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Pennington County GOP Alienating Longtime Supporters with Anti-Muslim Ravings

Kevin Woster tells a disturbing tale of anti-journalist intimidation and physical threats at the Pennington County Republican Party dinner Saturday. Veteran reporter Woster says the local party used to welcome him and other journalists to come in, cover candidates’ speeches, and chat with the local party activists. But this year they demanded that Woster buy a ticket, accused him of being a double agent for Stan Adelstein, and threatened to “kick your ass” if his reporting didn’t meet their standards.

Pennington County Republicans may be a bit hypersensitive to media attention because the spotlight on their increasing extremism is losing them some of their regular Republican supporters:

“We’ve got a lot of Republican boycotting tonight,” [organizer Craig Ericks] said.

I checked in on that today with a Republican friend of mine who regularly attended Pennington County Lincoln Day dinners in the past.

“I didn’t attend this year, and I know others who didn’t, either,” my friend said. “I just don’t feel like county leaders represent me or the party.”

I also heard from a couple of people who were in the banquet about what they considered to be anti-Muslim rhetoric. When I get a chance to chat with them more in detail, I expect to have a follow-up to this column [Kevin Woster, “Missing the Meat but Avoiding the Whipping at the Pennington County Lincoln Day Dinner,” SDPB: On the Other Hand, 2018.04.17].

One alienated Republican Woster can identify is Libertarian District 30 Senate candidate Gideon Oakes:

Gideon switched parties last year after Trump won the primary, deciding the party of Trump isn’t on the same path as the one the party of Ronald Reagan once traveled. He points to expanding budget deficits as one emphatic example of that [Woster, 2018.04.17].

This Oakes fellow is sounding sensibler and sensibler by the day. And the Sharia-paranoiac Republicans are sounding nuttier and nuttier… even to their fellow Republicans.

Reporters should be welcome to attend the South Dakota Democratic Party’s McGovern Day Dinner in Sioux Falls Saturday after next, April 28. Disaffected Republicans will probably have to buy a ticket, but we guarantee reporters, Republicans, and everyone else will hear no nutty rantings about Sharia Law. We won’t threaten to beat you up, either.


  1. Curt 2018-04-17 13:34

    Yes, the working press should be welcome to attend McGovern Day festivities – but should not expect a free lunch. If Woster is willing to drive across the state to cover it, I will gladly buy him a beer though.

  2. Roger Cornelius 2018-04-17 15:33

    It appears that the Brown Shirts are attempting to take over the South Dakota republican Party.

  3. Curt 2018-04-17 16:26

    Roger, I think the Brown Shirts have hung the ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner. (See Lederman, Dan; SDGOP Chmn.)

  4. Roger Cornelius 2018-04-17 16:44

    #3 republican in the state, Pat Powers, apologized for the SDGOP on Kevin Woster’s Facebook post.
    I’m not certain who the #1 and #2 republicans are.

  5. mike from iowa 2018-04-17 17:02

    He points to expanding budget deficits as one emphatic example of that [Woster, 2018.04.17].

    Raygun quadrupled America’s debt in 8 years. No fiscal stalwart, he.

  6. Gideon Oakes 2018-04-17 18:37

    Re: mike from iowa — No, you’re absolutely right on point. Had Reagan cut spending at the same rate he cut taxes, he may have been considered a fiscal stalwart. Our conversation got a little abbreviated for the article, understandably. Kevin asked me when I switched to the LP. I told him it was right after Trump’s inauguration, and then I proceeded to launch right into a number of reasons I don’t care for Trump. One of the things I said was, “He’s no Reagan, for sure.” Then I referenced the GOP’s sudden love for deficit spending. The two kind of got mushed together. Probably my fault. One of my personal flaws is talking too fast when I’m excited/passionate/have to pee, and jumping around from subject to subject. It also wasn’t a formal interview environment, just a sideline and somewhat-muted conversation as we tried not to draw too much attention away from the main event.

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-04-18 06:00

    “tried not to draw too much attention away from the main event”—oh, I think Craig Ericks and Mr. “Security” already took care of that in spades.

    Powers is in an awkward spot, trying to apologize for the very kind of thuggishness that the Lederman regime represents. Pat’s pal Lederman brought David Horowitz to Sioux Falls last year. Lederman encourages the other anti-Muslim events that are rife with the thuggishness Woster experienced Saturday.

  8. Debbo 2018-04-18 17:07

    It’s a shame the far right/white supremacists got hold of the GOP in America as well as SoDak. This country needs the balance of a good conservative political party. We don’t have that now.

  9. Jason 2018-04-18 20:46


    Reagan allowed the Democrats to greatly increase the debt to get his tax cuts. The Democrats controlled Congress. They promised Reagan they would cut the spending but never did.

    What makes you think the Democrats are the party of reducing spending?

    I don’t like the deficit spending either, but the Democrats are not going to fix that for me.

  10. Gideon Oakes 2018-04-18 20:50

    Who the heck said I thought Democrats were the party of reduced spending??? LOL! Saying Republicans have gone off the rails with spending doesn’t mean I think the Democrats are any better.

  11. Roger Cornelius 2018-04-18 20:53

    Breitbart is the epitome of fake news.

  12. Jason 2018-04-18 20:53

    Sorry Gideon, I misread the article. I will say that if I switched, it would be to the Constitution party.

  13. Jason 2018-04-18 20:54


    Are you saying the screenshots are fake?

    Want to bet your house on it?

  14. Roger Cornelius 2018-04-18 20:56

    Excuse me, Breitbart isn’t fake news, they are liars.

  15. Jason 2018-04-18 20:57

    Not willing to bet Roger?

    If not, then you are the liar.

  16. Roger Cornelius 2018-04-18 21:22

    Do you delete comments that get too far off the topic of your original thread?

  17. Jason 2018-04-18 21:25


    Debbo called Republicans white supremacists. Where was that in the original article?

    If you can’t debate the facts with me Roger, just don’t respond to me.

  18. Jason 2018-04-18 21:29


    Why are you in favor of censoring speech?

    Do you not like the First amendment?

  19. Jenny 2018-04-18 21:55

    Well we know Tapio and Phil Jensen would have been there. Also Taffy Howard.
    The farther west you go in SD the pubs get crazier.

  20. Roger Cornelius 2018-04-18 22:05

    That’s true, Jenny. What is it that causes the hate and racism to sprout to so many republicans in western South Dakota.
    What is difficult is that there are republicans that I get along with, yet don’t fully trust because racism has taken over their party.

  21. Jason 2018-04-18 22:08


    Prove your statement that the Republican party is made of of so many racists in western South Dakota. I bet your house you can’t.

  22. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-04-18 22:50

    Stick to the topic, Jason, instead of trying to provoke distracting arguments. The main argument here is that enough GOP county officials are acting like racists, bigots, and yahoos that even some Republicans are being alienated. None of us have to prove any number of actual racists in the party to prove Woster’s observation that PennGOP officials’ racism etc. is hurting the party.

    Gideon’s deft response to Jason’s holler about Democrats also demonstrates another key point. Republicans are already contradicting themselves by campaigning on deficit hawkishness and now, in control of White House and Congress, exploding the deficit. They don’t get to save themselves by completely changing their argument from “Republicans are more fiscally responsible than Democrats!” to “Democrats aren’t any more fiscally responsible than Republicans!”

    Republicans have forsaken their fiscal conservatism and fallen into a dangerous, reactionary bigotry and relativism that is unhealthy for America and for their party. Woster’s reporting from the PennGOP dinner illustrates that unhealthy shift to alienating thuggery and racism.

  23. Roger Cornelius 2018-04-18 23:05

    Serious question.
    How do you see the republican division you describe playing out? In terms of numbers, do the Tapio’s or the Pat Powers’ have the muscle?

  24. Jason 2018-04-18 23:15


    I wouldn’t have commented in this thread until Debbo made her statement.

    Debbo and you have offered no proof that they are racist or bigoted. I did post proof that facebook is censoring black conservatives.

    I will gladly discuss fiscal issues with you. Did you read my California Democrat link?

  25. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-04-19 07:00

    The record of GOP support for bigoted anti-Muslim rallies is clear. Neal Tapio’s and Al Novstrup’s racist statements are clear. We’re not word-gaming this one.

  26. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-04-19 07:10

    Roger, putting numbers (dollars and votes) on the split is a challenge. Woster reports one sign of a significant schism. Gideon’s comments here provide another. The Chamber of Commerce’s public denunciation of the racist Tapio rallies last fall is another. In our Tuesday conversation, Patrick Lalley mentioned another, his observation that the Minnehaha County GOP has seen a similar split with mainstream old-guard Republicans losing interest in county party politics and Tapio-flavored extremists taking over the local functions.

    Quantifying that split is challenging. We won’t really know until we see the primary vote, the general election vote, and the campaign finance reports.

    My optimistic vibe is that there’s a large enough gap to give Democrats an opportunity akin to 2010 for the Tea Party, when Republicans were angry and motivated and Democrats were uneasy about defending their party’s record and stood down. But notice, per Gideon’s comment, that discontent among longtime Republicans does not immediately translate into mass migration to the Democratic Party. We need two dynamics to happen: Republican participation fragments while Democrats unite and rally.

    My journalistic vibe is that a split is happening, but that we can’t count on it lasting past the primary. The GOP mainstream will get what it wants, mainstream candidates for the main offices (the fringe has no viable gubernatorial candidate, and Tapio will lose to Dusty and Shantel, and I’m speculating this morning we’re at 48 Dusty, 35 Shantel, 17 Tapio). But the GOP yahoos, ever motivated, will be darned if they sit on their hands in the general election and let any liberals win, so they’ll still rally behind their party’s boring mainstream flag. That’s not a guarantee, just a sense of what we have to watch out for… and why Democrats cannot expect anything to come easy.

  27. Jenny 2018-04-19 08:03

    Jason, when I went to the Black Hills for a vacation when Obama was President, I went into a couple tourist shops in Keystone and they had anti-Obama t-shirts, some of them you could call racist. I made sure I would not spend my money there and even mentioned it to the person working at the counter that I am not going to give business to his store. I lived in both Racist City and Sioux Falls and Racist City is by far the more racist one. Sioux Falls I was actually pleasantly surprised I did meet as many Dems there when I did.
    In the US, wackos tend to go live where they are less likely to get in trouble and a lot of times that is in a remote desolate place like Montana or the Black Hills. There is definitely racism towards the Muslims and Native Americans, so don’t deny that.

  28. Donald Pay 2018-04-19 11:16

    I’ve been doing some research on pre-WWII anti-Semitism for a little piece I’m doing about my family, the film industry and the movie theatre business in Sioux Falls. The parallels of today’s hate groups, and I would include the Pennington County Republicans in that description, to the US in Hitler’s time are very interesting.

    How these anti-Muslim folks operate seem to follow much of what the anti-Semitic groups in the US were doing in the 1930s and early 1940s. Using churches as a cover, infiltrating and taking over legitimate social and political groups and trying to sideline those who disagree with them seem to be a way that extremists worked effectively in the United States to keep our country from taking in more Jewish refugees and from engaging sooner in the effort to defeat Hitler. That certainly is the way that Nazi agents in the United States worked, and they found support for much of their activity in this country.

    The question I have is how much of the anti-Muslim hate has been and is being fomented by Russia, or by pro-autocratic, anti-democratic extremists here who are following Putin as if they were worshippers? We know Putin initially stoked and used anti-Muslim feeling in Russia to turn a democracy into an autocracy. Ethnic hate, of course, fueled much of the fascist rise in pre-WWII Europe.

    The goal in all of this anti-Muslim yammering is to scare the gutless folks enough that they will accept a “strong leader,” oh, someone like “Putin-Trump,” for instance. The idea in the 1930s and 40s was to keep the US out of the war until Hitler had taken over Europe, and then to have the US so internally conflicted that they wouldn’t step up to meet Hitler’s challenge. They almost succeeded, but Japan jumped the gun.

    We have a Putin sycophant in the White House, installed by Putin, so Putin is much farther along than Hitler was. I hope the good Republican people will fight like hell to get their party back from the haters.

  29. Jason 2018-04-19 18:32


    I do deny that there is racism against Muslims. The reason I do is the fact that Muslim is not a race, it’s a religion.

    I have no doubt there are racists out there. Anybody who thinks that a Black or Mexican is inhibited or unable to get an id to vote is racist.

    Jenny, do you deny that there are Democrat racists?

  30. Roger Cornelius 2018-04-19 18:36

    Can someone be prejudice or discriminatory toward a religion?

  31. Jason 2018-04-19 18:37


    That would be bigotry.

  32. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-04-20 07:00

    It’s a religion, not a race—that’s a word game. Call it racism, bigotry, religious hatred, ethnocentrism—whatever it is, we know it is vile, potentially violent, and certainly unconstitutional prejudice against an identifiable protected class.

    Does it matter whether we call anti-Semitism racism or religionism? Nazis persecuted Jews. The Pennington County GOP is persecuting Muslims (and Kevin Woster!). Word games are cover for a vile and dangerous social agenda.

  33. Jason 2018-04-20 09:39


    Words do matter as well as the definitions of them.

    Shall we discuss the current bigotry towards Catholics and Evangelicals by the Democrats?

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