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.
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