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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Democrat Angst II: Two Republicans Run for South Dakota Governor

Too much angst? Maybe it's just the weather....

I confess my dismay with "Independent Democrat" Scott Heidepriem's campaign for governor. One fellow Dem said it took her more than one casual viewing of his TV ads to realize that he was not a Republican. Another notes that his Issues page is all about fiscal restraint. Alternative energy, education, and economic development, all issues where Democrats could make strong points about how three straight decades of Republican dominance have left us lagging, get a mere "More to come" at the bottom of the page. Reproductive rights and anti-discrimination laws get no mention.

And then there's his running mate, Ben Arndt. Instead of using his lieutenant governor choice to bring up a young Democrat and deepen the party's bench, Heidepriem selects a young Republican, a corporate executive, a transplant from Iowa with no political track record other than big donations from his father-in-law. Not exactly the kind of choice that makes me jump on a soapbox and shout, "We are Dems—hear us roar!"

Now Heidepriem is simply following a logical political strategy. Republicans have won 80% of South Dakota's gubernatorial elections. The surest way to win the governor's office in South Dakota is to campaign as a Republican. Heidepriem is doing that. You don't get to do good Democrat things in office if you don't win office in the first place.

Heidepriem can make the point that we don't get to pursue any Democratic objectives if we don't get our fiscal house in order first. He can make the point that a majority of South Dakotans aren't thinking about buolding a political party; they want to hear about fixing government, and budget cuts and ending no-bid contracts are the safest issues to tap that sentiment.

But South Dakota Democrats could use their sentiment tapped as well. They could use an assurance that their candidate will use his veto pen to stop any unconstitutional abortion bans. They could use an assurance that their candidate will fight to raise our rock-bottom teacher salaries. They could use an assurance that their candidate will stop Pierre's palling around with Big Oil, make TransCanada pay its way and respect landowners, and roll back Mike Rounds's red carpet for Hyperion.

Alas, we aren't allowed to declare our Democraticness. We need to keep our Democratic ideals quiet. We need to go along with the conventional wisdom, act like we are Republicans... hey, wait a minute: that doesn't feel like being an "Independent Democrat."

I guess if Democrats are looking for someone to fly the party flag in South Dakota, we'll have to turn to the youngest female State Senator-elect in our history, Angie Buhl of Sioux Falls. She's proved that you don't have to preface "I'm a Democrat" with any apology or adjective to win an election in South Dakota. The rest of our party should follow her lead.


  1. Let's see some good legislation first. Then 2014. :-)

  2. I don't disagree with you, and I too am very excited about Angie's win, but let's look at that a little closer. First of all, it was a Primary. She was reaching out to Democrats...of course it was easier for her to brand herself as a Democrat and lover of all things liberal, and not only was it a Primary, she is now the Senator from D15, and did not and will not have to face any Republican opposition. When it comes to the Governor's race, I am absolutely SICK of losing, and I've only been in this state for 8 years. I can't imagine what life long South Dakotan's feel like. Scott's strategy might not be what we want it to be, but he is doing things differently, and if that will lead us to victory, then so be it! I work on the ground with Democrats every day, and these activists are tired of losing as well. We can't keep doing things the same way and expect different results. If we want the decisions being made in Pierre (and DC for that matter) to change, we have to change the decision makers, and that won't happen until we do things differently as Democrats and if that means branding ourselves a little bit differently so we can run the show, I'm all for it. I'm not un-sympathetic to your angst, I'm just looking at it from a different angle I guess.

  3. I understand completely, Amanda. I imagine my frustration is something like that of the Air Force general who wants very much to win the war with air power, but is being told by other generals (with very convincing evidence) that we can't win in the air, that we have to fight on the ground, adopt our enemy's tactics, fight their way.

    Your angle is fine. It's probably needed, if we want to win. But I still want the air war. That's why I'm not in the war room.


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