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Nelson Wants Kaiser for Lt. Gov.; Noem and GOP Delegates Likely to Shrug

Stace Nelson loves trying trying to upset the apple cart. Unfortunately, his wing of the Republican party never manages to knock many apples into the ditch.

This week’s charge at the windmill comes with the Fulton Senator’s call to draft Dan Kaiser for Lieutenant Governor:

Sen. Stace Nelson, Facebook post, 2018.06.13.
Sen. Stace Nelson, Facebook post, 2018.06.13.

Rep. Dan Kaiser (R-3/Aberdeen) isn’t an entirely illogical choice to be Kristi Noem’s running mate. He was at her side at the Brown County Republican dinner in April, and his wife helped Noem win primary votes by filming an ad blasting Noem’s primary opponent, Attorney General Marty Jackley, for his role in the DCI’s retaliation against her for reporting workplace sexual harassment. Kaiser’s background in the military and law enforcement would balance Noem’s farm pageantry. Kaiser chose not to run for a fourth term in the State House, so picking Kaiser would not remove a sitting legislator from a local campaign and require the local party to find a replacement for a Legislative ballot vacancy.

But Kaiser probably wouldn’t help the ticket. He just lost a hard race for Brown County sheriff, and the hard feelings from that race might give fence-sitting Brown County Republicans one more excuse to vote for Democrat Billie Sutton. Kaiser also attends and promotes the anti-Muslim xenophobe rallies in Aberdeen, offering Sutton the chance to brand the Noem ticket the hate ticket and make his case to the Chamber that Democrats are really the moderates who won’t hurt South Dakota’s economic development.

For suggesting Kaiser for L.G., Nelson is lambasted by the Republican Establishment blog for “attacking” Noem and her eventual choice. Nelson’s suggestion isn’t as much an attack as a reminder that, by state law (SDCL 12-5-21), nominees for lieutenant governor are chosen by their parties’ state conventions, not by the gubernatorial nominee. Nelson is perfectly within his rights to suggest a candidate for this constitutional office, and convention delegates are perfectly within their rights to nominate any eligible Republican to be the gubernatorial candidate’s wingman.

We Democrats can do the same. Billie Sutton plans to announce his running mate this morning. If Sutton announces an insufficiently progressive candidate, members of the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party could enter their own candidate for nomination (say, Peggy Gibson, or Taneeza Islam, or Kooper Caraway, or Tatewin Means if she were willing to withdraw from the Attorney General’s race) to check Sutton’s awful anti-choice record, hold him to Democratic principles, and give the Democratic base reason to re-register and return to the polls for us. The choice is up to delegates, not the winner of the gubernatorial primary.

Alas, such uproar is unlikely at either convention. Just as nothing materialized from the somewhat more progressive Hawks wing’s effort last year to upset the Democratic Party establishment and install a new chair, the Nelson wing of the Republican Party has yet to show its ability to win a political fight. Nelson himself placed third in the 2014 GOP Senate primary. Nelson has rarely built a winning coalition in committee or on the House or Senate floor to effectively thwart GOP-establishment proposals or to pass his own proposals over the objection of the party leaders he calls RINOs. His Black Hills allies, the Citizens for Liberty, issued sharp and valid critiques of numerous Republicans’ conservative bona fides with their voting-record scorecards, but those scorecards appeared to have no impact on the decisions of Republican primary voters.

A convention floor fight between competing candidates for lieutenant governor would be exciting, but it won’t happen, not in Sioux Falls tomorrow, and not in Pierre next weekend. No matter how disgruntled they may be at whatever Republican-Lite-ism Sutton’s running mate represents, Democrats will leave Sutton’s choice unchallenged, just as they left Sutton himself unchallenged in the primary. And no matter how much Nelson and his fellow conservatives love their fallen brother Dan, no quick Facebook “Draft Dan” page will make up for the Republican Mugwumps’ inability to organize the concerted delegate round-up necessary to push a lieutenant governor nominee onto the ballot over Kristi Noem’s wishes.


  1. Stace Nelson 2018-06-14 12:46

    Contrary to the Pat Powers rabid RINO contingent’s frantic protests, I can’t take credit for the movement. Conservatives across the state are drafting Dan. The establishment is frantically opposing it because they know there is a massive influx of conservative delegates that were recruited as a result of the AG race. Rep Kaiser’s campaign was assuredly hurt because of his support of Congresswoman Noem. He would be a logical choice if she truly wishes to combat the corruption in Pierre.

    Regardless, contrary to the snowflake meltdown protests of anonymous posters at the war toilet that Congresswoman Noem gets to pick the LtGov, as you rightfully pointed out? That position is NOT the spoils of the primary but the domain of the delegates to decide.

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-06-14 21:50

    Kaiser demurs to his friend Kristi, says it’s unlikely that he’d be picked, but doesn’t slam the door on the draft. Fun.

    Stace is right: By law, the convention delegates can choose the LG nominee. However, wouldn’t such a delegate pick contrary to the expressed will of the gubernatorial nominee represent a spectacular vote of no confidence in the gubernatorial nominee? What could possibly make loyal party delegates want to reject their gubernatorial nominee’s wisdom at convention?

  3. Mark Young 2018-06-15 16:05

    You are suggesting a strategy aimed at “balancing” a ticket for the benefit of party inner circles, while missing a broader strategy of attracting the independent voters who will make the difference in this election. South Dakota leans to more conservative attitudes. Recognize that fact of life and use it to win.

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-06-15 23:08

    Mark, I recognize many aspects of reality that are wrong and need to be changed. That’s why Billie Sutton is running for Governor, not me. ;-)

  5. John W 2018-06-18 10:31

    Why doesn’t Nelson just drive up to Castlewood and pay Noem a visit on her big spread in Hamlin County and use his superior salesmanship and self marketing skills to convince the woman that he’s her best choice for LG.

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