Heir to Rick Knobe’s KSOO microphone Patrick Lalley exerts himself to portray Democratic Senator Billie Sutton’s gubernatorial campaign launch at his family ranch in Gregory County as an utter failure by the Democratic Party:
The Burke rancher and state senator announced Wednesday he is running for governor in 2018. It was a closely watched decision that fills at least one of the big slots with a credible candidate.
Still: How did they mess it up so badly?
…To be blunt, the Democrats introduced Billie Sutton to the state by putting him up on a barren stage in the middle West River ranch country.
They emphasized rural life, solid work ethic and calf roping. It’s a beautiful South Dakota scene that we like to romanticize.
But it doesn’t look forward [Patrick Lalley, “Dems Flubbed Image in Billie Sutton for Governor Announcement,” KSOO Radio, 2017.06.02].
Lalley says he doesn’t have a dog in this fight, but as he preps his own launch, of KSOO’s new afternoon talk show on June 19, he does have a dog on the hunt—for ratings. Lalley knows he has to fill a hole left by Knobe in a market that leans right. He has to win over listeners who turn to talk radio because they think their local newspaper (which Lalley recently helmed) is too liberal. That pitch for listeners may explain why Lalley reaches for Limbaughian exaggeration.
Lalley’s critique reads very much like the words of someone justifying a prejudice rather than actually looking at the event and the candidate. As I have explained, Sutton’s ranch lunch launch went off as well as political theater can go. A ranch house surrounded by green pasture, river valley, and bright blue sky—which only a devotee of Sioux Falls concrete or maybe East River’s domesticated factory crop fields could call “barren”—framed quite authentically who Sutton is. Lunch was hot and ready, horses didn’t stampede, the sound system worked, the weather cooperated—it was a heck of a show.
But the event was far from all cowboy. The dignitaries introducing Sutton were East River city fellas Max Sandlin and Bernie Hunhoff. Sutton himself took the stage in a blue suit and left his hat on the ground, out of sight. And he spoke of much more than “rural life, solid work ethic and calf roping.” Sutton spoke of his work to raise teacher pay (which went up in Sioux Falls and Burke), but he also looked forward to ending corruption in state government (which wastes Sioux Falls tax dollars as surely as Burke tax dollars) and promoting better jobs with higher wages (which matter in Sioux Falls and Burke).
In his interview with this blog right after his speech, Sutton made clear he has his eye on the entire state. He talked about his ability to connect with businesspeople (he works as an investment consultant) and with Bernie Sanders voters on economic issues. And right after his announcement, Sutton headed for Sioux Falls, for a public event that evening.
Billie Sutton is no arrogant rube who thinks his hat-wearin’ and horse-ridin’ makes him morally superior to soft-palmed city-office folk. When his horse broke his back in a rodeo chute and put him in a wheelchair for life, Sutton had to re-envision his identity and reconfigure his life. He understands that there is more to life and to South Dakota than being a cowboy. Sutton’s words, his actions, and his whereabouts on the day he announced his candidacy for Governor show he and his campaign crew understand exactly what Lalley is talking about and will be working town and country to win the 2018 election.
And heck, after five days, Sutton’s campaign launch video has drawn 136,000 views on Facebook. There are only four thousand-some people in Gregory County and only 70,000 in the 27 counties smaller than Gregory, so he must have gotten a few views from Sioux Falls, Rapid City, and our other great South Dakota metropolises. Will Lalley get that many listeners when he launches his radio program two weeks from today?