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Nine Reasons Democrats Should Cheer Stace Nelson’s Primary Win in District 19

GOP District 19 Senate candidate Stace Nelson and Dem District 3 Senate candidate Cory Allen Heidelberger, Constitution Rally, Rapid City, SD, 2013.05.04.
GOP District 19 Senate candidate Stace Nelson and Dem District 3 Senate candidate Cory Allen Heidelberger, Constitution Rally, Rapid City, SD, 2013.05.04.

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.


  1. Rod Hall 2016-06-11 16:07

    Fulton had a Sen. Charles Bruett a Republican whose most famous quote was “What Pierre needs is more Democrats.” I was Fulton’s second Senator a Democrat who had a boy named Stace Nelson in school at Salem. Stace is a new kind of Republican who appears willing to get the corruption out of Pierre. He will probably be Fulton’s third Senator. Cory, make friends with him. While I have many differences with Stace’ philosophy I consider him a real friend!

  2. Darin Larson 2016-06-11 16:33

    Sounds like the enemy of your enemy is your friend, Cory. That doesn’t work for me.

    There are two reasons in favor of Nelson’s candidacy: 1) entertainment value as he gives them hell in Pierre 2) Democrats become more relevant in Pierre as the number of Tea Party Republicans rise undermining the Republican caucus.

    There are a plethora of reasons to oppose his candidacy, not the least of which is that he will oppose Medicaid expansion and he will back extremist abortion legislation and gun proliferation measures. He doesn’t like top down government unless he is the one giving the orders.

    Good luck with your friendship, but look out, I think Stace was just about to put a sleeper hold on you in that picture. He must have decided against it, For Now!

    Supporting Nelson in any fashion is untenable to me

  3. Vickie 2016-06-11 17:45

    I like and respect Stace. We have some very fundamental differences of opinion on some things,but I respect the man. He’s a stand up guy and throws the bulls**t flag when necessary. He does genuinely care about his constituents no matter if they are D or R. I wish that I could have the same respect for my district rep.,but that will never happen.

  4. bearcreekbat 2016-06-11 17:50

    Congratulations on your primary victory Stace!

  5. Douglas Wiken 2016-06-11 18:13

    Congratulations, Stacy. Give ’em hell.

  6. JonD 2016-06-11 18:23

    My main problem with people like Stace Nelson is that he is a True Believer. He feels that his god and his concept of nation and patriotism are absolute and that makes him infallible. He would gladly lay down his life for what he believes in and that is commendable. However, placed in a position of power he would just as quickly lay down your life as well for what he believes in, regardless of whether you happen to agree with his convictions. If Nelson is in command he will sacrifice whatever it takes to win the fight that he sees as righteous and ordained by his almighty, omniscient god and his sense of right and duty. And he could well
    be wrong, just like any other man.

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-06-11 18:31

    Rod, that’s a noteworthy endorsement! I’ll ask Stace if he remembers you from school in Salem.

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-06-11 18:34

    Darin—entertainment value! I should have included that as #10.

    Don’t worry—I’m ready to second Pat’s call for a Democratic Senator from District 19. If Republicans want to help us make that happen, I welcome them to the party.

    Suppose Finck had won the primary and went on to represent District 19—can we be sure he’d have done any better on wingnut issues than Stace?

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-06-11 18:37

    JonD, Nelson in command could be scary. Does Nelson in a Legislative setting, checked by mainstream Republicans and Democrats alike, cause you less fear?

    What is the greater danger for South Dakota: Senator Stace Nelson, who will prosecute the right-wing culture war with vigor but who will, as Vickie notes, throw the BS flag at corruption in the Daugaard Administration, or a mainstreamer like Finck who might hand us the occasional surprise vote against right-wing culture-war bills but who would never challenge the Governor or his friends on anything like EB-5 or GEAR UP or CAFOs?

  10. Rorschach 2016-06-11 19:09

    Who’s that sumo wrestler standing next to you, Cory? Is that Stacey Nelson? Looks like a heart attack waiting to happen.

  11. grudznick 2016-06-11 20:08

    Mr. Larson is righter than right. The entertainment value young Mr. Nelson will return to the legislatures is priceless. And if Mr. H gets in there too that could double up.

  12. Roger Cornelius 2016-06-11 20:32

    Over the past several months we have had commenters on the blog say that they “just hate Hillary or they “just can’t stand her”.
    That is somewhat my position with Stace except I don’t hate him, I just can’t stand him.

  13. Stace Nelson 2016-06-11 20:39

    Hat tip to my friend Mr “H.” My friendship is not contingent upon somebody’s party registration. I have many Democratic friends and some relatives who are long time prominent Democrats that I love with all my heart.

    Rod Hall has been a mentor to me and gave me a pep speech when I needed it. He too felt the wrath of petty tyrants in his day for his constituents. Rod has a great reputation in my area for being a good man, and his relatives will be yards from me for eternity someday when they plant me in my plot at Graceland North of Fulton.

    @Darin Oppose me on my ideas, but the megalomania claims are nonsense and unsupported by reality.

    @Vickie Thanks for your wisdom.

    @BCB Thank you, you will have to excuse me from my guilty blog pleasures of mixing it up as much as like to do, in the future. Too much personal, professional, and political obligations.

    @Doug Wiken Thank you. You too!

    @JonD You show a profound misunderstanding of who I am and what I believe in as a Christian. I am a poor worthless, ignorant, but honest sinner. I am not infallible and have never claimed to be. I agonize over every vote I make in the legislature and I do my best to make decisions based off of the facts and the principles I lead my life by.

    @Rorshach I have had to swallow my pride over the decades as I watched my physique deteriorate due to major injuries I survived while serving my fellow man. But here I am proudly wearing the scars and weight of who I am, offering to serve again, while you offer only the intellectual weakness of petty ignorant comments. I followed Sumo for 18 years while in Asia and have been to numerous professional tournaments. Professional Sumo rikishi are world class professional athletes and are accomplished, tough, martial artists. I’m just an overweight broken down old Marine.

  14. JonD 2016-06-11 20:41

    Well if you’re going to get all rational on me, yes, that’s a much less worrisome proposition. And also yes, given the limitations of the office involved, Finck could likely do more damage through incompetence than Nelson could do through ideologic zeal. I just wish we had more candidates that didn’t display so much of either of those traits.

  15. grudznick 2016-06-11 21:09

    Mr. Nelson, since you are a Sumo master I expect you to make sure your showdown with Mr. Greenfield for the leadership of the senate is handled in a transparent and open manner. Will you use the roto-tundra of the Capital as your dohyo?

  16. Stace Nelson 2016-06-11 21:57

    @Grudznick Your facetiousness aside, voters in general have a right to now. I am supporting Lance Russell for President Pro Tem and Republicans have a right to know I am supporting Brock Greenfield for Majority Leader.

    Ideally, I would like to see Jeff
    Monroe or Jim Stalzer as Assistant Majority Leader; however, my support for that position, and the whips l, are still up in the air.

  17. Rod Hall 2016-06-11 22:00

    Stace Nelson as a first term Representative stopped Gov. Daugaard and Sec. of Ag Walt Bones from building a 7000 cow dairy near Fulton. Stace Nelson probably saved the state from losing tens of millions of EB-5 dollars that might have been squandered by Joop Bollen and his pals!

  18. John 2016-06-12 07:36

    There used to be a time when conservatives governed conservatively, believed in science, sought wisdom, and protected the environment. Think: the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Extension Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Endangered Species Act, etc., etc. We can hope that Stace is one of those conservatives – though we’re not so sure.

  19. Matt Rankin 2016-06-12 07:41

    How can one encourage Kurtz, Powers, and yourself to stop discussing and goading each other? Sadly, the three of you represent the “cutting edge” of SD political blogs, and the partisan rhetoric and insults make all of you look very childish.

    Politics aside, its disappointing to watch grown men behave like children; you all claim to be married, but act like three queens going at it.

  20. Rorschach 2016-06-12 08:17

    Yeah Cory. Stop discussing Pat Powers and his political blog on your political blog. And quit using partisan language here too. It’s upsetting. Things you should not discuss here include: political differences, hypocrisy, inconsistency, faulty logic. What are you, a debater or something?

  21. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-06-12 08:31

    Matt—really? The discussion here somehow correlates with being “queens”? And you respond to political and blogospheric analysis with a suggestion that I’m not married? I’m confused and offended.

    As Ror says, the blogosphere exists in context. Part of what we do is analyze and critique each other’s rhetoric. Providing a counter to the propaganda offered by the GOP spin blog was one of the original reasons I started blogging; providing radical witness against that propaganda remains a fundamental motivation for Dakota Free Press. What would you rather I do, blog photos of my supper?

  22. Dave 2016-06-12 13:59

    Matt — You think Dakota War College is “cutting edge?” I just threw up in my mouth a little.

  23. John Wrede 2016-06-12 14:38

    I’ve found Mr. Nelson’s philosophy to be contradictory to my own in many respects but one has to admire his willingness to take on the good ol boy narcissism that has been corrupting SD politics for decades. Were it not for Stace’s historical votes on the environment and conservation issues that affect all of us native born SD’s that use to enjoy SD outdoors before politicians started screwing it up, I’d be more than willing to help fund the man’s campaign- even in the face of a viable democrat. Seems no one in Pierre is willing to challenge the political status quo of commercial and recreational exploitation of assets that belong to all of us so it may be that Stace has the courage but it will take more than that to reverse the damage done to what was once a rich natural history and resource based culture.

  24. Darin Larson 2016-06-12 15:35

    Cory, Matt raises a good point. ****** I’ve never met your wife. I haven’t seen your marriage license. What state and county did you supposedly tie the knot in so I can go look it up? I don’t want any photocopies or electronic copies either. You are too skilled with Photoshop. We can’t be too careful.

    I’m calling Trump’s campaign. He will know how to handle this issue and he can give you some tips on not to goad others and how not to be partisan. ****************

    ********* denotes sarcasm

  25. mike from iowa 2016-06-12 16:03

    Nothing could be finer than being lumped in with Pat Power’s Vagi….whoa, that don’t work.

    Cutting edge? No matter how you slice it, Cory should never be conflated with the absolute worst excuse for a political blog ever.

  26. Matt Rankin 2016-06-12 16:31

    Here is what is sad from my perspective-

    Although you care and are an astute researcher Cory, West River fell off your map when you left.

    I only gravitated to Kurtz’s blog because at least somebody was calling Marty Jackley the Reptile Scumbag that he is, but it doesn’t take long to figure Larry out. He wins the saddest case really, because he left but can’t let go. When I move to my 9 acres in Costa Rica in three years, f— the lot of you, your State, your Country, your obsession with partisan politics.

    Pat Powers. Empowered by his name being said again, it’s the Limbaugh Technique, but cheapened with high fruticose corn syrup for South Dakota consumption.

    How about you ultimately all suck, sans your research and clerical ability, fueled by whatever axe it is you have to grind. I am for any criticality of Mexicota, but something is off with you as well, and it seems everyone is on a spook payrole in this State who isn’t busy ripping us off via regular gov’t.

  27. mike from iowa 2016-06-12 16:43

    Sorry for you,Matt, but I don’t put out for anyone or for any reason.

  28. Roger Cornelius 2016-06-12 17:05

    Can’t you move up that date to move to Costa Rica and do you miserable self a favor?

  29. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-06-12 17:10

    By the way, what’s all this majority leader and pro-tem talk, anyway? Y’all better focus on November first.

    But while we’re at it, I’ll be supporting Senator Sutton for pro-tem and Senator Parsley for Majority Leader.

  30. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-06-12 17:30

    [“Something is off with you as well”—Matt, I can’t really respond to that. ]

    [Your original critique was an inaccurate claim that I’m just childishly goading other bloggers. Now it’s morphed into something about grinding an axe and not seeing West River coverage.]

    [Indeed, my coverage is slanted by where I live. While I was in Spearfish, I got more West River news, and it was easier to plug into some of those stories. While I’m in Aberdeen, it’s easier to get information on Joop Bollen and other area stories. These things happen.]

    [But West River fell off my map? This morning, before your complaint, I noted Sanders’s triumph in West River and the public meetings on the Rushmore Connector Trail. My Friday night scoop on the payday lenders’ new circulator-interrogation campaign came from Rapid City. I’m the only media source I know of giving any press to the Bennett County state’s attorney race and Pennington County’s Ken Orrock’s ineligibility for that office.]

    [In addition, my coverage in just the last seven days has touched on District 19’s election, Spink County’s borehole opposition, Grant County’s CAFO-zoning vote, Garretson’s child-sex-stung business manager, and Pollock’s quest for cell service.]

    [Would I like to write more West River stories? You betcha. I’d like to write more stories, period. And I’ll keep trying.]

    [I don’t toot my horn much, because I like to believe that quality will speak for itself. But Matt, if you wish to contend that there is a lack of quality here, I’ll make my case that I’m offering a greater variety of topics from a greater variety of places around the state than anyone in the blogosphere and presenting those topics with more clarity and originality than any other writer you’ve cited.]

    [Now ring that tip jar. ;-) ]

  31. grudznick 2016-06-12 18:59

    Mr. H, I think your blogging is fine. It is easier to have more news about places close to where you live so blogging more about those places is understandable. I, for one, appreciate your bloggings about the west of the river probably as much as the next fellow.

    I think you do write some blogs just to goad at other bloggers or media and that is OK. And entertaining. It is your blog and you also have messages about many other things like your bicycle path one so it all kind of rounds out a bit.

  32. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-06-12 20:11

    “Goad”—does that come from the same root as “gadfly”? Gadflyery is part of the charter for blogging.

    Stace is a gadfly. That’s another reason I’d prefer him to Caleb in the Senate.

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