Caron-Thorson Battle for Watertown Mayor Draws Lederman Attack Mailer

The hotly contested Watertown mayoral race comes to an end with voting on Tuesday, June 20… maybe. Touting the historical accuracy of its unscientific straw poll, the Watertown Public Opinion reported its respondents leaning toward challenger Sarah Caron over incumbent mayor Steve Thorson but only by five percentage points. With that narrow margin and third man Mike Davis to split the vote, Watertown may need a runoff to pick its mayor.

In Q&A with the WPO, Caron strikes three fiscally conservative notes over Mayor Thorson. Caron calls the new city hall Thorson wants to build a “luxury”. She advocates replacing the stoplights on Kemp Avenue downtown with cheaper four-way stop signs, while the mayor says the question “stumps me and warrants further research.” And not surprisingly, given that she brought to light the Mayor’s unauthorized use of a city vehicle, Caron says the city should not provide the mayor with a car on top of the mayor’s $80K+ salary and travel reimbursements.

Perhaps the loss of his misappropriated car has led Thorson to cut down his travel around town. After appearing at one city ballot forum with Caron and Davis on June 7, Thorson declined Caron’s invitation to a public debate dedicated to the mayoral race this week:

In an email to media outlets Monday afternoon, Thorson declined the invitation, saying any such debate would put him at an inherent disadvantage.

“As I stated earlier this month, I have no plan to participate in any further debates or forums with Sarah. She is fully aware I have a huge disadvantage in those settings, because Sarah can attack anything about me, or my record,” Thorson wrote. “The Chamber held their forum and there has been extensive coverage by all the media concerning the issue surrounding this election” [Dan Crisler, “No Takers in Caron’s Mayoral Debate Challenge,” Watertown Public Opinion, 2017.06.13].

Actually, Mayor Thorson, I’d say the real disadvantage comes from letting your opponent have the mic to herself for 70 minutes with the press and 44 interested voters. 44 may not seem like a big crowd, but given that a May candidate forum in Aberdeen, a town with 25% more people, drew only half as many viewers, I’d suggest Caron has provoked significant interest…

…including the interest of Dan Lederman, whose Rushmore PAC is sending out two postcards, one claiming Caron is running for revenge against the city, which fired her for insubordination this year before she declared her bid for mayor, the other boosting Thorson:

RushmorePAC postcards attacking Caron, supporting Thorson, front.
RushmorePAC postcards attacking Caron, supporting Thorson, front.
RushmorePAC postcards attacking Caron, supporting Thorson, back.
RushmorePAC postcards attacking Caron, supporting Thorson, back.

Dan Lederman, chairman of the attack-loving South Dakota Republican Party, patron of SDGOP attack blog Dakota War College, sends a card telling others to keep “desperate attack politics in the gutter where they belong.” Oh, how rich.

And Caron has said why she was fired:

“I have no limitations on discussing my termination and would like the public to know that, as my letter of termination states, I was fired for an act of insubordination in which I questioned my superior’s integrity,” she wrote. “This is true. I refused to look the other way while corners were cut on drainage requirements on a new development. There are many other issues that should be discussed and I will do so with or without the others on Wednesday evening” [Crisler, 2017.06.13].

Lederman’s anti-Caron/pro-Thorson cards aren’t the first time Rushmore PAC has interjected itself into a local, nonpartisan election. Caron wonders why a national partisan PAC would care about a local mayor’s race; Thorson says the funding actually came from locals trying to hide their identity:

There was a group of local contractors and developers that are afraid to put their name out there if she were ever to win this election, which I don’t believe she will, but if she were ever to win, the retaliation, the vindictive behavior that she puts out there, is just horrible, and they would be really concerned about their businesses and their livelihoods [Steve Thorson, audio in Mike Tanner, “Watertown Mayoral Candidates Make Late Pitch for Votes During Appearances on KWAT,” KWAT Radio, 2017.06.16].

I would think a candidate like Caron sounding fiscally conservative notes would be right up Dan Lederman’s ally. Instead, he launders money for local wheeler-dealers who want to launch anonymous attacks on behalf of a mayor who avoids public forums.

We’ll find out Tuesday whether these Rushmore PAC cards, funded by anonymous locals, can chip away Caron’s tenuous five-point straw poll lead.

28 Responses to Caron-Thorson Battle for Watertown Mayor Draws Lederman Attack Mailer

  1. The SD GOP, under its hate leader, Lederman, just weasles itself into every race, and every race SD could possibly ever have, to make sure their boys win. Kind of disturbing when its supposed to be nonpartisan but this is the kind of crap that South Dakotans don’t seem to care about because their republican party can do no absolute wrong.

  2. Porter Lansing

    I have a very pertinent comment to Dan “The Plan” Lederman about using revenge in SoDak politics but I’ll keep it for later.

  3. “Is revenge a good reason to run for mayor?” Rushmore PAC asks. Funny—isn’t that the primary reason Rushmore PAC’s preferred candidate for President ran on, revenge against Barack Obama for cracking wise about him at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in 2011?

  4. Porter Lansing

    You got me thinking about revenge, Cory. I found a few synonyms. (revenge synonyms: vengeance, retribution, retaliation, reprisal, an eye for an eye (and a tooth for a tooth).

  5. Porter Lansing

    Here’s some schoolin’, Jones and Powers. “It’s hardly anti-Semitic if it’s actual Hebrew Law”. I’ll take apologies in the traditional Hebrew method. “Show me the money”.

    -In the Code of Hammurabi and Hebrew Law, the “eye for eye” is to restrict compensation to the value of the loss.

    -In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus urges his followers to turn the other cheek. You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also

  6. Porter Lansing

    Lederman and Powers are calling it insubordination and offer no details. I call that classic Troy Jones misdirection. If demanding that Watertown not cut corners on drainage in a new development, when her boss wanted to put new home buyers in a potentially “underwater” situation is insubordination, that’s misdirected. She did what a “People’s Mayor ” would and will continue to do. Look out for the good of the citizens of Watertown. Steve Thorson, get away from the Lederman Revenge Merchants!!

  7. In a remarkable Saturday editorial, WPO publisher Mark Roby blisters both Rushmore PAC for its last-minute intrusion in local politics and Mayor Thorson for not distancing himself from the attacks, which, Roby says, goes beyond the above postcards and includes ads in the newspaper and on the radio.

    A Watertown voter claims that the postcards above went out to every resident, not just to certain targeted voters and were timed to arrive with happy postcards directly from the Thorson campaign.

  8. Porter Lansing

    I was appalled at the “fake news” tactics of Dan Lederman when he sent out a mailer with a “fake copy of the local newspaper” blatantly trying to commit fraud. Here’s the Public Opinion’s Publisher’s (Mark Roby) recount of Lederman’s crooked politics…..
    ~ At that time I couldn’t believe someone would do that knowingly and willingly, taking the newspaper’s masthead and using it in a campaign “fake newspaper” mailer.
    As P/O Capital Bureau reporter Bob Mercer wrote that same day: “A newspaper earns its reputation, and then lives on it, day by day and week by week … But the real rub came when they made the fake paper very close in appearance and in name to the actual local newspaper.” Mercer went on to say that the newspaper publisher “wants an apology … He deserves one.” – Mark Roby

  9. When Powers and Lederman start interfering in local politics for pay, nothing good arises… except maybe a good local rebellion against political mercenaries.

  10. Shelly Alvine

    Sarah couldn’t have had a better couple days. She’s a great candidate and has run an incredible campaign. (This first-time Independent candidate has some lessons for Dems in SD). She hardly needed paid advertising because the PO had news to report of her debate and then Roby’s editorial on Saturday. It doesn’t appear that it was advantageous for Thorson to have a PAC in his corner.

  11. Sarah has run the campaign of a Master Politican. I predict she will be the next Mayor of Watertown.
    Vote will be 65% Caron 33% Thorson 2% Davis

    The demonstrates that money can not buy you a job or in this case the MAYORSHIP

  12. If ye ain’t got balls, I’m ona kick yer ass, one a these days. I don’t care what your name is.

  13. I’m a journalist and I “wnat” to know…


  14. Why can’t Mark Roby use spell check – too often, most everything in rural America seems like a joke.

  15. A fake newspaper? That’s pretty funny.

  16. One day, disgruntled employees will run the world and then the Armageddon comes. We already have Mr. Trump, soon we may have this young lady who got fired rightly so. Now she can fire everybody else to get back at them. Way to go, Watertown. And start selling beer in gas stations.

  17. Porter Lansing

    It was more of a deceptive, fraudulent attempt to deceive and trick voters with lies. More like a counterfeit newspaper. Good thing Lederman got caught but you have to wonder what he’s doing now to cheat. People like that don’t see anything wrong with cheating. Hey … that sounds like Trump. 👎🏻

  18. Ronald Dell

    Sounds to me like Steve Thorson is going down for the third time and is drowning in his ineptness to counter Sarah Caron’s expertise in the civil engineering training that will save Watertown money, make sure future developments are done right (no corners cut), not use unauthorized city property for personal gain, show favoritism to certain parties. Again I live at Mina Lake South Dakota and cannot vote in your election. But to me the choice for mayor of Watertown is becoming clear to me Sarah Caron as next mayor is in the best interest of Watertown. Thorson needs to go, the guy running against them is just there as a spoiler to pull enough votes to help Thorson get back in. I won’t bother with his name because it’s not worth that much recognition. Voters of Watertown there is one clear candidate for the mayor of your city, Sarah Caron. Just my opinion! Ronald R. Dell, Mina S D.

  19. That 2012 fake newspaper sounds like the effort Kyle Schoenfish, Kent Peterson, and Caleb Finck made in the 2016 District 19 GOP primary. I’ll be curious to see if Lederman (and Powers?) send out a similar paper in Watertown.

    Say, I notice the mailings are coming from Postage Paid Permit No. 550 in Watertwon. Anyone know who holds that permit?

  20. Ron. I am from Watertown you could not be more corrrect. Under Thorson’s leadership our total retail sales are down over 10 million and the work force is smaller.

    It will cost a estimated 10 mill to fix his errors on intra structure.

    I do not think Davis will be a factor. He seems to have disappeared from the campaign hope I am right

    Thorson is desperate. I received four Rushmore PAC fliers and three from the Thorson campaign. Total 7 fliers in three days.

    City employees will tell you privately that city hall is a disaster and if you stand up to him you will get fired like Sarah did.

    Let’s hope Thorson is on to his next career in a few days
    Go Sara

  21. You know Republicans are big on means testing. Look at the flack Trumpy put up about Obama’s birth record. We could do the state a lot of good by requiring anyone involved in politics in the state to be a native born South Dakotan. Lederman needs to crawl back to where he came from.

    To change the subject if I may……
    I’m wondering why someone doesn’t put up just a couple of bill boards in Sioux Falls and Rapid City telling folks that John Thune and his R cronies in the state have gotten lots of cash from the telecom industry to get rid of net neutrality. John is #3 at almost half a mil!

  22. As Shelly notes, the best press is free press!

  23. mike from iowa

    Wingnut means testing-these billionaires fall far short of the koch bros so we better dedicate Medicaid billions to the poorer billionaires. Since we don’t want to be accused of discrimination we will give the koch bros an equal amount and everyone is happy.

    Send Ms Caron to iowa where she will have better employment opportunities and less hostile wingnuts to put up. Keep Lederman.

  24. Kathy Tyler

    Ah, the fake newspaper. It was used in District 4 also…the negative political campaign capital of South Dakota.

  25. This PAC involvement in small town SD politics has changed my mind…now I’m voting for Caron. This smells like national politics, ick!

  26. This is no longer Caron, Davis Thorson race for Mayor. It is now a Caron, Davis vs Big Money back door deals future payback and corrupt big money politics for personal gain by the Good OLE boy network We Watertown residents need to send Rushmore PSC a get out of town message and give Thorson a land slide loss.

    This Rushmore PAC deal supports Caron’s statements about closed door meetings and no transparency in city hall this clearly was a back door deal made by Thorson, he has done nothing to denounce this PAC

    Vote Caron for Mayor

  27. Watertown is a pretty big town in SD. One of the biggest. I’m just sayin…

  28. Mike…..don’t blame you for not wanting him back!!