Search Results : bernie sanders

Marijuana Advocate & Breitbart Reader George Hendrickson Runs for House as Conservative Independent

If there’s any synergy for Democrats to gain from two potential marijuana ballot measures drawing young independents to the polls in 2018, George Hendrickson is looking to take it away.

Hendrickson, a frequent advocate at Legislative hearings for pro-cannabis measures, tells Dana Ferguson he plans to run for Congress as a conservative independent:

“South Dakota Republicans are always afraid of voting for the independent because it could help elect the Democrat,” he told [Ferguson]. “But that could be different in this election because every single person I’ve talked to, they are so mad at the establishment, Democrat and Republican alike, that they are dying for a real choice.”

…The lifelong Republican who left the GOP after he became fed up with perceived corporate influence said he’ll work to reform medical marijuana policy at the federal level, push for welfare program reform and consolidate federal agencies [Dana Ferguson, “Medical Cannabis Advocate, Former Police Officer Enters U.S. House Race,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2017.06.15].

On his public Facebook page, Hendrickson shares Breitbart posts cheering Trump’s border wall and Kid Rock’s run for Senate, promotes a video claiming climate change is a hoax (rebutted by Snopes here), and forwards a year-old smear claiming that Bernie Sanders bought a $170K Audi with political campaign contributions (shown to be unsubstantiated and implausible by Snopes here).

So, sensible voters, keep Hendrickson’s preferred sources of information in mind. A guy who reads and shares Breitbart, Fox, and dubious, dated Web memes probably isn’t someone we want making real policy decisions. His own reference to the fear of Democrats winning makes clear he’s not us liberals’ guy. As it stands, we liberals should stick with Tim Bjorkman, who expresses a far broader concept of compassionate governance and brings a judge’s experience at sifting through evidence and separating fact from fiction. Let Hendrickson focus on the one-note pot voters (who might not show up at the polls otherwise and thus don’t really hurt our vote count) and the cranky conservatives whom he might draw away from the white-bread Republican nominee.



Video: Bjorkman Talks Universal Health Care & Minimum Wage, Challenges Reporters

After his first big campaign speech, Democratic U.S. House candidate Tim Bjorkman huddled with reporters for thirteen minutes of Q&A. KELO TV used about 20 seconds for its personality/horserace question; KDLT used about 25 seconds of Bjorkman’s comments on his judicial experience and his view that we need a federal solution on health care to make up for South Dakota’s failure to expand Medicaid.

Bjorkman’s full exchange with the press is far more enlightening (my apologies for poor audio—lots of people were behind us getting sloppy joes!):

Bjorkman’s first response, on why he’s running for Congress, reveals a deeply humanitarian, service-oriented motivation. He served the public for years as a judge. The problems he saw from the bench—mental health, drug addiction, health care in general—affect not just the defendants who came before him but their families and especially their children. Bjorkman speaks of kids in “highly dysfunction” homes living “lives of quiet desperation in the shadows of our culture.” Without hope and guidance, those kids “fall into the patterns of their parents and experience poor educational outcomes,” and “all too often they’ll fall into alcohol and marijuana use” before their teens. Those children and their parents “need a counselor more than they need a guard. They need treatment more than they need jail or prison.” Bjorkman says he can’t get those people the help they need from the bench; thus, he feels compelled to seek solutions as a Congressman.

At 3:13, Bjorkman says three magic words: “universal health care.”

There’s a solution to our problems. All the other countries that are developed have developed it. Heritage magazine did a study of the most economically free countries in the world… ten of the eleven more economically free countries than the United States all had universal health care. That’s Heritage Foundation. Forbes magazine addressed it [Tim Bjorkman, press conference, 2017.07.13, timestamp 2:50].

Bjorkman was referring to the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom, on which in 2017 the United States has slipped to #17, and this 2015 Forbes  article, which said that, sure enough, ten of the eleven nations that beat us in 2015’s Heritage economic freedom rankings had universal coverage:

The two advanced economies with the most economically free health care systems—Switzerland and Singapore—have achieved universal health insurance while spending a fraction of what the U.S. spends. Switzerland’s public spending on health care is about half of America’s, and Singapore’s is about a fifth of ours. If we had either of those systems, we wouldn’t have a federal budget deficit [Avik Roy, “Conservative Think Tank: 10 Countries With Universal Health Care Have Freer Economies Than The U.S.,” Forbes, 2015.01.27].

At 3:50, Dana Ferguson asked if Bjorkman thinks 2018 will be a good year for Democrats in South Dakota. Bjorkman showed no interest in handicapping the partisan horserace. He similarly declined to wave the partisan flag in response to the next question, about how a Democrat can win in a red state, by saying that sure, party matters, but that he believes South Dakotans vote for the person.

At 5:50, Bjorkman reiterated the call he made in his speech to raise the federal minimum wage:

Yes… the federal government should increase the minimum wage. I just suggest $11 an hour. It would be $11.25 an hour today if we’d kept pace with 1968. I think we’re as great a nation today as we were in 1968 and that we should pay $11 or $11.25 an hour. If we did, that’s an anti-poverty… an anti-welfare or a welfare-cutting program, because it will remove people from the welfare rolls if they’re earning a fair wage, and we will not have to subsidize the people who are paying low wages [Bjorkman, timestamp 5:50].

At 7:50, Bjorkman avoided (ducked! dodged! dang it!) my question on his stance on immigration. Having just announced a “few minutes ago,” Bjorkman said he wants “to give thoughtful answers” and “not just give off-the-cuff responses” that “wouldn’t be worthy of the question you asked.” He did promise to address immigration and other issues in position papers and invited all of us reporters to come back and interview him in-depth on those positions as the seventeen months of the campaign progress.

Bjorkman also left me hanging at the end on my question about engaging young voters. He certainly believes young people should be interested and involved in this House contest, because the race is all about “preserving the American dream for their generation and their children.” Preserving the American dream ought to be enough to mobilize everyone to study the candidates and vote, but preserving the American dream is a banner any candidate can wave. Bjorkman the man of principle, policy, and problem-solving will want to sit down with his team of campaign strategists and marketers to figure out how to distinguish himself in the marketplace and uniquely appeal to the young voters who, if properly motivated, could tip the election in his favor. (Of course, Bjorkman may have already distinguished himself from all comers by saying “universal health care” and “increase the minimum wage.” Team Bjorkman: are you positioning Bjorkman as South Dakota’s Bernie Sanders?)

Around 8:45, Bjorkman spoke of the hard, lonely accountability of being a judge:

There’s nobody else to point a finger at or blame for any decision you make. You alone stand accountable for it. You alone are responsible for it, and it’s a very lonely job to sentence somebody for first-degree murder.

A trial judge makes thousands of decisions that impact people’s lives in important ways every year, and every time your duty is to do what’s right, what’s fair and just. So do I think that’s a good exercise for making decisions for the public on issues? Yes, I do, I think it’s good training for that [Bjorkman, timestamp 8:45].

Bjorkman should speak of that experience and responsibility every chance he gets. That judicial experience may even excuse, explain, and justify his not having a quick answer on immigration. As a judge, Bjorkman spent years making decisions with grave consequences. The liberty, health, safety, financial well-being, and the very lives of citizens, not to mention the proper application of law, hung on his thoughts and words. The details of his every decision were subject to review by higher courts. Bjorkman had to take his time to make sure he reviewed evidence from all sides and worked toward a just decision. The courtroom is no place for off-the-cuff statements. Neither is the campaign trail or Congress, not for Bjorkman, a thoughtful decision-maker who recognizes the impact of his words and policies. He won’t wing it; he’ll take his time and think it through. (Another note to Bjorkman’s campaign staff: on this key quality, thorough, thoughtful Bjorkman is the anti-Trump. Keep him off Twitter!)

The follow-up question about whether handing out all those sentences might produce a backlash at the polls from convicts and families didn’t faze Bjorkman. “Most people who go to prison, they’re struggling and they know it, and their families know it.” He said many people he sentenced told him, “I don’t want freedom; I want to be cured.” Bjorkman comes across not as a hard case who doesn’t care about the defendants who’ve come before him; quite the contrary, he sounds like a judge at peace with his conscience who has used the bench to help broken people.

Making none of the press coverage was Bjorkman’s suggestion to the press for a really useful news story:

You want to see what’s going on in our culture… sit in court for a day, or better yet, do a story where you’re following someone into the couet system and through the penal system, parole system afterward. You’d have a very powerful story. It might win you an award if you want to do that. It just takes some work and effort. I’ve recommended that to several reporters. Nobody’s taken me up on that. The parole board will welcome you on that end, too, to sit in on hearings, they’ve told me that [Bjorkman, timestamp 11:45].

On this suggestion and in his resistance to standard reporters’ horserace questions, Bjorkman signaled a practiced, professional, and gently sparring relationship with the press. “I’m not gonna do what you’d like me to there,” Bjorkman said to KELO’s question at 12:20 about why voters should choose him over his Republican opponents Dusty Johnson and Shantel Krebs. Bjorkman is not nihilist tyrant Donald Trump trying to delegitimize the national press that is exposing his sins. Nor is he a naïf frightened or bedazzled by the cameras and mics. Bjorkman is gently challenging the local press to focus on issues that matter and not falling into the quick-hit horserace comments that make it easier for reporters to meet the ten p.m. deadline.

I still want answers on immigration and engaging young voters in democracy (plus education, Native American relations, net neutrality, privacy…)… but as Bjorkman noted, I’m asking several months before anyone will really be paying attention. I have high expectations, and Bjorkman has time to meet them. In his first campaign press scrum yesterday, Bjorkman showed he may have the chops to do it.



Video: Bjorkman’s First Public Speech as Candidate for U.S. House

Recently retired judge Tim Bjorkman held the first public event of his U.S. House campaign yesterday evening in Canistota. The Democratic candidate spoke to a friendly crowd of about 170 friends, neighbors, and visitors at the Canistota Veterans Memorial on the grounds of the Canistota Public School.

Introducing Bjorkman were his neighbor and former Canistota teacher and school superintendent Keith Ligtenberg, his friend and Total Stop Food Stores president Jeff Nielsen, and his sister Nancy Pulford:

In a 25-minute address, Bjorkman spoke of his desire to honor “what really makes America great… her ideals.”

Bjorkman said he saw firsthand in his courtroom the impacts of the middle class falling away from the well-off. Bjorkman said that growing inequality creates a “quiet desperation” and threatens “the economic, social, and moral fabric” of the nation. The problems he saw from the bench are beyond his ability as a judge to sole; thus, said Bjorkman, he feels a calling to run for Congress, where he believes he can solve these problems.

Sounding like Bernie Sanders, Bjorkman expressed his dismay that one American family has more wealth than 130 million American combined. He said it is morally wrong that in a nation as rich as the United States, one in three kids grow up poor.

Bjorkman said we need to honor work again and require able-bodied recipients of public assistance to to do some kind of work. He advocated moving people off welfare by raising the minimum wage. Bjorkman said the federal minimum wage he made back in 1968 at the Kimball IGA offered purchasing power in today’s dollars of $11.25. (This CNBC report pegs the 1968 value at $10.90.) He said a mom working full-time at an $11/hour minimum wage wouldn’t qualify for food stamps. Bjorkman indicated that a minimum wage that still leaves full-time workers qualifying for public assistance merely subsidizes low-wage employers.

Bjorkman called for more access to mental health care and drug treatment in our corrections system. He said we don’t need to have a debate about whether health care is a “right”; we simply need to recognize the making health accessible to all is the right thing to do morally and economically.

Citing Warren Buffett’s statement that “medical costs are the tapeworm of American economic competitiveness,” Bjorkman said that health care costs drag American businesses down more than taxes.

Bjorkman said the health care system reminds him of something Almanzo said to Laura in the Little House books:

“Everyone gets their ice; it’s just that the rich get theirs in summer and the poor get theirs in the winter.” The poor in South Dakota get their health care in our emergency rooms, our jails, and our prisons, often erratically and when it’s too late to easily treat, and often far, far more expensive than it needed to be.

Bjorkman called the House GOP health care plan “a moral, economic disaster” that is hardly a health care plan and more of a tax cut for the wealthy. He said he would have voted against that plan. He called on his fellow candidates in the House race to say on the record how they would have voted on that House plan.

Bjorkman also decried the cuts the Trump budget would make to the USDA. Those cuts, said Bjorkman, amount to “economic war on rural America” at a time when rural communities are already worse off than our cities with “higher poverty, higher unemployment rates, higher incidence of substandard housing, and poorer water quality.”

Bjorkman said South Dakota has too often elected people we like but who go to Washington and fall in with their national party’s agenda and wealthy corporate special interests. Bjorkman said just about everyone in Washington has a lobbyist except for regular folks and promised to be “your advocate.”

After the speech, guests enjoyed sloppy joes served by the Bjorkman campaign. Folks with young ‘uns then walked a block downtown to enjoy the carnival on the first evening of Canistota Sport Days festivities.



DFP Poll: 61% Support Single-Payer, 18% Want Medicare as Public Option

It should be no surprise that the Affordable Care Act is more popular among Dakota Free Press readers than either the House or Senate Republicans’ repeal/replace measures. But in the poll I offered from last Wednesday, June 28, through breakfast this morning asking you what health care policy you favor, over 90% of you said we need something other than the ACA:

  • Single-payer: 61% (180 votes)
  • Expand Medicare to public option: 18% (52)
  • Repeal ACA:  9% (25)
  • Keep ACA—no changes: 4% (13)
  • Other: 4% (12)
  • GOP Senate plan: 2% (7)
  • GOP House plan: 1% (4)

79% of you want a more direct public role in paying for health insurance, either in the form of a single-payer system (by far the most popular choice), in which one taxpayer-funded federal agency would pay for all necessary medical services for all Americans, or in the form of a “public option“, the opportunity for non-retirement-age Americans to buy into Medicare.

All other options offered were in single-digit percentages, well within the standard online-poll margin of error, which is just a little smaller than the whoppers Kristi Noem will tell about health care policy at her town hall Wednesday morning in Rapid City. Notably, almost twice as many respondents would be willing to play the Sasse/Paul/Trump tease of simply repealing the Affordable Care Act as would want to keep the health care status quo without changes.

Realizing that the Affordable Care Act is no longer enough of a bogeyman to win support for their greedy wealthcare tax cut, Republicans are fanning fears of single-payer as the liberal danger lurking if they don’t pass their healthcare bills. Senator Bernie Sanders believes American public opinion is shifting to embrace single-payer. But Real Clear Politics liberal pundit Bill Scher warns us liberals that single-payer might be popular enough to win us an election, but it will be our quicksand when a Democratically captured Congress tries to enact it as surely as “repeal-and-replace” is drowning the Trumpublicans:

Already we’ve seen single-payer pushes founder in deep blue Vermont and California because the upfront costs were steep and few were willing to support the necessary tax increases. The controversial line that greased passage of the Affordable Care Act – “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it” – would be non-operative in a single-payer debate; people currently satisfied with their health insurance would instead be told they would have to give it up for a government plan. The insurance industry would be literally fighting for its life, and would spend millions stoking every possible concern anyone could have about a wholesale revision of one-sixth of the United States economy [Bill Scher, “Democrats, Beware the Single-Payer Siren,” Real Clear Politics, 2017.07.03].

I agree that passing single-payer would be a significant challenge. But we Democrats passed the New Deal, Medicare, and the Affordable Care Act. We’re up for a challenge.



Samuelson Proposes Initiative to Cap Prescription Drug Prices

Rep. Kristi Noem tried to make a little political hay this week out of her effort to reduce health care costs by capping damages in medical malpractice cases. Of course, Noem’s vote for this measure would have no impact in South Dakota, since we already have malpractice damage caps. The measure would also have minimal impact nationwide, since medical liability costs make up 2.4% of health care costs, and a 2009 CBO analysis says tort reform might reduce health spending by 0.5%. Noem’s real headline vote on health care, that mean old House Republican ACA repeal she yea‘d in May, does nothing to control health care costs, and neither does the Senate GOP bill, largely because her voodoo chantings about bottom-up, patient-centered, free-market competition are counterproductive in health care.

If Noem is serious about controlling health care costs, maybe she would like to hang her ratty Carhartt cap on a ballot measure out of the blue: Drey Samuelson has proposed an initiative to lower prescription drug prices. The draft text reviewed by the Legislative Research Council would require the state to buy any prescription drugs for no more than the price paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Federal law requires drugmakers to give the VA a 24% discount of the top, from which discount VA officials can negotiate for even lower prices. Applied to state drug purchases, this measure would affect Medicaid recipients, inmates, state employees, and others receiving health benefits directly from the state. In the debate over a similar measure, Proposition 61, on California’s ballot last year, opponents claimed this drug price cap would affect only 12% of state residents, while proponents claimed the measure would directly affect up to 19% of state residents. Of course, every taxpayer benefits from reduced state spending on any line item.

The initiative includes an interesting and potentially illegal provision deeming the sponsors of this initiative to have “a direct and personal state in defending this Act from constitutional and other challenges” in court. I understand the intent—Samuelson is clearly looking at last year’s court fight over Initiated Measure 22 and trying to ensure that his ballot question committee can use its resources to directly fight for its ballot measure in court, if it passes muster with the voters. However, it seems that such an explicit granting of legal standing could run afoul of our state constitution’s Article 3 Section 23(9) prohibition on “Granting to an individual, association or corporation any special or exclusive privilege, immunity or franchise whatever.”

Also of legal interest is Section 5 of the draft initiative, which specifies an effective date of the prescription drug cap of July 1, 2019. LRC points out in its drafting recommendations that this provision is unnecessary, since 2017 Senate Bill 59, now written into SDCL 2-1-12, already sets the enactment date of approved ballot measures as July 1 following the election. As written, Section 5 is superfluous, but it raises the question of what happens if Samuelson comes back with a revised enactment date that differs from July 1. The Legislature fixed July 1 as the initiative enactment date instead of the previous law allowing ballot measures to come into effect as soon as the vote was officially canvassed to give themselves more time to sabotage popular initiatives that they don’t like. Since that later enactment date is just a law, it seems Samuelson and other initiators are free to propose alternative enactment dates with a simple “notwithstanding.” I would love to see Samuelson poke that legal bear and propose an enactment date of January 1, 2019… but I suppose there are complications to requiring new negotiations for drug prices in the middle of a fiscal year.

Prescription drugs make up about 10% of our health care spending. How much of that spending in South Dakota comes from state agency purchases of prescription drugs is a good question, but reducing the amount we taxpayers directly pay to obtain drugs for state health programs certainly seems a more direct and more moral way to reduce health care costs than limiting the amount of money that people who’ve been harmed by bad medicine can receive in damages from erring health care providers.

Senator Bernie Sanders campaigned hard for Proposition 61 in California, but pharmaceutical companies spent over $100 million to ensure the defeat of Proposition 61 53.2% to 46.8%. Ohio voters will face a similar initiative on their ballot this year.

LRC issued its draft recommendations on June 23. If Samuelson turned his draft around over that weekend and got his revisions to the Attorney General by June 26, then the A.G. has until August 25 to review the measure and issue is explanation. That would put petitions in Samuelson’s hands to circulate just barely in time for the State Fair and with eleven weeks total to gather the necessary 13,871 signatures to put this prescription drug cap on the November 2018 ballot.



Americans Think They Are Healthy, But Big Gap Between Perceptions of Rich and Poor

My neighbor Joe Berns offered a solid critique last week of the Koch Brothers’ flunkies’ claims that American capitalism works great for everybody. New Harvard research  offers an interesting perspective on that critique in perceptions of health in the world’s greatest capitalist society. The study finds a bigger gap between rich and poor Americans in their perception of the quality of their health and access to health care than between the rich and poor of most other countries. The Atlantic summarizes the data in this chart:

Source: Olga Khazan, "American's Health-Inequality Problem," The Atlantic, 2017.06.05, based on Hero, Zaslavsky, and Blendon, 2017.
Source: Olga Khazan, “American’s Health-Inequality Problem,” The Atlantic, 2017.06.05, based on Hero, Zaslavsky, and Blendon, 2017.

Only 12% of the richest third of Americans report “fair” or “poor” health. 38% of the poorest third report fair or poor health. That 26-point gap (which the Harvard researchers found is independent of whether or not Americans have insurance) is larger than in all but two of the other 31 nations surveyed.

Notice that our richest third report better health than their income-counterparts in most other countries. America’s middle and poor also express better perceptions of their health than the same groups in many other countries. Whether our perceptions are accurate is open for debate, given, for example, that the U.S. leads the world in obese adults and young people. But to the extent that perceptions are valid, our capitalist society appears to be delivering pretty good health results to all Americans relative to the rest of the world, but better results to rich Americans than to poor Americans.

If there are disparities in how well we deliver health care to America’s rich and America’s poor, you’d think the Senate might want to give us some assurance that they are going to make the system better for everybody, right? No dice:

Senate Republicans are working to finish their draft health care bill, but have no plans to publicly release it, according to two senior Senate GOP aides.

“We aren’t stupid,” said one of the aides. One issue is that Senate Republicans plan to keep talking about it after the draft is done: “We are still in discussions about what will be in the final product so it is premature to release any draft absent further member conversations and consensus” [Caitlin Owens, “Senate GOP Won’t Release Draft Health Care Bill,” Axios, 2017.06.12].

Unable to overcome the reality that the Affordable Care Act’s protections of health insurance coverage are better than anything oozing out of Republican slogans, Republicans are signaling that whatever bill they are hiding from us is just for show:

It’s starting to become more likely that the Senate GOP has decided that passing a bill may be impossible and that the best result may be to craft some legislation that is designed to fail simply as a show vote. Party leaders are now openly talking about the idea.

“I still think in the end there is a huge reason why we have to get to 50 on this,” Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, one of McConnell’s top lieutenants, told CNN on Monday. “Obviously, we’re going to have a vote on this one way or the other. But if we don’t pass something and we go into ’18, you know, it’s on us to try to get this fixed” [Matthew Sheffield, “Fearing Public Outcry, Senate Republicans Aim to Keep Health Care Bill Secret Until Last Possible Minute,” Salon, 2017.06.12].

The case for capitalism in health care is mixed: the Harvard study shows American perceptions of health better than in many other countries, but with a greater gap in satisfaction between rich and poor. Our democracy has yet to overcome our capitalist impulses to implement the sensible Bernie Sanders solution (Medicare for Everyone!)… but at least our democratic pressures may be keeping the Senate from making things worse.



Legislature Passes Stopgap Private Lakes Bill, Keeps Nonmeandered Waters Issue Alive for 2018

The nonmeandered waters legislation passed in yesterday’s special session of the Legislature is so bad—

—how bad is it?—

—it’s so bad that the biggest argument the House and Senate had about it was whether it should die four years from now or just one.

The Legislature took ten hours to deliver for Governor Daugaard’s signature the “Open Waters Compromise,” which is still is no compromise and which authorizes the unappealable closure by private parties of far more public water than it opens. In those ten hours, there was less substantive discussion of the core of the conflict—private property rights versus public ownership and use of waters that have flooded farmland—than there was repetition of how impressed legislators were with themselves for working so hard and so fast to put this bill forward (after 25 years of legislative inaction). One of the main arguments made for passing this bill (House Bill 1001) was that failing to do so would disrespect the work of the interim committee, which, sponsors frequently reminded us, made six field trips and took ten hours of testimony from 70 witnesses and on top of that had to take lots of phone calls and e-mails, some of which were mean.

These public servants who regularly humble-brag about their part-time status as citizen legislators sure marvel at their occasional ability to do their job. Good grief, legislators—get over yourselves.

I might be impressed if the Legislature had passed a consistent bill worth keeping around. But the issue that roused the most debate was over the sunset clause. Everyone acknowledged HB 1001 was imperfect and would require subsequent review and tweaking. To force such review, the original version of the bill would have expired July 1, 2021. Apparently wishing to force that review sooner rather than later, Rep. Nancy York (R-5/Watertown) moved to amend that date to July 1, 2018. Rep. York failed to sell that idea to the House, but Senator Jeff Partridge (R-34/Rapid City) moved a similar amendment of the sunset date to June 30, 2018 and won 29–4 approval. Partridge’s rationale was that the legislators who have grappled with this issue should deal with it again next year rather than kicking it down the road to a bunch of noobs in 2021.

Of course, Partridge’s one-year sunset moots the study provision of HB 1001. Section 20 directs Game Fish and Parks to report to the Legislature on closures of nonmeandered waters, negotiations for access, and other results of the law in 2019. But as amended, that directive and the rest of the law goes poof eleven months before GF&P’s report is due. So for all their self-congratulated work, in the three-plus hours it took them to get from Senate approval of its amendments through conference committee to House concurrence, nobody managed to amend Section 20 to direct Game Fish & Parks to provide the information the Legislature will need to assess the effectiveness of its action on nonmeandered waters before it revisits the issue in the 2018 Session.

But here’s the bright side: by passing a law that dies a year from now, legislators have guaranteed that nonmeandered waters will dominate the 2018 Session the same way it has dominated South Dakota political discourse over the past couple months. Farmers and fishers will crowd the Capitol next winter, elbowing aside the Family Heritage Alliance and other culture-war lobbyists and demanding attention for property rights and outdoor sports.

Nonmeandered waters make normal partisan conflicts disappear. Yesterday’s debate included almost no mention of party or ideology. Senate Stace Nelson (R-19/Fulton) tried to force the issue into something vaguely resembling a partisan template, fulminating about the stench of the “hard Left” campaign to subject God-given property rights to negotiation and compromise, but I could hear every other eye in the Senate (except Lance Russell’s) rolling through the SDPB audio feed. If any “hard Left” exists in South Dakota, it collectively cares not one fin about nonmeandered waters. Nonmeandered waters is a uniquely hot and complicated South Dakota issue. The “hard Right” and GOP political hacks can’t fit nonmeandered waters into their templates, either: look how little SDGOP spin blogger Pat Powers and wingnut Gordon Howie have contributed to the discussion of nonmeandered waters. Legislators and concerned citizens can’t get their talking points from Sean Hannity, Ivanka Trump, Rachel Maddow, or Bernie Sanders. South Dakotans have to figure this issue for themselves.

Every hour spent debating nonmeandered waters in the 2018 Session (and possibly the 2018 election) is an hour we don’t spend debating transgender bathroom access. And you know, we may be a lot better off debating where we can fish than where we can piss.

The Legislature worked really hard this spring to come up with a solution that won’t last. But with that little sunset clause, they may have shifted South Dakota political discourse in 2018 for the better.



Lalley Misses Most of Sutton Campaign Launch

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?



Interview: Sutton Wants to Bring Integrity, Checks and Balances Back to State Government

After announcing his bid for Governor at his family ranch on the banks of the Missouri River, Senator Billie Sutton took a few minutes to tell Dakota Free Press why he’s running to become South Dakota’s first Democratic Governor since Richard Kneip and Harvey Wollmann in the 1970s:

Sutton hit the issue of corruption and one-party rule strongly in this interview and in his announcement speech (video coming soon!). Note that Sutton is ready to play to all bases, not just the West River ranch vote. Working from his experience bringing factions together in the Legislature, Sutton is already building a narrative of being able to bring all South Dakotans together, rural and urban, rich and poor, old-line Democrats and Bernie Sanders Dems.

But darn, that standard demurring answer on his opponents! “Stick to focusing on our own campaign… not worry about the fray”—come on, Billie! Take a poke! Make Kristi and Marty worry about the fray! :-)



SD Republican Among First Ten Bernie-Bloomer “Brand New Congress” Candidates to File

Dakota War College notices that one Eric Terrell, possibly this registered Republican math teacher from Rapid City, has filed an FEC Statement of Candidacy to run for South Dakota’s lone U.S. House seat in 2018.  I say “possibly” only because instead of listing his middle name as “Amos”, the Statement of Candidacy lists Eric Terrell’s middle name as “Brand New”… which is silly, because if you’re doing something as serious as running for political office, you should seriously use your legal name.

DWC notes that Terrell has rather unusually listed 714 S. Gay Street, Suite 201, Knoxville, Tennessee 37902 as his campaign address.

Note: the only inhabitancy requirement for members of Congress allowed by the Constitution is that a member inhabit the state he or she represents at the time of election.

Also note: Terrell’s Knoxville address isn’t really that unusual. Out of 1,016 Statements of Candidacy on file with the Federal Election Commission this morning, ten list that same Knoxville Gay Street address:

FEC ID Candidate Party State District Office City Office State Office ZIP Receipt Date
H8TX14120 BELL, ADRIENNE DEM Texas 14 KNOXVILLE TN 37902 05/10/2017
H8IL07103 CLARK, ANTHONY DEM Illinois 7 KNOXVILLE TN 37902 05/10/2017
H8IL01106 DRUMMER, DEMOND DEM Illinois 1 KNOXVILLE TN 37902 05/11/2017
H8NY15148 OCASIO-CORTEZ, ALEXANDRIA DEM New York 15 KNOXVILLE TN 37902 05/10/2017
H8TX22206 PLUMMER, LETITIA DEM Texas 22 KNOXVILLE TN 37902 05/10/2017
H8AL07089 RICE, RICHARD BRAND NEW DEM Alabama 7 KNOXVILLE TN 37902 05/11/2017
H8FL07054 RICHARDSON, CHARDO DEM Florida 7 KNOXVILLE TN 37902 05/18/2017
H8AR03066 RYERSE, ROBERT REP Arkansas 3 KNOXVILLE TN 37902 05/18/2017
H8WA09054 SMITH, SARAH BRAND NEW DEM Washington 9 KNOXVILLE TN 37902 05/11/2017
H8SD01089 TERRELL, ERIC BRAND NEW REP South Dakota 0 KNOXVILLE TN 37902 05/11/2017

 

Brand New Congress, a progressive political movement founded by Bernie Sanders campaignerslists four of these ten candidates on its candidates webpage. BNC lists three other candidates for whom the FEC appears not yet to have paperwork. BNC lists its main address as a P.O. Box in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Two others on this list adopt Terrell’s device of replacing his middle name with “Brand New” branding (which practice properly invites mockery and should not be permitted on the ballot).

Terrell’s association with this crowd is unusual in that he is one of only two Republicans in the crowd. The other Republican, Pastor Robb Ryerse from Arkansas, is running to bring the Republican Party back to what he sees as its more progressive past.

One actual candidate from Knoxville, Tennessee, Dr. Joshua Williams, does not list the Brand New Congress office on his Statement of Candidacy.

The only other filed candidates listing campaign addresses outside of their home states are eleven candidates listing Washington, DC (eight of them incumbents) and one Illinois man running for a Senate seat in Indiana under the Disability Party banner.

DWC has listed the Facebook connections between Eric Terrell of Rapid City and the Bernie-Sanders-flavored Brand New Congress movement. Somehow DWC missed this public Facebook post from Terrell to the South Dakota Pagans & Wiccans page:

Eric Terrell to South Dakota Pagans & Wiccans, Facebook, 2016.10.16.
Eric Terrell to South Dakota Pagans & Wiccans, Facebook, 2016.10.16.

A pagan who practices with a coven—well! That should liven up the debates about religious freedom with boring old Christian Republicans Dusty Johnson and Shantel Krebs!

For the record, per Article 6, Section 3, I impose no religious test on candidates for political office. But I have about as much time for a discussion of Wicca as I do for inmates praying to Odin, Thor, and other figments of human imagination.