Yesterday South Dakota Citizens for Liberty released a new Legislative scorecard attempting to quantify the conservatism of South Dakota’s legislators. The scorecard also includes the claim that twelve Republican legislators are former Democrats. The SDGOP establishment spin blog predictably pitched a fit and accused them of making things up.
Citizens for Liberty responds this morning with a copy of an e-mail they say they sent to Senator Jim White (R-22/Huron) while researching their scorecard, asking him to share his conversion story:
Honorable Jim White,
SD Citizens for Liberty, Inc. has been doing extensive background research in conjunction with our voting record scorecard for this year’s legislature which is scheduled to be released soon. That research indicates you and numerous other Republican legislators have a history of membership in the Democrat Party prior to holding office as a Republican in the South Dakota Legislature.
Winston Churchill is credited with saying: “If you aren’t a liberal when you’re young, you have no heart, but if you aren’t a middle-aged conservative, you have no head.”
That is why we are interested in your conversion story.
We would like to include your responses to the following questions as relevant background information in the final report.
- What inspired you to change your registration from “Democrat” to “Republican”?
- What planks of the National Republican Party platform are most important to you?
- Which planks of the South Dakota Republican Party Platform are most important to you?
- Are there any planks of either platform with which you disagree
- How would you describe your current governing philosophy?
Thank you for your time and service.
Mrs. Tonchi Weaver
SD Citizens for Liberty, Inc.
Citizens for Liberty says Senator White ignored their inquiry:
The above email was sent to Senator White’s personal and legislative email addresses twice, once on August 22, and the second on September 19th. He opened it repeatedly and did not correct our understanding that he was in fact previously registered as a Democrat. We took it as a tacit confirmation [SD Citizens for Liberty, press release, 2017.10.10].
Citizens for Liberty then explains that it has the voter registration records to support its claims, to question Senator White’s statement to that Sioux Falls paper that “I’ve been a lifelong Republican. I was raised as a Republican and I’ve always run as a Republican” (which carefully avoids mentioning voter registration status), and to directly refute Rep. Jean Hunhoff’s (R-19/Yankton) statement that, “I’ve never registered as a Democrat. I’ve always been a Republican.” Citizens for Liberty claims that finding those voter registration records was made more difficult by SDGOP spinster Pat Powers himself and his former boss Jason Gant, who as Secretary of State allegedly ordered the destruction of voter registration information archived in Pierre that documented changes of voter registration as people moved from county to county:
Our requests to the Yankton and Brown County auditors specifically about Representative Hunhoff and Senator Novstrup elicited the attached voter registration cards. Our efforts to research our elected officials were made difficult due to the multiple decades worth of voter registration information expunged by SOS Gant & Mr. Powers [SDCFL, 2017.10.10].
Citizens for Liberty then returns to the salient point: whereas the SDGOP establishment has responded to the fringe issue of who was registered what when, the Republicans chapped by the scorecard have not responded to the real substance of their voting records and what Citizens for Liberty deems their failure to uphold the Republican Party platform:
We reject Mr. Powers claims that we are attacking the Republicans on the scorecard. We have simply pointed out their official voting records & previous registration. If their records are “attacking them,” then the only people to blame for such are the legislators themselves. Voter registration changes are relevant as voters deserve to be able to determine if it was a political ideology change or a matter of convenience. There are several of these politicians who were life-long Democrats who changed parties right before running for office in heavy Republican majority districts. Some of them within days of running. Many of these former Democrats continue to vote more often with the Democratic legislators than with Republican principles [SDCFL, 2017.10.10].
I myself have switched party affiliation (though in a more positive, progressive direction than White, Hunhoff, and other now-Republican legislators). That’s the minor story. The issue CFL should push and that legislators should explain is how the Republican slogans many of them run on in November don’t translate into consistent conservative votes in January, February, and March. Honesty about principles would help voters get beyond party labels and focus more on real policy in their political discourse.