Why would a good progressive liberal like me cheer the primary victory of Stace Nelson, a right-wingnut whose anti-tax, anti-government, anti-public education, anti-abortion extremism would wreak chaos and inequality on South Dakota? Start counting:
1. Stace Nelson is his own man. He has demonstrated a willingness to buck the Governor and call out corruption when his constituents’ interests are at stake. The primary challenger he beat, Caleb Finck, is a fresh SDSU graduate who backed Mike Rounds in 2014. Finck would most likely have been a puppet of the corrupt GOP leadership.
2. Stace Nelson’s victory in District 19 showed once again that Governor Dennis Daugaard lacks primary punch. Neither the Governor’s cash nor his special robocall could push Finck over the top. (Now if Democrats could just figure out how to capitalize on the Governor’s weakness….)
3. Nelson’s win shows the broader weakness of the GOP establishment, which rallied behind Finck with a spendy fake newspaper littering the local weeklies and masquerading as some sort of independent endorsement. Meanwhile, lesser and more radical conservative primary challengers snuck by two incumbent mainstreamers elsewhere—Roger Solum in District 5 and Bill Shorma in District 16—who should not have lost.
4. The more wingnuts who upset the GOP mainstream apple cart, the less far left we Democrats have to run to distinguish ourselves. Against guys like Nelson, Solum’s vanquisher Neal Tapio, Shorma’s beater Kevin Jensen, and stinkers like Lance Russell and Phil Jensen, we Democrats can easily present ourselves as sane, practical alternatives. I contend that more wins for guys like Nelson in primaries can mean more wins for Democrats in the general.
5. Pat Powers helps prove that point. Nelson has made the lazy GOP establishment blogger so mad that he’s forced Powers to answer my question about how far party loyalty should go. Apparently, in Pat’s world, party loyalty goes only as far as one’s personal gripes. After savaging Nelson as a traitor for not backing the winner of the 2014 Republican U.S. Senate primary, Powers is now encouraging Republicans to vote for the Democrat in District 19:
The GOP does not provide direct cash assistance to candidates as they had in the past, which leaves Nelson’s monetary sources limited, which could crunch him for cash in the face of a serious opponent. For some, letting the seat go to a mildly ineffective Democrat may be preferable to backing someone who will be verbally abusive to his colleagues and causing the kind of drama that arose during his last stint in the legislature.
With the possibility Democrats could put someone tolerable in the race, Nelson may find that burning his bridges has only succeeded in isolating himself on an island of his own making [Pat Powers, “Cognitive Dissonance and the GOP’s Nelson Problem. Or Is It Nelson’s GOP Problem?” Dakota War College, 2016.06.09].
Powers couches his call to betray the GOP in mays and somes and other vague language (so glaringly akin to the “some argue” and “people who suggest” dodges of the ballot measure filler in that fake pro-Finck newspaper that some may argue that Pat Powers could have authored both), but he is inviting Republicans to vote against their nominee and pick a Democrat. Hilarious: Powers still hasn’t rejected GOP Presidential nominee Donald Trump, whose grasp of and fealty to the Republican platform is honestly debatable, yet he is willing to tell Republicans to vote against a Republican State Senate nominee whose only intra-party crime seems to be demanding that fellow Republicans strictly adhere to their party platform.
If Nelson can drive Pat Powers to encourage Republicans to vote Democratic on his blog, then we Democrats should be thrilled to have Stace Nelson on a ballot.
6. Nelson has worked Pat Powers into further apoplectic contradiction (and if Pat is this mad, I must be happy!). The GOP establishment blogger has rubbed himself raw trying to fantasize Finck’s failure into a moral victory against a past incumbent who was bound to win. Funny: Powers never portrayed Finck’s candidacy as doomed when Powers was trying to sell primary campaign materials. Shortly after Finck announced, Powers said Nelson had a “fizzled political career,” “heavy baggage,” and “good reason” for “running scared.” Pre-election, Powers said a PAC attack had “ignited a backlash against Nelson.” If all you did was read Pat Powers, (a) your IQ would drop ten points, and (b) you’d have thought Nelson was doomed.
Not only has Nelson destroyed Powers’s party loyalty, but he has also exposed another great example of Powers’s blogging inconsistency.
7. In case Powers isn’t sick in bed already, Stan Adelstein backed Stace Nelson with $250. If the pragmatic and moderate Republican Stan Adelstein, who also sponsors this liberal blog, can find Nelson worth his money, then Nelson must have some merit as a legislator.
8. Against Caleb Finck, a decent Demcorat might have felt compelled to pull a punch or two, for fear of looking like we were being too hard on the greenhorn. Nelson, of course, had no such compunction… and his relentlessness as a campaigner should free his Democratic challenger to campaign as the unbound, unabashed Democrat that we need to be to win across South Dakota.
9. Harkening to my #5 point on Nelson and Republican purity, I hear that Stace refuses as a Republican of principle to endorse Donald Trump. We can use more Republicans like Stace saying things like that on the campaign trail this fall.
District 19 has a Democrat on the ballot, Russell Graeff. He got arrested for DUI last month, but arrested isn’t convicted, and even that arrest record appears no worse than a former GOP golden boy whom Powers eagerly endorsed. I feel fine saying I’ll back pretty much any District 19 Democrat with the guts to run for office against a local and properly labeled powerhouse like Stace Nelson.
But if the primary candidates in the GOP District 19 Senate primary were my only choices, then when we step onto the Senate floor next Session, I’d rather face an independent opponent who honestly votes for his constituents and his conscience and who can help us challenge the corrupt one-party regime than an unseen Establishment ventriloquist making some young kid’s lips move.