speak the language of mineral and surface rights, revenue streams, and investment opportunities. It would be interesting to get English and Brunner together and see how a conversation would go. I believe the two candidates would hold a very interesting conversation. I think its great to see two candidates qualified for a position facing off against each other. That is how the system should work.

English began his speech by acknowledging the fact he seemed to come out of nowhere when nominating himself for Commissioner of S&PL at the Libertarian convention. He said his “conviction grows day by day to be a force for change”. As a part of his upbringing (one Republican parent and one Independent parent), English believes in a liberal social policy and a fiscal conservative policy. In school English studied Environmental Science, Humanities, Sociology, and Law. In our conversation earlier he also noted he studies economics, and from speaking with him I can attest to his knowledge in that area. English has an interesting mixture of education (both in institutions and on his own) that gives him the knowledge necessary for the Commissioner of S&PL position.

As to his qualifications, English noted he understands codified law, complex leases, and the permit systems. English went on to note he is qualified to take on daily accounting and understands he will have to work with others in managing the $170 million trust fund.

Going into his passion, English stated he is focused on children’s future. He will make sure every task done as Commissioner of S&PL will focus on “education enhancement and salary increase”. English understands that S&PL doesn’t actually spend the money in education, and instead just brings in revenue. But as Commissioner of S&PL he would work with others in power and education associations to “make sure that in South Dakota education is recognized as a fundamental right. I want to see this fundamental right recognized and actualized too.” I think this is a winning issue for English in SD. There are some (including me) who feel the state should never have been involved in public education. But the simple fact of the matter is the South Dakota Constitution tasks the State Legislature and elected officials to provide public education in South Dakota. Anyone opposed to seeing education as a fundamental right might want to think about why the State Constitution actually guarantees public education and why so much of our state budget goes to education. I think even those of us opposed to how public education is currently run can acknowledge how important education is and should work to make it better.

To reach his goals for education, English would improve the relationship with the South Dakota Investment Council (SDIC). He would give his input into how the money should be invested (the Commissioner of S&PL is one of eight members on the council). He would work to “maintain a diversified investment portfolio” in the trust. To differentiate himself from his opponent, English said he would look at cost benefits of land sales after the lease expires. Brunner mentioned surface rents in my chat with him earlier in the month; specifically Brunner will work to improve rented land so more revenue can be received from that land. Hopefully these two can get together some time to discuss the benefits/risks of either direction. Such a discussion in a public forum would give voters a chance to decide which way would be the better route.

Then English went on to list what he believes in for the S&PL office: transparency in office dealings, accurate appraisals, strong comparable market analysis, arm’s length transactions and bidding, and timely public reporting. Actually I could do whole posts on each of these areas English mentioned. In particular I think the arm’s length transactions and bidding should be looked at for all constitutional offices in Pierre. I believe using the arm’s length principle in Pierre would go a long way to reduce the claims of corruption and cronyism that is often heard when talking about SD State Government.

From there English moved on to the environment. English would “keep in mind sustainability in the public eco-systems.” He says that would allow for future grazing on the prairies, hunting and fishing for tourism in SD, and that after the conclusion of a mineral lease there would be surface restoration. This is an area I also spoken with Brunner about. Both candidates seem to believe the land should be in as good of shape, if not better, after a mineral operations complete. One area I see Republicans and Libertarians often get beat up on is the belief by some that neither group of people care about the environment. I haven’t found that to be true. I believe all people truly care about the environment, but many have a difficult time expressing that in words and partisan politics makes it a difficult topic to actually discuss. Luckily there are two candidates in the S&PL race that are not afraid to speak conservative environmentalism.

Finally, English went into the non-revenue portions of the S&PL. English would focus on dam appropriations, to deal with a growing problem in this state. He would focus on not only maintaining, but rehabilitating the dams which fall under the S&PL control. As a resident of Aberdeen I appreciate both English and Brunner taking this stance, Richmond Lake Dam is pointed directly at the town and has little maintenance done on it over the decades.

If all things were equal I believe the Commissioner of School and Public Lands race would be one of the tightest in the state. Both candidates have the knowledge necessary to perform the duties of Commissioner. Both candidates care about sustaining ongoing revenue for public schools; although they do have different approaches on land rents. And both candidates balance fiscal conservatism with environmental concerns.

It will be a tough battle for English though. Brunner has been running is race unopposed all year; and also has the label Republican, which always helps in South Dakota. Yet English has been getting out there and plans to put up one heckuva fight for the Commissioner of S&PL position this fall. It’s races like this that makes me wish all of the constitutional offices received ample media attention. There could be the potential for a good race and many voters won’t even realize it.

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.

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.

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