In the Dakota Free Press tradition of giving Republicans a fairer hearing than Democrats ever get from the SDGOP spin blog, I yield the floor to former United States Senator Larry Pressler, who yesterday urged all South Dakotans and especially his conservative Republican friends to elect Democratic State Senator Billie Sutton as South Dakota’s next Governor. Senator Pressler provides Dakota Free Press with this complete statement:
I am today endorsing Billie Sutton for Governor. I have been a lifelong Republican except for a brief period in 2014 when I mounted an Independent campaign for the US Senate. I served as Republican Congressman for four years (1975-1979) and as a Republican US Senator for eighteen years (1979-1997) during which time I served on the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee and as Chairman of the Commerce Committee. I expect to be a registered Republican the rest of my life.
I decided to endorse Billie Sutton because his campaign has offered hope, transparency, and reform in Pierre.
It is true that I made contributions to and voted for Kristi Noem in the past, well before Billie Sutton had entered the race. I like Kristi, but her campaign has not developed the reform issues that I had hoped. If Kristi is elected, the same people, the same insider groups, and the lack of transparency will continue in our state government. Additionally, we desperately need a two-party system in Pierre. Billie Sutton offers a bipartisan, historic change in South Dakota state government.
Part of my twenty-two years in Washington was spent under a Democratic governor. Based on my eighteen years of experience in the US Senate, I always felt that Pierre and our state government was much more responsive when it had a two-party competition.
With Billie Sutton, we have a chance to vote for a moderately conservative Democrat—I myself am moderately conservative and I am very comfortable voting for him—he is quite different from the national Democrats.
Billie Sutton presents us with a historic, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change our state.
This fall, I have been asked to teach at the University of South Dakota, my alma matter in Vermillion. I will declare to the students:
The history of South Dakota has changed with the reforms of Billie Sutton and the return of two-party competition in Pierre. Billie Sutton is much different from the national Democrats—conservative Republicans support him because he is moderately conservative, and Republicans who have voted for Kristi or contributed to Kristi in the past could now comfortably vote for Billie Sutton [Former U.S. Senator Larry Pressler, prepared statement, received by Dakota Free Press 2018.10.26].
Senator Pressler tells me he sees this election as a rare opportunity for Republicans to cross over and vote for a moderate Democrat for Governor. I would add to that and suggest to my Republican friends that, if Sutton wins, he may send a message to Democrats across the state that moderation is the route to electoral success and thus ensure a whole generation of moderate Democratic candidates with popular appeal (and ensuring that I would remain in the loyal opposition even if those conservative Democrats won a majority in the Senate!).
Senator Pressler says he has already received a lot of nasty responses from Republicans for this endorsement, much as local Republican Dan Richardt reports he has received “mind-boggling” blowback for declaring that he’ll vote for person rather than party and support Jenae Hansen for District 2 House over Republican candidates.
It’s conscience-check time, Republicans. Many of your own members are telling you that, in several races, including the race for Governor, Democrats are offering you superior candidates. In those cases, you can vote for the most qualified person for the job, or you must admit that you care more about party than about the good of South Dakota. Larry Pressler has made clear his priorities; how about yours?