Michels Sets Two-Month Deadline for Decision to Run for Governor in 2018

Lieutenant Governor Matt Michels is thinking about running for Governor. The Yankton Republican tells his local paper he’s setting himself a two-month deadline to decide:

Matt Michels, named in lawsuit over Frances Bockholt's death
Lt. Gov. Matt Michels

“I need to make a decision in two months, maybe within a month,” he told the Press & Dakotan. “I don’t like making a decision 2 1/2 years ahead of the election, but that’s just the way it is.”

Michels cited two major factors forcing an early decision: the process of organizing a campaign, and other candidates already positioning themselves for a gubernatorial run [Randy Dockendorf, “Race Against the Clock,” Yankton Press & Dakotan, 2016.04.20].

I don’t like the idea of having to decide to run in the 2018 election before the 2016 election has taken place. I hark back to 2010, when Kristi Noem didn’t declare her candidacy for U.S. House until the second half of February, just a month before the petition deadline. She managed to raise the money and votes necessary to beat her already-declared GOP primary challengers Chris Nelson and R. Blake Curd as well as incumbent Democrat Stephanie Herseth Sandlin.

Peter Norbeck, Governor of South Dakota 1917–1921
Peter Norbeck, Governor of South Dakota 1917–1921

Of course, the biggest factor weighing on Michels may be whether he is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to run for Governor: shaving that mighty mustache. My quick search finds that we haven’t had a good mustache in the big chair since Peter Norbeck.* But remember, Matt: Chris Nelson shaved his manly ‘stache for his 2010 House run, and that got him second place. Second place.

Think about it, Matt: against Noem, Marty Jackley, and G. Mark Mickelson, whiskers would distinguish you in the electoral marketplace. Don’t lose your edge. Be Norbeck. Be Teddy Roosevelt. Be the walrus. Lock down the latent Branstad mustache vote and build from there!

Gov. Warren E. Green, 1931–1933
Gov. Warren E. Green, 1931–1933

*Update 2016.04.22 15:56 CDT: A shy reader hits the books and corrects me: our last mustachioed governor appears to be Wisconson-born, Watertown HS grad, Hazel farmer Warren E. Green, who served one term from 1931 to 1933. Green finished fifth in a five-person GOP primary in 1930, but because no one got 35% of the vote, the nomination went to the convention, and the GOP picked Green as a compromise candidate on the twelfth ballot. Note that neither Matt Michels nor any other candidate could pull off such a worst-to-first trick today: if no primary candidate gets 35% of the vote, we pit the two top vote-getters against each other in a run-off ten weeks after the primary. This rule applies only for Governor, U.S. House, and U.S. Senate candidates.

Also cool: Green married a woman whose last name was Parliament.

29 Responses to Michels Sets Two-Month Deadline for Decision to Run for Governor in 2018

  1. Breaking news: Gov Dennis Daugaard is live right now at Rosebud, SD counsel meeting.


  2. Perry, what brings Daugaard there?

  3. I’m keeping mine mustache.

  4. mike from iowa

    Think about it, Matt: against Noem, Marty Jackley, and G. Mark Mickelson, whiskers would distinguish you in the electoral marketplace.

    What does it tell you about the caliber of candidates if a mustache is the only distinguishment?

  5. Bob Newland

    Two months? That’s all he’s giving himself? He’d better appoint a commission.

  6. Donald Pay

    Well, well, the rats have surfaced from the borehole, exactly as I have been stating for over a year.


    AP is reporting an illegal attempt by DOE and Battelle National Labs to switch the site of the test for the deep borehole disposal from North Dakota to South Dakota, in spite of Battelle’s submission to DOE being specifically for a North Dakota site.

    Daugaard, again as I had stated nearly a year ago, but which he has refused to comment on publically or release an information on, despite being neck deep in South Dakota’s own proposal, is, unsurprisingly, fully backing the effort.

    The effort by Battelle to switch its failed borehole disposal testing from the North Dakota site that DOE accepted to a unnamed site in South Dakota, which DOE had rejected, violates DOE’s own processes for granting Proposals for research. Any such attempt to move the project from North Dakota to South Dakota should require a completely new Request for Proposal.

    The AP story is really laughable in one particular area. DOE spokespersons say they want to be “open and honest” about the process to site the deep borehole project in South Dakota. This despite a year worth of failing to release any information request on South Dakota’s submission to DOE under the Freedom of Information Act. Want to be open and honest? Release all the proposals, provide six months for South Dakotans to study them, and then allow the state and local citizens the right to consent or not consent in votes.

  7. Donald Pay

    There will continue to be updates coming from AP on the deep borehole story. Recently updated are comments from Spink county officials and DOE spokespeople regarding Spink County as the likely site for this test. Finally, after a year of DOE and Daugaard hiding information about what specific site is being proposed we now have it narrowed down to a county.

    Here’s an interesting development. A DOE spokesman is saying that Spink County would not be a place to dispose of radioactive waste because of the presence of surface water. Yet, scientists at the October 2015 Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board meeting suggested that the test site would be considered “the likely site” for the disposal site. Just in terms of being conservative with taxpayers’ money, it doesn’t make sense to spend a hundred million dollars on testing on a site that would be disqualified from the start as a disposal site. So, either DOE is being misleading, or it is willing to be very wasteful of taxpayers’ dollars.

  8. Donald Pay

    From DOE’s perspective a northern site makes some sense as a disposal target. The wastes DOE would be transporting to South Dakota for disposal would be coming from Idaho and Washington state. Idaho has had a decades long dispute with DOE regarding the wastes stored by the federal government in that state and the Hanford site is a ticking time bomb, with tanks springing leaks. The DOE and the various private contractors at these sites, including Battelle National Labs, have proved to be incompetent. Battelle, apparently, would lead the South Dakota deep borehole effort.

  9. MC just doubled his chances of getting a Dakota Free Press endorsement. Michael Saba was clean shaven when I met him several weeks ago, but I’ve seen photos online with some good gray whiskerage.

    Mike from Iowa, in a race that tight with financial heavy hitters, a guy’s got to look for every edge.

  10. John Kennedy Claussen

    If Michels wants to be the next governor or at least the Republican nominee. The question becomes as to whether his candidacy can keep any of the other three (Mickelson, Noem, and Jackley) from garnering over 35+ % of the vote in a primary merely because he ran. I do not think Michels can win a primary with those other three in the race, but he could be a spoiler, which forces the nomination to a “brokered convention,” where I think Michels could end up being the one with all the gold as the compromise nominee, however.

    Although, there is a school of thought, which asks if Michels takes more from Mickelson and Jackley than Noem? Thus, through his candidacy (Michel’s that is) does he actually help to nominate Noem through the primary? Because Noem’s success or popularity in such a competitive race I think is unique to the other three in a way which a Michel’s candidacy cannot really lessen. Noem’s popularity is primarily name ID and the fact she will most likely be the only female candidate in race on the Republican side. Plus, she is removed from the Pierre image problem (EB5, GearUp, etc.) which Mickelson, Jackley, and Michels in one way or another have to answer too – and by having these three men from” Pierre” running will it make it harder for them to gain any true and unique traction? Thus, only further strengthening Noem’s potential momentum which could take her to 35+% in the primary.

    There is also the theory, that having Michels not run, makes him a better and more acceptable compromise candidate at the convention, if it goes to a broker convention that is. But then there is the gamble, that assumes there will be a brokered convention without his candidacy – only polling can really answer any of these posed questions, it appears.

    As a side note, Governor Daugaard never seems to get any credit for one thing in particular. When he was elected governor 2010, he appeared to have broken the jinx against ambitious South Dakota Lt. Governors in our time. Prior to Daugaard in 2010, Not since Nils Boe in 1964 had a LG succeeded the governor he served under as LG to become governor himself or win another office after having been LG without a political time-out. From Boe until Daugaard we witnessed six LGs in a roll fail to move electorally beyond the LG position immediately after serving as LG. Jim Abdnor was the one “Phoenix LG” of the bunch. Abdnor lost his reelection as LG to Bill Dougherty in 1970, but then return to electoral success in 1972 garnering the once 2nd Congressional District seat. But the other five never went beyond the LG spot with any electoral success. Harvey Wollman and Walter D. Miller were LGS that became governors (because of resignation and death respectively), but they both lost their primary bids to win their own term as governor. Bill Dougherty in ’74 and Lowell Hanson in ’86 lost bids for the nomination of their respected parties to be governor as sitting LGS, and Carol Hillard as a sitting LG lost a bid to John Thune to be the ’96 Republican nominee for Congress At-L. So a question must be asked when we weigh a Michels candidacy for governor, which is, does Daugaard’s election in 2010 reflect a new beginning in South Dakota gubernatorial politics or merely a fluke?…. Only time will tell and only Michels’ answer in the next two months can begin to answer this question honestly.

  11. In a month or two, Michels will maybe find out how deep in doo doo he is in that medical lawsuit. Seems odd that a feller like this opportunist would be so set on a time frame to announce his intentions when we all know that he got the paid job to be the lady in waiting. All of the rest of the LG’s you have named did not get a hundred grand a year for the job of not doing anything to deserve the compensation.

  12. Ah, John KC, I just got an update from a reader that the last mustachioed governor, Warren E. Green, won the nomination on the 12th ballot at convention after he finished fifth in a five-way primary in which no one got 35%. That can’t happen now: statute since 1985 has said that if no candidate wins 35% or more in the primary, we hold a run-off between the top two candidates. There could be wheeling and dealing at convention to get the primary losers to endorse one of the run-off candidates, but the convention would be a straight brokered event producing a definite nominee.

  13. John Kennedy Claussen,

    1). Just say those are your theories. The innuendo GOP honchos or activists are contemplating any of that is balderdash. I have breakfast with twice a week with businessmen who are all Republicans. Right now, Mickelson has a plurality with “I will wait and see who runs” in second. I don’t think adding Michels to the mix will change anybody.

    We’ve had bigger and smaller primary contests and in the end win the general. Only once in the last forty years has it been less than 10 points and in 1986 the registration differential was a third what it is now.

    2). We don’t select nominees at convention if they don’t get 35% and haven’t since before you were born. Kinda makes most of your babble just babble.

    3). Abdnor didn’t run for re-election as LG. And, I don’t remember if Dougherty ran against Kneip in the primary or was just kicked off the ticket. I almost sure it was the latter as I remember Kneip and McGovern wanted a Lt. who would support McGovern or Humphrey if they ran in 1976 vs. Ted Kennedy.

  14. John Kennedy Claussen


    Did I hit a nerve?….jk……

    In response to your first contention. Did I ever say these were not my theories and questions?
    And since when has breakfast with a bunch of businessmen become a legitimate poll? It might be more credible if a few female business”men” were in the mix too or how about an actual poll…;-)…. If the Constitutional Amendment passes later this year, will you be adding Democratic businessmen and women to your breakfasts or “focus groups” too?…. I would hope so….It would help to make them more credible.

    And in terms of your “Only once in the last forty years” comment, well, we can debate whether the Republican National Convention for instance will be a “brokered” one, but if it is, then I guess that would be “once in the last forty years” too and quite possible this year I might add…. In terms of your differential claim, when was the last time we had a conceivable Republican primary with so many big name candidates with potential equal weight?…. I would claim that to be the 1986 primary you make mention of and that is why the ’86 was, and conceivably the ’18 race could actually be, “less than 10 points”…Unless Noem runs away with it with the help of a Michels candidacy and my “traction” theory.

    As for your second contention, well, I was 11 years old when Robert Hirsch at a South Dakota Republican state convention was picked as the Republican nominee for the US Senate. So there, it has happen in my lifetime. As far as the 35% rule and no broker convention point, which you and Cory make mention of, I stand corrected. Frankly, I keep using the ’62 state Republican convention mess, which finally picked Bottum to replaced the deceased Senator Case (Who then lost to McGovern) and the ’72 state Republican convention which picked Hirsch (Who then lost to Abourezk (These scenarios just keep looking bad for GOP hopes)) after five candidates had run in the primary as my focal points. I keep forgetting the Republican legislature in ’85 changed the law on primaries from a convention decision (if no one gets 35+ % of the vote after the initial primary race) to a run-off election two weeks after the primary election. You see, the Republicans did that back in ’85 because they knew they were going to have a mess in ’86 just as ’18 looks like a mess for them today…. The Republicans in this state like to the change the rules from time to time you know, if you have not noticed….(First for the Daschle law, then 12 years later… Not so much)…..

    As far as for my “babble,” it is not “babble.” Michels is still a factor if he runs, especially if you take note of my concluding comment that a Michels candidacy could keep Mickelson and Jackley from ever getting any traction (as “Pierre” candidates) if Noem runs given her name ID advantage at this time….(I could also claim Cory’s assessment as an affirmative defense, If I need too,…Right Cory?….;-)…)

    And for number three contention, darn it Troy, you were right, well, almost, because your “Abdnor correction” is not material to my point, however. Abdnor chose to not run or was not picked (?) at the state convention in ’70 for LG (It probably had something to do with the aftermath of the Republican gubernatorial primary between incumbent Farrar and Henderson), which further supports my claim that Abdnor was the “Phoenix LG” of the six LGs before Daugaard (which is the real point in terms of Abdnor as a former LG), when he then returned later to elective office in ’72. As for Dougherty v. Kneip in ’74, that race did happen…Sorry… Kneip won that primary race with 66% of the vote….(Good try on your part Troy in your attempt to create a wedge between the McGovern and Kennedy forces though… Good try, I need to watch you…;-)….)

    (How come the Republicans cannot have discussions like this one over at the DWC…. You know, between “Anonymous” versus “Anonymous”…..?….)


  15. John Kennedy Claussen

    Ten and not “two” weeks….

  16. John,

    I am not really arguing with you. What your speculation really was is game theory playing out in your mind various scenarios. It has its place and is of value. I even engage in it not as a prediction but as valuable to devise strategies to achieve an outcome.

    Personally, I don’t think big primaries are a bad thing or a good thing. They just define the environment. And, I think your point is a big primary on the GOP side creates more opportunity for the Dems. Maybe and maybe not. For instance, many think the 1986 GOP primary was why the Mickelson-Herseth race was the closest race in almost 50 years. I disagree. I think that primary honed Mickelson into the candidate that could win the General. Only Roberts that year came to the race with enough political capital and experience to win the general in the environment that was 1986 (it was the year Daschle and Johnson went to DC).

    In 2012 my initial preference was Santorum and Fiorina this year. In both cases, it wasn’t long before I saw they didn’t have what it took to win. In 2008, the Dems initial preference was Clinton or Edwards and we know who rose to the occasion in that primary.

    In this primary upcoming GOP primary scenario, I only KNOW enough to assess the full mettle of Noem. The rest have elements that are not proven. For instance, if Mickelson (or any of the others) comes out of the primary as honed as his dad did, your game theory scenario becomes meaningless. Alternatively, if a candidate limps out damaged, your scenario is valid.

    And, as a Democrat that is the flaw. You are conceding control of your destiny as you only win if the GOP messes up. Granted, that has been your strategy since Herseth got elected to Congress. But, in my mind, I wonder when you will find a new strategy as it ain’t been working.

    Winning elections requires two basics: A good candidate and organization.

    With the former, it is hard to predict who will become honed and rise up to be a winning candidate. But, you do improve your odds with choice (which is why winning more legislative seats is critical).

    With the latter, organization is within your control and is mostly about hard work and discipline. Most people (and surprisingly more Democrats than Republicans) under appreciate how good Obama is with regard to organization.

    I want a competitive two party system in SD because I think it long term leads to the best policies. The proble is the only way it becomes competitive is for the GOP to lay down. That isn’t a solution. It is up to you guys to get your house in order. And this emphasis on initiatives and incompetent statewide candidates just makes you weaker.

    Think about this fact: Since 2000, there has been roughly 30 state-wide races (my guess). With the exception of the six races that included people named Daschle, Johnson, or Herseth that got a vote percentage equal to the Democratin voter registration? I don’t think there is one.

    That means, the candidates lose more Democrats than they pick up in Independents and Republicans. While it does speak to a quality of candidate problem, it proves the depth of the organization problem. Yes, every now and then, a football team has a bad day. But a team that depends on playing their opponent on their bad day for a victory still ends up in the cellar.

  17. John KC, I’m not convinced a GOP primary mess is guaranteed in 2018. Rounds was able to emerge from a three-way heavy-hitter primary field with 44%+ of the vote. Even if three expected candidates throw in and Michels joins them, I can still picture plenty of ways in which at least one candidate stumbles on his own lack of charisma and killer campaign instinct (Jackley? Has he ever faced a serious election challenge?), another fails to get traction among anyone but a too-small core group of supporters (Mickelson as minor legislator? Michels as non-distinct Bud Light in a field with enough flavor already?), and another is destroyed by Republican knives brought fully to bear for the first time (Noem, as GOP recognizes that a pretty do-nothing face is fine for DC where they want gridlock but not on the Second Floor of our Capitol where they want and need intellect and action?), leaving one clear frontrunner whose primary margin looks more like Rounds 2014 than Rounds 2002.

    Besides, we may not see as crowded a field as we think, as the resurgent Democrats, led by an ambitious field of new freshman Democratic legislators elected in November 2016, will lay waste to Republican fortunes, plow the road for Stephanie Herseth Sandlin to see 2018 as her time, and scare off GOP candidates who don’t want to take the blame for losing the Governor’s chair to us Dems. (I had to offer Troy some response.)

  18. This is not related to the story about Michels’ consideration of his candidacy – but about mustachioed Governor Green and the convention. In the 1930 primary, Gladys Pyle received about a third of the vote, but because she did not win a majority, the process of selecting the party’s “standard bearer” went to the convention. After seven rounds, Green was selected as the party nominee.

    Pyle was at the center of another odd situation in SD’s election laws. When Senator Peter Norbeck died in office, Democratic Governor Tom Berry named fellow Democrat Herbert Hitchcock to the term. However, by state law, a nominated Senator had to step down after the next general election where the voters would select a Senator for the next full term. However, the seat would be vacant from the election until the next session of congress. At the time, it was feared the Democratic President Roosevelt would call a special session during this “lame duck” period. The party sought a candidate for the two month term. Political Scientist Alan Clem noted that Pyle ran for the seat and used her network developed from her time as the first woman elected to the SD House of Representatives, as Secretary of State, etc., to campaign for Republican candidates. She garnered 58% of the vote for the two month term, traveling to Washington on own expense to provide constituent service while in Washington.

  19. 3 things.

    “no one gets paid and all goes into shooting missiles into the air. They have no immigration policy”-NK kinda follows USA’s lead.

    jail for ‘white-collar conservatives’ would assist our “emphasis on initiatives and incompetent statewide candidates [republican troy says] just makes you weaker.” jimi Hendrix ‘if 6 was 9′

    “a pretty do-nothing face is fine for DC where they [SDGOP] want gridlock but not on the Second Floor of our Capitol where they want and need intellect and action [I haven’t seen that once in the last two governors since I’ve paid strict attention]….Besides, as the resurgent Democrats, led by an ambitious field of new freshman Democratic legislators…in November 2016,…lay waste to [SDGOP and] plow the road” for Stephanie 2018 as her time, and Kutz’ return.

    can one ever go back?

  20. Lee Schoenbeck

    Abdnor wasn’t on ticket for reelection as Lt Gov because he ran for congress – lost to Brady in GOP primary

  21. John Kennedy Claussen


    No doubt good candidates and good organizations make for good times for any given political party. Why would anyone argue with that? But such wishful thinking for a minority party is a long term goal (for a party in current electoral trouble that is), which may be instituted today for instance, but it cannot be an act of fiat with overnight successful realities, however.

    I think actually you give the Democratic Party more credit than I do, Troy, in terms of the condition of the Democratic Party in South Dakota today. Currently, Democrats in South Dakota are not found so much in enclaves throughout a greater political landscape with the ability to build and multiply, rather Democrats in South Dakota today are adrift at sea right now, like “Dunkirk Democrats” who must first regroup and take the beach before they can win over “the hearts and minds” of the greater people with “good candidates” and “good organization.” This taking of the beach does necessitate the luck of “good candidates,” which from a gubernatorial standpoint I think we already have in Sandlin and Huether, but it will also take a weakness (a beach front opportunity) in the opposing party to make for a Democratic victory in ’18 possible in realistic terms – and the pending competitive South Dakota Republican gubernatorial primary in ’18 is such a potential weakness along with the current controversies over EB5 and GearUP to help.

    Now you mention the success of George S. Mickelson in ’86. You credit his success in that year came from the “honing” of his candidacy over the course of that year and perhaps the competitive primary was key to this “honing”. And in taking that into consideration, you then claim the race was really not close with Lars Herseth at all that year. Which in your mind means that a competitive Republican primary is not an eventual guaranteed ingredient for success for the Democrats in South Dakota in a fall general. But I disagree, not only was it numerically close (Mickelson v Herseth), but when you take into consideration that we also had a competitive US Senate race that year between Daschle and Abdnor the realities and outcomes of that election year in South Dakota and its causes are much more complex than you suggest. There is what I call a “guilt vote” in South Dakota, which Republican candidates benefit from more often than Democrats. What the “guilt vote” is is that voters or at least a sizable group vote for a particular Republican candidate after they have voted for a Democrat or Democrats, this is especially true with moderate and liberal Republican voters. Now sometimes Democrats benefit from this too. In 1982, Daschle won his close race with Roberts because after 71% of the voters found themselves voting for Janklow that year for governor then enough redeemed themselves by voting for Daschle, especially among swing voters I will surmise. In 1986, I will allege that Mickelson won because some Republican voters after having voted for Daschle and many Republican voters having voted for Johnson that year for Congress, then philosophically redeemed themselves by voting for the Republican gubernatorial candidate – and that was the true reason for Mickelson’s success in ’86. Had Johnson that year instead ran against Heidepriem or Frankenfeld (Who both lost to Bell in the Republican congressional primary that year) and had Abdnor gone into election day polling comfortably ahead of Daschle, then Mickelson’s numbers would have been lower and Herseth could have conceivably won that year.

    We also need to take into consideration the political climate of South Dakota in ’86 and the impact the farm crisis of that time and the controversies over the then current federal Farm bill had upon that election, which necessitated many voters to support the Democratic congressional candidates that year leaving many Republican voters in particular with only the gubernatorial race to “redeem” themselves. And what actually happen that year is that the rural counties supported Herseth, thus causing Mickelson to be dependent upon the more urban counties in order to win that race, which further lends credence to my “guilt” theory. Because urban voters who were less directly impacted by the farm crisis and the Farm bill but were also voting for Daschle and Johnson and generally more inclined to vote for Democrats regardless were more inclined to “redeem themselves” by voting for the Republican gubernatorial candidate, in this case Mickelson. In fact, your Roberts comment about Robert’s political capital would further support my just aforementioned claim about urban voters, because Mickelson’s poor showing in traditionally rural Republican counties further shows his dependency upon the urban “guilt voters” to be politically relevant or to win.

    So in conclusion, competitive Republican primaries can hurt the Republican party especially if the political climate is neutral or against them as I feel it will be in ’18. Now if Noem runs for governor and opens up a competitive congressional race between the Republicans and Democrats in ’18 and the favorite for that race is let us say, Brendan Johnson, then the “guilt vote” would be to the Republicans benefit in the gubernatorial race, however…. We will have to see what happens.

    I would also like to mention that if you define the modern South Dakota Democratic Party as that period from 1953 (the year McGovern began as Executive Secretary of the SDDP) until now, that in the course of those 66 years there is demonstrated these pockets of Democratic successes rather than a true continuum of successes. Now it is true from 1956 until 2014, with the exception of 1961-63, that the Democrats in South Dakota did have at least one member of their party serving in Washington, but there is a distinction between congressional and gubernatorial politics in South Dakota, which explains this and that distinction is the “bring home the bacon from DC” reality that over the years worked to the benefit of Democrats in this state when it came to congressional candidacies and only with the advent of the successes of Thune starting in ’96 and what I will call (but Troy you will not like this, I am sure) the glamorization of South Dakota congressional politics at the expense of substance did the Democratic advantage in congressional politics begin to lose steam.

    Now let me get back to these “pockets of Democratic successes,” that I claim. The first pocket was in the late fifties with McGovern and Herseth winning, the second was in the early 1970s with the successes of McGovern, Kneip, Abourezk, and Denholm, and the third weaker pocket was found during the time frame of 1988-1992 (during Mickelson’s tenure as governor ironically), when the Democrats built up their state legislative seat holdings and, in fact, from 1993-95 held control of the state senate during a Republican governor’s tenure for the first and only time in South Dakota history. Each of these pockets were the result of more than just “good candidates” and/or “good organization.” They were also the result of a weakness in the South Dakota Republican party at those given times. In the late 1950s, Eisenhower’s agriculture policies helped tremendously to give rise to the fortunes of McGovern and along with his “organization” and the state Republicans weakness in organization helped to elect Herseth too . In the 1970, the Nixon White House, Vietnam, and “Kent State” in particular helped to define the national and state political moods along with the troubles Republican Farrar as governor at the time had with a controversy over the REA program with fellow Republicans and he also had a primary challenge were 40% of the Republican voters did not want to renominate him as governor in ’70 (Primaries do matter!). So like what McCarthy did to the Johnson slate in New Hampshire in ’68, although McCarthy did not win then, so did Henderson do to Farrar in the 1970 South Dakota Republican gubernatorial primary even though Henderson did not win either, which then resulted in the victory of Kneip as governor, a Democrat in the fall. The third pocket which resulted in the South Dakota Democrats taking over the state senate was not only the result of “good organization” and/or “good candidates,” but also the result of a politically weaker Republican governor, in this case Mickelson. A weaker governor politically I will allege because of his initial ’86 primary battle, because frankly the more candidates you have in a primary the less it takes to win and the fewer initial friendly voters you have to sustain a strong and enduring political base potentially. Plus, if you factor in the “guilt vote” then you further understand Mickelson’s political weaknesses in his time in relative terms to other Republican governors over the years.

    Numerically, this political weakness can be found in Mickelson’s tenure when you compare his over all average of the percentage of votes he received in his two gubernatorial campaigns to those of other Republican governors in modern times. In that comparison, Mickelson’s average percentage was 54%, Janklow’s average was 62%, Rounds’ was 61%, and Daugaard’s was 66%. I will fairly allege that this weaker showing by Mickelson is the result of a more competitive primary coming from his initial start as a gubernatorial candidate that did not allow him to establish an enduring political base and having been the product of a “guilt vote” and not “honing.”

    Now, you may say, but Rounds and Daugaard had competitive primaries too, and Rounds may have benefitted from a “guilt vote” do to the high profile and competitive Johnson/Thune senate race in ’02. But to say that is to ignore the margin by which Daugaard won his gubernatorial primary in ’10, which gave him the ability to develop a good base in ’10 along with the help of the mood of the entire country that year with the “Tea Party” movement – and for Rounds’ ’02 primary, well, he was the “Clean Gene” of that gubernatorial primary race and the realities of 9/11 benefited Republicans that year, thus, he was already on firm ground regardless if he was the eventual benefiter of a “guilt vote” or not in 2002.

    You might also say, that if Noem were to win the gubernatorial primary by a safe margin, because the other three (Mickelson, Jackley, and Michels) were affectively defined as from Pierre with the cloud of the pending scandals attached to them politically more than Noem, that such a safe margin would then help Noem in the fall, but to rationalize that thought would be to ignore the anti-Pierre sentiment do to scandals which a Democratic gubernatorial candidate could stress in the fall, showing the Republican “weakness” and tying the Republican nominee, regardless to whomever it may be, even Noem a former state legislator, rather affectively.

    So it is fair to say that competitive primaries do matter in determining the eventual outcome of races in the fall, but for Democrats to win in state wide races for state political positions like governor, it takes more than just “good candidates and “good organization,” but it also takes unique opportunities, or the “weakness” of the opposing party to win or what some might call hopeful “gaming.”

    Have I indicted Democrats by admitting this? No, I have not. It is the reality of any minority political party in any state. And Democrats have as much right to exist in South Dakota as Republicans. Need I remind you that this nation was founded by a minority of colonists who opposed the crown and not a majority of the colonists – and I think that minority of colonists were right and they started something quite great, but it took an eventual weakness in the opposing side for the colonists to eventually win, which went beyond the need for good patriots and good organization just to win the Revolutionary War.

    Oh, and as far as for your concern about the Democrats in this state being too concern about the initiative and referendum processes. Well, we are winning at that. It shows we are often right and with good candidates in ’18 like Sandlin and Huether as gubernatorial possibilities and some weakness on the other side Democrats are destine to win and are on the right track for ’18 and beyond.

    Cory, let me address your concerns. I say, Amen, to your final comments (However, I think Huether would run stronger), but in your first paragraph I do not think one can correctly compare a senate primary to a gubernatorial primary, especially when you take into consideration my earlier “bringing home the bacon” comment. I also think that Rounds’ opposition in the ’14 senate primary was much weaker than his gubernatorial opponents in ’02 which further weakens any primary comparison capability – and the reason Rounds won in ’02 was because he was removed from the brutality of the primary and instead its benefiter, he had the image of a “Clean Gene,” the politics of 9/11, and perhaps the benefiter of the “guilt vote” in the fall too do to the close senate race between Johnson and Thune.

    Oh, and one last contention…. I promise….. Jerry and Cory brought up Michels’ pending lawsuit and its potential impact upon Michels’ decision and or gubernatorial bid. Well, guess what? The 1986 gubernatorial primary once again returns for analysis. In 1986, George S. Mickelson had a lawsuit hanging over his head too. He got the trial postponed until after the primary. Mickelson had a former client who sued him for malpractice involving a divorce case where he had represented the plaintiff in the past as I best remember it. The case when to federal court because the plaintiff had moved out of state. The plaintiff was represented by a Minneapolis law firm, but the plaintiff lost the case, even with a South Dakota attorney testifying for the plaintiff over what I believe was a “community standard” question involving how Mickelson had or had not properly inventoried the plaintiff’s ex-husband’s assets, but Mickelson prevail in that case and then he went on to prevail again in the fall….

  22. John KC paints a South Dakota political landscape in which Democrats are helpless against social forces that limit them to only occasional victories, never widespread, and dependent on the weakness and whims of the other party. Democrats don’t even get coattails; they actually get anti-coattails: one or two strong Democrats eat up all the Democrat-tolerance at the polls and drive votes for Republicans in other races. As Troy notes, John KC sees SD Democrats as having no control over their destiny.

    I don’t think John KC means to posit a universal, immutable law of political gravity in South Dakota. A strong, organized, principled state Democratic Party could not just counter that cultural gravity but create a long-term reversal of that force.

    Funny Republicans don’t have to think about things like this.

  23. mike from iowa

    If wingnuts don’t get their cans kicked out of office when they are this corrupt, it ain’t ever gonna happen.

  24. John Kennedy Claussen

    Respectfully, I portray not a painting, rather a “Kodak moment” from the past, which explains the present. Sometimes the truth or a remembrance of the past hurts, but when it does it is imperative that we learn from it. The world that Cory and Troy want is admirable, but not realistic in the short term. In fact, it will never happen if Amendment V is passed and many on this site have advocated and encouraged the passage of this Amendment, but I must ask what is its need if there is a great hope for the Democratic Party in South Dakota in the future without it? Has not my current critique of the state of politics in South Dakota and in particular the South Dakota Democratic Party only further fueled the necessity of this Amendment? If Amendment V is hope, then the future of the South Dakota Democratic Party in the absence of the proposed amendment must be a continuance of the political or cultural gravity which Cory speaks of….

    The reason “Republicans don’t have to think about things like this” is because they are the greater mass and the natural constituency (cultural gravity) which dictates our political reality, its gravity, and eventually, which can only be deterred with our ingenuity as Democrats to take advantage of situations in order to be relevant and successful. At least in the short term that is, in the absence of Amendment V. In the long term, in the absence of V, Democrats could go beyond my game plan or “gaming,” but it cannot be from an act of fiat and I question if the Party has the shelf-life to persevere in the long run in such a world without needing to seize the opportunities which come along from time to time as I suggest…

    Now as Democrats should we be ashamed of the world I present? I would say “No,” because like our colonial fore fathers a minority of political people can still be right and justified at times and as Democrats we claim that fact or I hope we do. What we need to do is build the world Troy and Cory speak of, but its birthmother will be an opportunity, a seizing, and not merely the birthmother of a long term organizational plan that eventually produces good winning candidates and hopes that our shelf-life will last in the meantime.

  25. I don’t question that Democrats are at a disadvantage in South Dakota. I only remind my fellow Democrats that that state of affairs is not fore-ordained or unchangeable.

    I do not view Amendment V as either salvation or doom for the Democratic Party. The fortunes of each party can rise or fall independently of what type of primary we have and whether we include party labels on the ballot. With or without Amendment V, the SDDP will still have to work hard to recruit candidates, raise money, and help smart people win elections.

    But pass Amendment V, and it will become all the more imperative that we Democrats find a really good gubernatorial candidate for 2018, lest we face a November choice between Marty Jackley and Kristi Noem… or G. Mark Mickelson and Matt Michels. That might be a situation in which it would be all the more important for the party to hold a pre-primary convention to endorse a candidate, to encourage a unified Democratic vote to give our best Dem a first-place finish in the primary over the more fractured Republicans.

  26. John Kennedy Claussen

    But if we replace primaries with party conventions (more so then we already do), especially given the recent changes in the state party constitution of the SD Democratic party, then we will be making the process less democratic and more “smoked filled.”

    What I like about Amendment V, absence any pre-primary party conventions, is that it potentially empowers candidates who are either not in favor or less known to make a plea to the general public, which goes beyond the party bosses abilities to stop such a reform or insurgency candidacy.

  27. Amendment V makes the primary more democratic by allowing more people to participate on an equal footing. Anything that happens prior to that, like an endorsing convention, is party business and doesn’t seem much different from any anti-democratic/smoke-filled-room business that may go on now to give one candidate an edge over the others in the primary.

  28. John Kennedy Claussen

    I think the democratic qualities of a “jungle primary” are stronger than a “closed primary,” but any primary process is more democratic than a convention. Primaries as an electoral process are a by-product of what is wrong with conventions and not merely a mutually exclusive political creation.