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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Madison Chamber Candidates Forum: Lange, Fargen, Stricherz, and Johnson

Round II of tonight's Madison Chamber Candidates Forum: our District 8 State House candidates! Here's my best summary (not a verbatim transcript, mind you) of what Democrats Gerry Lange and Mitch Fargen and Republicans Patricia Stricherz and Jerry Johnson had to say during the Q&A.

Question 1: What do you hope to accomplish during your first term?
  • Fargen: Two things I really want to push for: last year, Rounds imposed a tax increase on ethanol blender pumps. That tax increase was unconstitutional since it didn't have 2/3 of legislature backing it. It was also completely against the effort to develop home-grown resources. I want to repeal that blender pump tax increase. We also need to find resources to pay for education, raise teacher salaries, and do it with a long-term solution, not a short-term fix like the Governor and Legislature have done the last few years.
  • Stricherz: Energy, education, and the economy are big issues, but as I talk to voters, one issue keeps coming up: they're worried about young people having to register as sex offenders for having contact with young girls in their peer group. We need to discern between real offenders and children who aren't dangerous criminals.
  • Johnson: On education, I differ with other members of my party. As a Madison city commissioner, I often questioned why the city had reserve accounts if it had no plan to use them? We need to look for ways to further the community. We should look at funding education with the reserves. We also need more accountability at state and local levels to use every penny in education wisely.
  • Lange: It's difficult to win in a Democrat minority without reaching across the aisle. We must convince them our ideas are good. I've urged another tax system. North Dakota is far ahead of us, so are all other surrounding states. We need to focus on three things: education, education, education. The Finns saw education investment lift them from the bottom to the top of European economic development.
Question 2: With the threat of a slowing economy, how will you promote economic development in District 8?

  • Stricherz: District 8 is a great district to live in right now. We have lots of opportunities right now. Let's promote continued agricultural development, energy development, other energy sources like solar.
  • Johnson: We must look to regional resources like what's going on in Howard. I toured Howard several weeks ago; what's good for Howard is good for Madison, Woonsocket, etc. We should facilitate regional economic development, help all communities work together.
  • Lange: After the election, we'll see change throughout the nation: expect New Deal type projects to make work on public infrastructure, funded through bonding or taxation to employ people in a grassroots effort to stimulate economy instead of trickle-down economics. We need lots of wind development; put turbines on school and public lands to help school funding.
  • Fargen: We should be able to get a “Highway 34 Corridor” together to work together, encourage other businesses to come in and use the district's resources. Let's bring businesses, bring tech school programs here.
Question 3: South Dakota has a teacher shortage in secondary education. One solution: differentiated pay (more pay for secondary teachers than for elementary teachers). Your thoughts?

  • Johnson: Last year the state legislature approved a package to increase teacher salaries. I don't necessarily agree with differentiated pay. Local districts have the opportunity to evaluate all teachers and decide what teachers should be paid. State Legislature and Department of Education should not decide. In the business world, better performance and more experience mean you get paid more. That's how local districts should be able to do it.
  • Stricherz: I agree with Jerry. We all have to earn our pay. We may also need to consider whether diminishing enrollment means we need to combine three school districts into one. Do elementary in one town, middle school in second, high school in third. That would save money that could be applied toward higher teacher pay.
  • Fargen: I'm against differentiated pay. School districts set salaries. We always want local control. The state legislature can set what we want the salaries to be, but local control is better. Let schools decide on experience.
  • Lange: It's hard to work differentiated pay out with teacher's union. I've heard elementary teachers are more important in formative years; maybe we need best at lower levels. The teacher shortage is a problem because of lack of funds. I'd rather expand the opportunities for raising salaries the way other states have with a reasonable tax system that puts education first rather than skimping on it as we've done.

Question 4: Do you support a smoking ban in bars and restaurants?

  • Lange: In theory it's good, but it's not viable in South Dakota with our attitudes toward individual freedoms and local control. A smoking ban would not be a wise decision.
  • Fargen: I completely support that! Families need protection. Why infringe on families' right to be in that public area? We need to look at whether such a ban would apply on tribal areas, but I do support a smoking ban.
  • Stricherz: I strongly oppose that idea. Business owners should be able to decide for themselves on how they treat their customers. It's not feasible for the state to dictate. Most restaurants and bars do good job of separating smokers and non-smokers; it should stay that way.
  • Johnson: It should be up to city commission to decide [a joke! Jerry cracks a funny for emcee Mayor Hexom!]. Actually, I would oppose such a ban. Business owners should have the right to decide how they attract business (or don't).


  1. Let's see, if folks think John McCain is too old at age 72 or 73, what would they think of Gerry Lange, who is now 80 and approaching the age of the history books he constantly quotes. Johnson and Fargen are the two standouts that deserve our support.

  2. I'm personally leaning towards Johnson & Stricherz. Johnson is strong in experience but I find Stricherz to be a breath of fresh air that we need to go to Pierre to represent District 8. She isn't strong in knowledge as far as education, energy, etc. but we do need someone with her determination and understanding of social issues too. She seems to me the type of person that would stand behind her word and would do all she can to learn the important issues while protecting our rights. She is just different in her approach to thins, I like that, not the same ole' rhetoric that is sonorous with politics. I have heard her speak a couple times and she always talks about vetern's issues...we need that as well. Everyone of the candidates bring something different with them from education to experience but I just like where Stricherz stands.

  3. Wonder if Lange's thoughts on 911 still stand? Remember that he blamed the U.S. for 911. I will never forget that.


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