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The Economist: Sutton Can Win Governor’s Race

Last week Tim Bjorkman’s U.S. House campaign got favorable mention in Vice. Now the Democrats’ gubernatorial candidate gets even bigger out-of-state press. The Economist recognizes that Democrats running for anything in South Dakota are longshots, but it says Billie Sutton’s background and the dynamics of this year’s race make Sutton “a Democrat with a chance in South Dakota“:

Sen. Billie Sutton, speaking in Aberdeen, SD, 2017.11.13.
Plausible? We Dems have been called worse!

…Mr Sutton has both a plausible path to victory and lessons to teach other Democrats about how to compete in rural America.

…Ryan Maher, a Republican senator, believes Mr Sutton will give Republicans “the biggest challenge they’ve had in 30 years.” The main divide in South Dakota politics, he posits, is not between Democrats and Republicans but between urban and rural regions. That works to Mr Sutton’s advantage. As a country politician, he understands rural issues and voters. As a Democrat, he stands to do well in the state’s more liberal urban areas. His personal story should resonate with South Dakotans of all stripes.

In the general election Mr Sutton will probably face either Kristi Noem—who has spent the last seven years in Washington as the state’s sole House of Representatives member—or Marty Jackley, who has spent nearly a decade as the state’s attorney general. For someone running a campaign focused on making government work for ordinary people, as Mr Sutton is, these are dream opponents, especially if their primary turns nasty. “If he can just get the state party to lay low,” says Mr Maher, “he has a fighting chance” [Burke, “A Democrat with a Chance in South Dakota,” The Economist, 2018.02.10].

Free publicity from The Economist may not reach as many South Dakota voters as Kristi Noem does trying out new hairdos on Fox News, but in terms of honest outside coverage of South Dakota politics, this coverage is a PR coup for Team Sutton. Now if that Economist reporter will just tell his reporter friends about the good home-grown Sutton Ranch beef they can eat, Sutton could get all sorts of newsy visitors!


  1. Buckobear 2018-02-09 10:32

    As far as “laying low,” what the state Democratic Party needs to do is register voters an get them to the polls.

  2. Michael L. Wyland 2018-02-09 11:45

    Can the SDDP insiders support a “pro-life, pro-gun” Democrat (quoting the article)? Can SD’s Democratic voters support such a candidate, or will they sit out this election? Finally, will the SDDP have a budget, staff, and organizational capacity to influence the 2018 governor’s race?

  3. Donald Pay 2018-02-09 13:15

    The Economist article paraphrases Maher: the main divide in South Dakota politics, he posits, is not between Democrats and Republicans but between urban and rural regions.

    That may be true, but my experience was that the urban-rural split was an inch deep and a mile wide, and a mile is not that far to walk, or, in Sutton’s case, wheel across. But you have to make an effort to bridge that mile.

    I think there is a different divide. Take a look at that landscape behind Sutton in that picture in the Economist. Some people look at that and see a lot of useless empty land. They either tend to ignore or discount it and the people who would want to live there, or they want to use that land for something that they can get rich off of. Others look at that land and see a beautiful resource that they can use in a sustainable way and pass on to future generations, even if they don’t get rich. If you are looking generations down the road, you have a different perspective on issues than if you are out for yourself and a quick buck. I think most South Dakotans are united about valuing the long view of life. It is essentially a conservative view–change is good, but not too much at one time. But that conservative view is also tempered by a belief in fairness. Everyone should play by the same rules, everyone is needed, no one should sit or have to sit on the sidelines.

  4. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr. 2018-02-09 13:32

    Anyone has the right to run as a Democrat in theory, and the Democratic Party has always been a big tent, but at the end of the day, for the Democratic voter – whether they be pro choice or pro life, pro gun or not, or whatever – it is incumbent upon that Democratic voter to ask if we are truly preserving the Democratic Party with ones vote, or are we merely saving the Party in name only in a way that as Democrats we often criticize Republicans for trying to save Medicare in name only as well….

    Having major candidates for the US House and Governor that are pro life as Democrats is a serious issue of concern for me, but it is not the only issue. We must look at the totality of the candidates positions to ask whether they deserve to be the Party’s standard-bearer, but with that said, we must also never forget and need to heed the words of Harry S. Truman, who once said…….. “If a voter has a choice between a Republican and a Democrat who acts like a Republican, he’ll vote for the Republican every time.”

  5. Bernie 2018-02-09 16:15

    I served with Billie in the legislature for six years and I can attest that nobody fights any harder for all the folks who so badly need representation — infants, children with disabilities, the poor, students, people facing discrimination for gender or race, and seniors. He’ll have support from people of all parties because of the interesting ways he works together with people to effect change — but nobody of either major party in Pierre who pays attention has been confused about where he stands when it comes to helping those who are too often under-represented in South Dakota.

  6. Miranda Gohn 2018-02-09 16:27

    Billie Sutton for Governor!

    Tim Bjorkman for Congress!

  7. o 2018-02-09 16:41

    Michael, I suppose the choice has to be made by those insiders between a “pro-life, pro-gun” Democratic governor and a “pro-life, pro gun” Republican governor. Just as I hope some GOP faithful have to consider if they have two pro life, pro-gun candidates that maybe voters will have to look beyond those two defining issues to decide the direction of South Dakota.

  8. grudgenutz 2018-02-09 17:48

    “Pro-life?” What does that mean? If it means Sutton opposes womens’ rights to rid themselves of unwanted growths inside them, then how is he different from the pig-fornicators we have as a majority in the legislature?

    “Pro-gun?” Fine. Everyone should have one and know how to use it to protect him/herself against the pig-fornicators who want to inspect uteri to see if they have been used according to god’s will.

    I can’t support someone who opposes womens’ rights to control what happens within them. Unless Sutton plainly states he is for those rights, he is no different, really from Jeff Monroe.

  9. Adam 2018-02-10 02:49

    Content that sells in The Economist does not so much sell in South Dakota. I’d put bottom dollar on that Billie is running in a state which has less subscribers to that publication per capita than most everywhere else in the country. And let me tell ya, I happen to have loved that publication for over 15 years now.

    I need more than this. I want to see Billie leverage his integrity a lot more.

  10. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-02-10 06:17

    “fewer subscribers”. ;-)

    Certainly Billie needs more than this one article in an international magazine read in South Dakota by a handful of dedicated policy nerds. But Billie doesn’t not need this article. No press is bad press, and this press is a free mailer to thousands of the smartest readers in the Western world who might say, “A viable Democrat running for governor in South Dakota? I should send him a check.” This one article could pay for subscriptions for Billie and his Cabinet.

  11. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-02-10 06:23

    “lie low” ;-)

    Here I will critique the source: recall that Maher ran away from the Democratic Party in 2010 to join the majority. The last thing a candidate needs is for his party to lie low. A candidate needs his party to get up and fight like crazy for him. I can’t predict an answer to Michael’s question about whether SDDP will marshal the resources to fight like crazy, but Sutton’s campaign will be better off if they do.

    JKC is right: listen to Truman.

    And Nutz is right, too: “pro-life” is an empty term which we should all stop using. It’s another bad example of how Republicans/conservatives have co-opted the language to box us into their narrative.

  12. Jenny 2018-02-10 06:39

    Just because one is opposed to
    abortion doesnt make you pro-life.
    With Billie Sutton you get an honest true prolifer that will fight for children after they are born.
    In SD all you have to do is research the high numbers of children in poverty, the high numbers that work low wage jobs the problem of unaffordable housing, the heartless food tax and see that the GOP Legislature that is supposed pro life not.give a rats ass about tackling any of.these issues.

    The Democrats have found a very genuine prolifer that and should be excited.

  13. Adam 2018-02-10 13:43

    Unfortunately, leveraging a candidate’s integrity means denigrating his/her opponent’s [integrity] – in much the same way that most of us only know that we like the crunch and flavor of fresh potato chips, because we have experienced (and perhaps hate) the texture and flavor of stale ones.

    What Billie stands for needs to contrast Marty and Kristi more significantly, or when the negative ads start rolling in, late in the race, from GOP sources, his pro-life and pro-gun positions will be made trivial.

  14. Donald Pay 2018-02-10 15:21

    Many folks have their one or two issues that can be deal breakers. Not that it’s always going to be a dealbreaker, but that it tends to put the foot on the “sorry, bub, I’ll have a hard time casting a vote for you” side of the scale.

    I have a few, including support for stupid projects like the waste dumps, boreholes, massive CAFO development, dillbit pipelines and the like. I am also a process guy: let people have easier access to information, open meetings and the initiative and referendum. I also refuse to vote for haters in any form. Abortion one way or the other isn’t one of those issues for me, but I understand if it is for you.

  15. grudznick 2018-02-10 19:10

    Mr. Pay, I would vote for all borehole initiatives, as I don’t fear the beasts that might crawl up from the middle of the earth, but I am with you on the waste dumps and CAFO developments unless they are in Iowa or Union County of South Dakota. Like you, there are issues upon which we don’t agree with Mr. Nelson or even Lora Hubble, who is even insaner than most.

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