You want great radio? Watch this in-studio video of my debate with Al Novstrup on yesterday’s Don Briscoe Show on Hub City Radio/KSDN AM 930 (program begins at timestamp 9:40—sorry, but no pre-show hot mic!):
Pre-Game Warm-Up: For weeks, Al had balked at Briscoe’s invitation to this joint interview. He first said he wasn’t sure he could commit. Then last week he asked Briscoe to find a different moderator or a second moderator to ensure fairness, something no candidate asked Briscoe for in previous interviews this year or in past election years. I pressed Al publicly this week to join the program and address the negative attacks the South Dakota Republican Party is spending thousands of dollars on to save his seat in the Legislature.
Finally, yesterday, minutes before the program, Al showed up unannounced at the studio. He commented on my clothes, then argued with Briscoe on the way into the studio about whether he’d demanded a different moderator or not.
If there was any cause for concern about moderator fairness, perhaps I should have thrown the flag when Briscoe opened the show with a joke calling my fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton a continual liar. But hey, I’ll talk to anyone. And I don’t go around making demands of the media. If they want to have me on, I’m happy to fulfill my obligation to talk to the voters.
Negative Novstrup: After a brief note on campaign finance, Briscoe turned right away to Al’s negative attacks on me. I can say Al’s, and not just the South Dakota Republican Party’s, because Al came armed with a folder full of the SDGOP postcards and print ads, along with numerous printouts of Dakota Free Press blog posts. Those negative attacks were almost all Al talked about throughout our hour on the air. Al thus owns the negative attacks. (For what it’s worth, the only materials I brought with me to The Don Briscoe Show were my campaign card, which I handed to Briscoe and producer Les Cummings before we began. Al said he already had my card.)
Taxes: Briscoe asked about Al’s frequent attack on my policy statements on taxes. I summarized the responses I offered here on the blog the day that attack came out, October 18: yes, I support using progressive taxes (for example: it would be fairer to tax farmers on their actual income than on the fantasy earnings of the current productivity assessment model) to replace and reform our woefully regressive taxes. My proposal to discuss sales tax exemptions wasn’t the simple clueless money grab that Al falsely portrayed it as; it was a response to blog readers’ desire to discuss the hundreds of millions of dollars in breaks that we give lots of special interests on sales tax. (That shows my ability to listen to constituents and invite serious policy conversations.) And as for Al’s contention that we should only raise taxes in emergencies, his creative excuse for the enormous tax increases he has supported over the last two years, I replied that instead of twiddling our thumbs in Pierre until emergencies happen, good legislators anticipate problems and act before trucks get stuck in ruined roads and teachers leave the state in droves due to low pay.
Local Interests: A caller asked about what we candidates will do for Brown County. Al focused on his work to bring funding to Northern State University. I agreed that NSU is vital to our community and all of northeastern South Dakota as a driver of cultural and economic development. Al said legislators need to build relationships and trust to win support for NSU; I responded that my honest, fact-based blogging has helped me develop exactly those relationships and trust with policymakers around the state and that all legislators should be able to put the public interest above any personal concerns.
Immigration: Another caller asked for our “opinions on immigration.” Briscoe acknowledged that immigration is “off the scale”—i.e., outside the jurisdiction of state legislators. I said we are a nation of immigrants and derive our strength from bringing in new people and new ideas. Al said he’s more “moderate” than me, which a nice cloak of his radical Trumpist position on immigration. He repeated the lie that we can’t vet immigrants (we can and do, more rigorously than most nations), which holds about as much water as the lie he told on This American Life about Sharia law governing Dearborn, Michigan. He also peddled the false notion that immigrants impose a burden on our society with welfare payments, which flies in the face of the information I posted yesterday morning about refugee men joining the workforce at higher rates than U.S.-born men. Good grief: how many facts must a legislator get wrong before we stop giving any credence to the things he says on a given topic?
A later caller asked about refugees from “terrorist countries that vow to kill Americans.” Producer Les asserted that some of the Founding Fathers were refugees. I recalled that the United States took pride in taking refugees from the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Bang Bang—Cory’s Reasonable, the NRA’s Crazy: Briscoe asked about the charge that I refused to state my position on the Second Amendment. I said I support all of the amendments—Second, First, etc.—and noted it was funny that, given all the blog articles Al hauled into the studio, he couldn’t take the time to find my numerous public statements on gun policy, which I said the SDGOP doesn’t want to talk about, because it turns out I’m pretty reasonable on gun policy. Briscoe himself said he loves guns but said people don’t need high-capacity magazines and said the NRA has gone crazy.
Taxes and Teacher Pay: Another caller said he loves paying low South Dakota taxes. I noted that Al raised our sales tax to raise teacher pay, then pointed out that the competing Democratic proposal would have given more teachers more money while imposing either the same or a lower sales tax burden on 95% of South Dakotans than the plan Al voted for. “I like low taxes, but you also have to smart about it.”
Humor in the Trenches: A woman called with a question for Mr. Heidepriem, but the time warp closed before she could pose her question to the 2010 Democratic candidate for Governor. Al and Don both laughed at my historical reference.
A Brief Gleam of Agreement: Another caller asked about increasing the state’s share of video lottery revenue. I said I’m open to that policy conversation, but video lottery is a rotten way to fund a state, another regressive shift of tax burdens to low-income folks. Al appeared to agree, mentioning the untallied social costs of addiction and crime linked to gambling.
Youth Minimum Wage: Briscoe asked each of us to ask our opponent one question (not about taxes, since he felt we’d done enough on that topic. I asked Al why he voted to overturn the will of the voters by cutting the minimum wage for young workers. Al recited his son’s standard propaganda that cutting kids’ wages is about giving kids more opportunity. He said that 80% of kids are unemployed, so “you can’t cut their wages; they’re already zero.” How offering even lower wages will persuade any of those kids who are choosing (with parental support) not to enter the workforce escapes me.
The Central Personal Attack of This Campaign: I posed my question to Al in 12 seconds. He took over a minute to pose his final question to me. He rehashed the “boycott” complaint that he inartfully crowded onto the end of his closing remarks at our only other joint appearance during this election, the League of Women Voters forum on September 24. He said he was one of 46 House members who voted for Rep. Rev. Scott Craig’s bill this year on “religious freedom,” which, Al said, was about making sure that “we’re not going to force anybody to violate their religious beliefs.” Al noted that I had proposed boycotting the businesses of those 46 House members and that I had called those members “bigoted, they’re intolerant, they’re lacking character, and they’re lacking intelligence.” Al said that many of those 46 members will be in the Capitol next Session. He asked how I will be able to represent Brown County and work with those legislators whom I have called such names.
Here’s my response:
I’m glad you asked this question, Al, because the bill you were supporting was bigoted and uninformed and unintelligent and I’ll stand by every word I’ve said about the nature of that bill and the people who supported it, including you. The bill actually would have given businesses like yours the right to basically boycott certain customers whose religious beliefs—[Al attempted a Trumpist interruption here; I had to tell Al to pipe down]—Your bill gave employers the right to discriminate against people based on their religion. I simply said goose for gander: if you want to discriminate against customers, how about customers discriminate against you? If you’re so offended by that, then you’ve learned your lesson, and you should know how the people you target with your discrimination would feel about that kind of legislative discrimination that you want to use the force of the state to impose on people that you don’t like [Cory Allen Heidelberger, radio interview, KSDN AM 930, 2016.11.04, timestamp 1:00:08].
At this point, the station manager came in and gave Briscoe permission to extend the program past the news break. I thus had the opportunity to move beyond explaining Al’s false representation of 2016 House Bill 1107 (which one commentator called “Sharia for Jesus”—ironic given Al’s false fears of Sharia Law elsewhere) and address the idea that my criticism of HB 1107 somehow precludes my ability to work with other legislators on other bills.
The issue of relationships with legislators with whom I’ve had passionate disagreements: That’s where my skills are best suited. I would say this. I’ve made my living as a teacher, as a debate judge, as a debate coach. I’m used to having spirited disagreements about issues. I’m not afraid to have those disagreements.
But when we sit down to talk policy, I’m ready to put the people of South Dakota first. So I can forget the personal slights that Al and his Republican pals have thrown on me over the past several years. When we get to Pierre, I’ll look them in the eye, I’ll say, all right, we’re here to do a budget. I’ll say, all right, we’re here to do good policy. Let’s make it happen. I can be the grown-up in the room.
If Al is telling me that there are legislators in Pierre who can’t get past a little personal disagreement and are going to hold that against the people of South Dakota, that’s alarming. Because when I go to Pierre, it’s not Cory Heidelberger going to Pierre. When Al goes to Pierre, it’s not Al Novstrup going to Pierre. It’s the people of District 3 going to Pierre in the form of their representative. And agree or disagree with various issues, we still have to get work done at the end of the day. That’s what matters [CAH, 2016.11.04, timestamp 1:03:40].
Al complained that I was filibustering and demanded the short answer. Fine.
When Al attacks me for “name-calling,” he’s actually attacking himself and the GOP club in Pierre. Al is saying that he would put taking revenge for some personal slight over working together on practical policy for the general good of the people of South Dakota. He’s projecting that same petty, immature attitude onto other legislators of his party. If legislators like Al can’t get past their personal grievances, that doesn’t indict my character; that tells voters we need to elect better legislators who care about the people more than about their own egos.
Job Recommendation: In the middle of our discussion of Al’s character attack on me, Don Briscoe made this comment:
On your blog, you say this…: “I teach as I write, to get people thinking and talking.” This is just an aside, it just so happens both my grandchildren had you as a practice teacher, and they said he was one of the best teachers we’ve ever had. Id like to see you be a full-time teacher in this town, but I thought I should add that because, unprovoked, they both came home and told their parents we had this wonderful practice teacher [Don Briscoe, radio interview, KSDN AM 930, 2016.11.04, timestamp 1:01:44].
Pig P.S.: Al alleged that I called a Mitchell legislator a pig in a blog headline. I can’t find that post to verify Al’s claim, but he deemed calling someone a pig disqualifying for legislative service. I take it that Al will spend this weekend knocking down all the Donald Trump signs that stand next to his in Aberdeen.
Our media appearances are likely done—now it all happens online, at the doors, on the streets, and, most importantly, at the polls.