We have the Top Ten original blog stories and the Top Ten (plus 66!) most viewed DFP posts for 2017; now let’s look ahead to 2018 and the Top Ten stories I’d love to be able to report in this shiny new year!
1. Women Seize Majority in Legislature (Pierre, November 14, 2018): With the arduous Brown County recount confirming the defeat of veteran District 3 Senator Al Novstrup, women now hold majorities in both chambers of the South Dakota Legislature. Women will hold 56 of 105 seats in the 2018 Legislature, 18 in the Senate and 38 in the House.
Following Jenna Netherton’s resignation from the Senate to move to Crimea in July, the number of women in the Legislature was down to 20 out of 105 seats, 4 in the Senate and 16 in the House.
2. Troopers Arrest Brawlers in Capitol; Anti-Immigrant Legislation Abandoned (Pierre, February 6, 2018): Six Aberdeen residents were arrested in the State Capitol today on charges of assault and disorderly conduct. State troopers were called to the Senate State Affairs committee meeting Tuesday morning when anti-immigrant protestors attempted to storm the committee dais. The protestors had previously disrupted the hearing by shouting racial epithets and threatening witnesses and legislators, who were discussing Senate Bill 222, Senate Neal Tapio’s (R-5/Watertown) proposed state immigrant registry.
“It came to a head when Taneeza Islam stepped forward to testify against the bill,” said Senator Troy Heinert (D-26/Mission). “The contingent from Aberdeen began shouting ‘Sharia!’ and ‘Traitor!’ and worse. When the chair told them to leave, they started shoving and advancing toward us. I jumped out of my chair to protect Ms. Islam. Billie [Senator Sutton] rolled out grabbed one angry old guy who was coming toward us with his fists in the air and shouting, “Muslims go home!” The guy pulled Billie out of his wheelchair, but Billie hauled him down and made sure he didn’t get any closer.”
After troopers arrived and removed the violent protestors, the committee immediately reconvened. “Senator Tapio, shame on you,” said Senator Billie Sutton (D-21/Burke) when he moved to kill SB 222. “The disgrace that happened here today shows the dangerous hatred and violence you’ve been fomenting with this bill and your little anti-Muslim rallies around the state. This bill and this violence are un-South Dakotan. They are un-American. They are un-Christian.” Without further discussion, the committee unanimously killed SB 222.
3. China and Mexico Save Molded Fiber Glass (Aberdeen, August 2, 2018): In the latest turn in a roller-coaster year, Molded Fiber Glass announced that China Energy Investment Corp. has ordered 3,000 wind turbine blades from the Aberdeen manufacturer. The blades will head south to Mexico, where China is investing heavily in energy and manufacturing to fill the vacuum left in the chaos of U.S. withdrawal from NAFTA.
Molded Fiber Glass was expected to shut down on August 15 after fulfilling its final contract with NextEra and General Electric. Now not only will 420 workers remain on the job, but the influx of Chinese funds will require doubling the workforce and assembly line capacity.
4. Primary Drains GOP Campaign Coffers (Pierre, July 18, 2018): Bruising primary battles left South Dakota’s Republican nominees for U.S. House and governor and their challengers broke. The latest FEC reports show that primary winner Dusty Johnson and his main opponent Shantel Krebs together spent over $6 million; state campaign finance reports show Marty Jackley spent over $4 million to beat down Kristi Noem, who burned through a $5 million war chest. Johnson reported less than $5,000 cash on hand as of June 30; Jackley reported $550,000 in debt.
The last-place finisher in the Republican House primary, Neal Tapio, has not yet filed his Q2 report with the FEC. Tapio went silent on primary night and is reported to have left the country for Crimea.
5. Senate Rejects Abdallah Nomination (Pierre, January 23, 2018): The South Dakota Senate rebuffed a former member by voting 18–17 against the nomination of Gene Abdallah to the state Board of Pardons and Paroles. Abdallah’s nomination was dogged by accusations if sexual harassment and other improper behavior. However, in floor debate, more Senators cited Abdallah’s brutish public response to those allegations as evidence of a temperament ill-suited to the board.
6. Russian Money Backing Rural Islamophobic Speaker Circuit (Aberdeen, September 16, 2018): E-mails and bank statements show that Russian oligarchs closely tied to the Putin regime have poured $650 million into a shadowy network of white-supremacist organizations supporting anti-Muslim speakers and programs in rural communities around the United States, including events in Aberdeen, Sioux Falls, and Rapid City. Obtained from the newly released trove of documents from the Paul Manafort files, the evidence shows coordination between Russian billionaires and Russian intelligence operatives to sow fear and racism in rural America, with the intent of sowing discontent in the U.S. and driving U.S. foreign policy toward support for expanded Russian police and military action against Muslim populations to its south.
“This Russian connection is another example of right-wing projection,” noted Senator Amy Klobuchar. “While these groups claimed George Soros was plotting against America, they were part of a genuine Russian plot to influence American opinion and policy.”
Funding for this Islamophobic speaking circuit was a small portion of billions of Russian dollars laundered by Manafort, who is believed to be under Russian protection in Crimea.
7. Counties Form Rural Economic Diversification Coalition (Chamberlain, April 28, 2018): Thirty rural counties announced a partnership with Dakota Rural Action to promote economic diversification and revitalization. “Mark Mickelson barked up the wrong tree when he threatened to block our funding if we didn’t build his CAFOs,” said one Deuel County commissioner. “The ongoing slump in agriculture shows that we have to build our economic future on a variety of smart, sustainable enterprises.” The Rural Economic Diversification Coalition will share staff to support and recruit small businesses and promote tourism and cultural activities in rural communities. REDCo will also share staff to help county commissions and community members better understand zoning and TIF laws and resist efforts by corporate raiders to abuse those processes.
8. Governor-Elect Promises Protection of Ballot Measures (Burke, December 21, 2018): Working on the transition from his family ranch in Gregory County, Governor-Elect Billie Sutton vowed to include initiative and referendum in his busy agenda for his first Session as Governor. “We shouldn’t have to worry about this from our Democratic Senate, but I guarantee that if anyone offers a bill trying to weaken your right to vote on ballot measures, I will veto it.”
The Governor-Elect also reiterated his support for Amendment W. “The sore Republican losers are suing to overturn W, even though 58% of South Dakotans approved it. I’ve talked with Attorney General McGowan, and he assures me he will vigorously and successfully defend W from this frivolous lawsuit.”
9. Democrats Open Aberdeen Field Office (Aberdeen, August 10, 2018): Democrats celebrated the opening of their new campaign office downtown in Aberdeen this evening. “Our West River organizing office has been a great success,” said state Democratic Party exec Sam Parkinson, “providing great support and visibility for our candidates around the Black Hills and Badlands. We think we’ll enjoy similar success here, rallying lots of northeast South Dakota Democrats who’ve sat out recent elections to come back and write letters, knock on doors, and help us beat back what’s left of Trumpism.”
10. Ukrainian Border Patrol Captures Trump (Kiev, December 31, 2018): The Ukrainian foreign minister announced that Ukrainian customs and immigration officials have captured American fugitive billionaire Donald Trump. According to a Ukrainian foreign ministry release, “Customs officials noticed suspicious activity around an unflagged private yacht docked in Odessa. Upon investigating, customs agents found the fugitive Trump and a handful of his advisors and former American government officials. Many of the individuals on the yacht, including Trump, were carrying falsified immigration documents.”
Ukraine is detaining Trump and his coterie on multiple customs and immigration violations. Officials suspect Trump was attemptin to travel to Sevastopol to join other Republican allies who have fled to Russian Crimea since Trump’s resignation on July 3.