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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?


  1. PlanningStudent 2017-06-05

    I don’t know if it is a left / right thing at all… I think it is a Sioux Falls-Centric mentality. It is something that people from both the left and right suffer from. And I don’t personally think its very helpful in winning elections, quite the opposite. We want to know a politician cares about people outside of Sioux Falls. Even most Sioux Falls folks are from else where and still care about their home towns, even more than their new home in Sioux Falls.

  2. Jenny 2017-06-05

    I don’t think you could have had a setting more beautiful than Sutton’s with the beautiful bluffs in the background. That’s what I look forward to when going back to SD – wide open spaces.
    I’m sure the Sutton team realizes they’re going to have to hit Sioux Falls hard to get any sort of chance of a contest.

  3. Roger Cornelius 2017-06-05

    It is probably to safe to say that other political announcements in larger or “better” venues have not garnered a crowd of 130 voters and media.
    If Sutton critics have nothing more than to criticize him for his announcement location they must have something to fear.
    I can’t recall specifically, but we have had major party candidates make their announcements on Twitter or Facebook knowing that they are reaching a greater number of people than standing on the capital steps.

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-06-05

    PS, I like your point about Sioux Falls being filled with people from elsewhere. The economy of our biggest city depends on people coming from elsewhere, either to shop there on the weekends, work in the cube farms on the weekday before heading back home each night to Tea or Montrose or Dell Rapids or Madison, or to actually move there full-time.

    Hmm… on that last point, maybe Sioux Falls would be better off if there were a Governor who didn’t care about rural South Dakota, let it all fall apart, and thus encouraged everyone to move to Sioux Falls. ;-)

  5. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-06-05

    Roger, I agree Billie got plenty of bang for his buck. He probably got the food for cheaper since he could have the local ranch ladies do the catering instead of having to order in house at one of the convention centers (they often don’t let you bring your own food in, and they charge an arm and a leg for their fare). He paid zero for stage rental. He needed far fewer decorations, because the land and sky provided all the beauty necessary.

    Maybe there are some Lalley readers whose life doesn’t extend west beyond the Ellis Road who think Sutton is too cowboy to dig their groove. But Billie is in Day #6 of a 524-day campaign (assuming someone doesn’t knock him out on Day #370 in the 2018 primary). After staging some nice opening theater (nicer than either Kristi or Marty did, if I recall correctly, from their IM-22-hurried November announcements, which were drowned out in post-election analysis, while Billie got a lazy summer day mostly to himself), Sutton has plenty of time to make the rounds, shake hands, and engage in the conversations necessary to let those “urban” voters know that a Sutton Administration will manage their dollars better and give more of a darn about their wages and health insurance and schools than anyone the Trump party is offering.

  6. Darin Larson 2017-06-05

    I’m beginning to think they should ask Mr. Lalley for his advice on campaign matters and then do the opposite. What was your advice Mr. Lalley, go to Sioux Falls looking like a carpet bagger who lost his way and make the announcement at the downtown Holiday Inn? Someone like Lalley who sees a “barren stage” while missing the backdrop of God’s glorious creation and what the wide open spaces here represent will be perfect for talk radio.

    I think the setting was perfect. West River folks will see one of their own. Cattle ranchers will see one of their own. Independent types, which South Dakota is famous for, will see one of their own. Small business owners will see one of their own. People in rural areas will see one of their own. People who grew up on a farm or ranch will see one of their own. People who put family first will see one of their own. People who have overcome adversity will see one of their own. People who think South Dakota is a great place and can be even better will see one of their own. People who want to clean house in Pierre and restore integrity to our state government will see one of their own.

    The ranch where Billie lives and works is the perfect setting for the announcement. It shows he is a real down to earth person who has his priorities straight and knows that what happens in Pierre can affect us all, even out in parts of the state where cattle outnumber people.

    My guess is there will be plenty of opportunities for campaign events for Sutton all over East River and even in Sioux Falls. Might there be a Lieutenant Governor candidate from East River to balance the ticket?

    Maybe Lalley should take a drive and experience all that the state has to offer rather than confine himself to Sioux Falls and the listening area covered by KSOO. Or he can sit tight in the big city and tell us all how things out to be done. Ya, that will go over big.

  7. Rorschach 2017-06-05

    Some of us are like dandelion seeds in the wind. Others are of a less transient nature. Billie Sutton is the latter.

    I had to chide brother Cory in an earlier post for rightfully faulting Mike Rounds (for holding a meet and greet on short notice, on a weekday, in the middle of nowhere) then remaining silent when Billie Sutton did exactly. the. same. thing. But unlike the dandelion seeds among us, you can tell a lot about Billie Sutton by seeing where he calls home. His decision to kick off his campaign there was brilliant and perfect.

  8. Thomas 2017-06-05

    It is a a barren landscape to Lalley only because he could not see a paved bicycle trail or his “I want to be lance Armstrong spandex bike shorts” in the picture.

  9. grudznick 2017-06-05

    Mr. Lalley is a libbie insaner than most, and even the Argus fired him for his whacko views and for yelling into the microphone on the TV show he and Mr. Ellis were really bad at. My friend Lar loved it, but I found it annoyingly boring.

    Mr. Lalley belongs on radio, yelling his libbie views into a can.

  10. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-06-06

    Ror, that’s an interesting comparison. However, Rounds and Sutton occupy two very different positions and were doing two very different things. Rounds is supposed to be carrying out his duty to make himself accessible to the people who elected and listen to their concerns. Sutton wasn’t holding a town hall; he was staging political theater. Rounds’s job, which we are paying him to do but which is is continuing to do a poor job of, is to talk to his constituents. Sutton’s job last week was to build buzz, get attention, and snap up a whole bunch of great campaign pictures and video. Mission accomplished. And then the next thing he did was go to Sioux Falls to mingle with voters who couldn’t make the drive to Burke.

    Note that, in his speech, Sutton announced he would be conducting a whole bunch of listening sessions come fall. We could use a schedule, but there he’s at least giving us three months’ notice.

    The campaign is yet young—we’ll see how well Sutton does at mixing with the public and listening. We’ll see if he can do a better job of it than Rounds and, more importantly, Noem and Jackley.

  11. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-06-06

    Thomas, I’ll admit as a fellow cyclist that I’d find it a drag living six miles away from the nearest pavement. However, the opportunity to cut some mountain-bike trails in and out of the trees along the bluffs and down to the river might make up for that asphalt lack.

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