Senator Red Dawn Foster (D-27/Pine Ridge) cast her vote in the Capitol yesterday; rather inauspiciously, she joined the unanimous crowd in electing career Senator Brock Greenfield (R-2/Clark) President Pro Tempore. Senator Foster faced no votes of controversy or consequence yesterday or today (5% of the Session is over, and legislators still aren’t really earning their 90% raises).
Senator Foster also faced no challenge to her qualifications for office. What happened to the fervid rage of a few Republican white-wingers who swore they could prove Foster and her Democratic Pine Ridge neighbor, Representative Peri Pourier, weren’t really South Dakota residents for the purposes of Article 3 Section 3?
I’d like to think the Foster/Pourier attackers crubmled before the crushing legal wisdom and scorn of Senator Lee Schoenbeck, who would have had the chance Tuesday to tell them to their faces that their argument was late and “stupid.” But I know how impervious these wingnut/Tea Party/Howie-Trumpists can be to intelligence and evidence.
I somehow doubt it was the face-saving excuse Representative Julie Frye-Mueller (R-30/Rapid City) gave to Bob Mercer:
Frye-Mueller said she didn’t bring up the issue in the House because Governor Kristi Noem would be delivering her first State of the State speech to a joint gathering of senators and representatives.
“Her message was more important at this time and I did not want to distract from that message,” Frye-Mueller said [Bob Mercer, “No Republican Challenge Raised on Democratic Lawmakers’ Residency,” KELO-TV, 2019.01.08].
Nonsense: Rep. Frye-Mueller and her fellow extremist Senator Phil Jensen (R-33/Rapid City) had no compunction about trying to steal attention from Governor Noem’s inauguration. Noem’s uninspiring pageant speech (good grief: four years of this?) was no greater reason to hold fire on their Lakota targets. If they meant what they said about voters being “completely cheated and deceived” and disenfranchised, then it would have been a dereliction of Legislative duty to put political pageantry ahead of protecting the Constitution. Saying Kristi’s speech was more important than addressing the charges they brought undermines any claim to seriousness Frye-Mueller, Jensen, and their fellow noisemakers may make.
Senator Jensen is a little more forthright about why there was no charge of the white brigade—leadership didn’t support them:
“Leadership pretty much said we’re done,” Jensen said after adjournment [Mercer, 2019.01.08].
…which only demonstrates the broader patheticalness of the majority party in Pierre. Follow the leader, do what we’re told. Gaacckk!
But why was leadership so un-antsy to take a shot at further humiliating the Democratic Party by knocking 12.5% of our total caucus out of the Capitol and filling all three seats of a usually reliable Democratic district with Republicans? It was a free shot, for discussion of which South Dakota Republicans would have lost nothing with their Trumpist base. Why not take it?
Lee Strubinger may have gotten Speaker of the House Steven Haugaard (R-10/Sioux Falls) to spill the real political reason Senator Foster and Representative Pourier took their seats without challenge—money:
Haugaard says residency is a moving target in South Dakota. He says any change to residency requirements would include scrutiny on how that impacts trust filings, corporate filings, those who move to the state because of no income tax, or those who use South Dakota as a “residence” [Lee Strubinger, “Republican Lawmakers Challenge District 27 Democratic Legislators’ Residence,” SDPB Radio, 2019.01.08].
Raising questions about whether two Lakota women can be said to have maintained South Dakota residency even while they sojourn and own property in other states could lead to far more uncomfortable questions for far richer friends of the establishment who are deeply grateful to the loose legal definition of “residency” that lets them evade all sorts of taxes and other trouble simply by having their mail delivered to South Dakota. Those rich folks spend a lot less time here than the duly elected legislators of District 27. Declaring Foster and Pourier sufficiently non-resident to reverse the will of thousands of South Dakota voters wold also declare lots of RVers and trust-billionaires non-South Dakotans and tax cheats.
Don’t think for a moment that the GOP leadership’s dismissal of the Jensen/Frye-Mueller vote-stealing scheme signifies respect for Indians, voters, evidence, or the Constitution. Republicans don’t follow their hearts; they follow the money.