South Dakota Democratic gubernatorial candidate Scott Heidepriem got a little campaign boost yesterday from prominent national Democrat Bob Kerrey. Former Navy SEAL, now president of The New School in Manhattan, Kerrey knows a thing or two about running and winning as a Democrat in Republican territory. He won the Nebraska governorship in 1982, then won election to the U.S. Senate twice. Kerrey also knows something about winning in South Dakota: he won our Democratic presidential primary back in 1992.
Kerrey took a break from a visit to family in Nebraska to come up I-29 and boost Heidepriem. A few dozen East River Dems took their own break from the sunniest November Saturday afternoon possible to come down to the Sioux Falls VFW, hear some speeches (and good guitar!), and drop some money in the Dem kitty (full disclosure: I contributed). Kerrey and Heidepriem also made a Saturday campaign stop in Rapid City.
As Mr. Woster notes of the Rapid City gathering, Kerrey likened South Dakota's current dire budget situation to Nebraska's back when he took office. Kerrey said Heidepriem has the ability to make the tough choices necessary to put the budget back in order. Candidate Heidepriem took the podium to point out Governor Mike Rounds's lack of leadership on the ever-growing structural deficit. Heidepriem also criticized the 90-plus million dollars worth of no-bid contracts the state issues, often to vendors who turn around and give sizable campaign donations their benefactors.
* * *Kerrey also said a few words about health care reform. He noted that he is alive because of the federal law that ensures soldiers and veterans get health care. Kerrey spoke of the injuries he suffered in Vietnam that cost him a leg. He spoke of the excellent—yes, government-run—health care that saved his life and made it possible for him to walk and work and contribute to society again. Kerrey said that we, especially we men, often struggle to accept help. Some things, though, we cannot do individually; we must accept the help of others. Kerrey had to let others take care of him at an important point in his life. Of that experience, he said, "That didn't make me lazy; it made me grateful."
Kerrey now walks with a $20,000 prosthesis. By dint of his service, his citizenship, Kerrey has a just claim on the public wealth—our wealth—to pay for that leg. As Kerrey works with families where a spouse or a child has lost a limb and must get a prosthesis, he is shocked by how many of them don't have insurance and could be bankrupted by the price of the equipment they need to walk or work again.
There are things individuals cannot do for themselves... and there are things we owe to each other, as a community, as fellow Americans.