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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hero of the South Dakota Democratic Party: Gerry Lange

In District 8, and in South Dakota as a whole, the biggest head scratcher for Democrats has to be the results of the State Legislative races. Statewide, the Dems focused on winning the Senate. That was doable: the Dems needed to win just three more seats. Yet the Republicans actually gained one seat, expanding their Senate margin to 21–14. Ouch.

The surprise is that the Dems may have won a significant victory in the State House. The state party didn't seem to focus too much attention on the House. Winning a majority in the Senate was a realistic goal; breaking the GOP's 50–20 lock on the House was nutty talk in the eyes of even the most wildly optimistic Democrats.

Yet the Dems have picked up four seats in the House.

Four measly seats out of 70. GOP still dominant 46–24. Do I hear Pat Powers chuckling?

Go ahead. Laugh it up. Then get out your calculator. 24 seats is just over one-third of the House. Parliamentarians, you know what that means. When you have a two-thirds majority, you can railroad any legislation you want through the House. The Dems have broken that GOP super-majority. The House Dems can't pass anything on their own, but if they stick together and pick their battles, they can tie the House in knots and force the Republicans to make concessions on the biggest issues before the Legislature.

It's a small victory, but hey, when you're a Dem in South Dakota, you take any victory.

And who made this victory possible?

My neighbor, Gerald Lange.

(You now hear Pat Powers choking.)

Gerald Lange. Dyed-in-the-wool liberal Democrat. Advocate of a state income tax. Opponent of the Iraq War. Perpetual thorn in the side of the ruling party. 16-year legislative veteran, dealt a stinging defeat in 2006 (placing third in a 3-man race) by a targeted, big-money Republican campaign to replace him with GOP golden boy Russell Olson. Written off by more folks than my cranky commenters as too old, out of touch, whatever.

Gerald Lange has done his service for party, state, and country. He's over 80 years old. He has labored in the minority for years, never giving up on the seemingly futile battle to change the hearts and minds of his stubborn fellow citizens. If he had said, "Get someone else to run; I've done enough," no one would have begrudged him a final, full retirement filled with grandkids, travel, and garden tomatoes.

But when District 8 Dems appeared poised to sit on their hands and let the GOP keep their one seat here, Gerald Lange signed up for one more fight. He got up from spending May in the hospital and walked and knocked and made his case.

And he won. Where the money and ads and logistical support the state party threw into the Senate race only limited our net loss to one seat, Gerry broke out his hand-painted signs and buckets of tomatoes and won back his seat. He put the Dems over the one-third margin in the House.

Gerry, we owe you one. Good work.


  1. His politics ain't nothing like mine, but his hat sure is.

    We South Dakotans send Democrats to the U.S. House and Senate (I voted for Johnson and Herseth-Sandlin, even though I'm a Republican) to help bring us federal dollars.

    We South Dakotans elect Republicans to our own House and Senate to ensure that as few of those dollars as possible come from us.

    I heard that on SDPB, I think. Not my original. But it sounds like a plan. A hard-bitten way of putting it, I guess, but hey -- most of us are just trying to survive.

    Now, Tim and Steph, how about getting us some federal dollars for wind and solar energy development? If Obama's administration really does triple my electric bill, I might sell my house and build a new one off the grid, with solar (Newell?), wind (Kadoka?), geothermal (Hot Springs?), whatever. I'd like it to be here in South Dakota, though.

    As for you, Gerry, go ahead and keep hitting on that state income tax! Don't let us conservatives ever get careless and retract our antennae.

  2. District 8 just elected a useless voice in Pierre. Had Scott Parsley run for the House instead of the Senate, it is likely that Scott Parsley and Jerry Johnson would be heading to Pierre as Reps, and Russell Olson in the Senate. That would have been a powerful combination of intelligence and hard workers.

    Now, we have the very capable Mitch Fargen and single-focus historian and octogenarian, Gerry Lange, who compares everything we do in South Dakota to every other state and quotes history and the books he reads, rather than bring forward new legislation or even answer questions directly.

    I noticed voters also sent Kooky Frank Kloucek back again, so he and Gerry can have a reunion of representatives that get absolutely nothing done in Pierre. Truly a waste of our tax dollars.

    Thank goodness we're only paying them a nickel a mile for the trip out and back.

  3. Cory -

    Hey, if Lange is what you want, that's what you get. I just remember when Madison was the home of legislative giants such as Jerry Lammers, who knew how to actually accomplish things.

    *sigh* the good old days.

  4. PP: "what you want"—me and 4749 other folks.

    "giants such as Jerry Lammers"—I'll pass along your compliments at our next Sanitary District meeting.

    "giants"—Have you seen Mitch Fargen? ;-)

    "giants"—so where are the GOP giants? Russ is obviously good, but I didn't hear a lot of drum-thumping from your direction for Jerry Johnson or Patricia Stricherz. The D-8 GOP isn't exactly flooding the field with new "giants."

  5. Only because I'm a Libertarian, Cory! LOL

    BTW, I didn't kowtow and vote Obama... I stuck with my guns (and conscience) and voted Barr. Probably the only one in Lake County to do so. But I have a clear conscience and when both parties screw up this country even further, I'll be there laughing my backside off! :D

  6. jackrabit1: Actually, you weren't alone. In Lake County, Barr and Baldwin each won 25 votes. Nader trumped them both, though, winning 81 votes.

  7. The elderly are the ones that voted for Lange. They are the ones that are afraid of "change", which is obvious in Madison. I am surprised that you would be voting for Obama who's campaign was all about CHANGE and also vote for someone stuck back in the 60's!

  8. I'm guessing that those who voted for Lange probably thought he was still in the House. Even his newspaper thank-you ad says, "I'll continue to work hard..." which give the impression that he never lost two years ago. No different than South Carolina electing US Sen. Strom Thurmond until he died at age 100. If the name on the ballot looks familiar, people vote. I'm surprised people didn't think Jerry Johnson and Tim Johnson were the same person. People who aren't informed get what they deserve...Gerry Lange.

  9. Yay! I'm so happy to hear that Gerry won!

    And I'm so bummed to hear that Scott lost!

    Despite my ever busy days, I did constantly reflect back to my time in Madison and wonder how the election would turn out locally as well.

  10. Gerry Lange is no Kieffer Sutherland! Your reference to -24- is humorous and creative. Don Knotts would have been more appropriate.

  11. Iain! Good to hear from you again! And good to report that your work in Lake and Moody Counties must have had a lasting impact: Obama won both!


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