Senator Stace Nelson (R-19/Fulton) is quitting the Legislature and politics in general. The Fulton Fulminator says neither his body nor his wife can any more of his long roadtrips to Pierre:
In an email sent to area newspapers Sunday afternoon, Nov. 17, Nelson said he is retiring from politics, effective Dec. 10, for reasons that include being slowed by military service-related injuries.
“While not the only reason for my departure from politics, it is a contributing factor,” he wrote. “My family has been after me for years to get out of politics; my beloved wife has been more than patient despite how unfair it has been to her over the years. I will no longer leave my wife home alone for days on end while in session in Pierre” [“District 19 Senator Stace Nelson Retiring from Politics,” Freeman Courier, 2019.11.17].
He’s also tired of the waste, unresponsiveness, and corruption that forty years of his party’s mostly unchecked rule in Pierre has wrought:
Nelson also cited frustrations with elected officials and their response to “flooding and misery many of you suffered” this past year.
“These politicians can call special sessions to raise your taxes, deploy National Guard troops to foreign countries and blow your hard-earned tax dollars on pheasant habitat boards and other excessive spending,” he wrote. “However, they refused to have our troops help those devastated by the flooding or provide emergency financial aid to communities hard hit twice this year.
“Add in the debacle of last session of them entering the $4.9 billion annual budget bill as a brand new bill during the last minutes of session, at 1:30 a.m., and then passing it within minutes without any hearings or serious discussion, with most legislators not even reading the bill, and you can start to understand how an honest public servant would want to be away from such dysfunction and corruption,” Nelson continued. “I’ve loved serving you even as I’ve hated serving amidst the corruption and dysfunctional politics of combating the political machine that runs South Dakota.
“It is with regret, but relief of having survived South Dakota’s corrupt politics, that I will retire permanently and completely from politics,” he wrote [“District 19…,” 2019.11.17].
Nelson is recommending that Governor Kristi Noem appoint as his replacement Parkston pastor and Michael Boyle, a John Birch radical who unsuccessfully primaried District 19’s rubber-stamp Republican Reps. Kyle Schoenfish and Kent Peterson in 2018. The chances of Governor Noem’s heeding Nelson’s recommendation are nil. Nelson has chaallenged Noem’s blatant nepotism last Session and upset her apple cart at last year’s convention. The GOP establishment has been so eager to oust him from the Legislature that they supported a young Rounds flunky as his primary opponent in 2016 and directed some cash to Nelson’s Democratic opponent in 2018. Noem and her party leaders want no trace of Nelson left in the Senate, certainly not his hand-picked successor. Noem is far more likely to pull a District 23, appointing one of her loyal House members to the Senate and filling the House seat with a newcomer who has proven his ability to heel to her beck and call.
Nelson provides Noem with her fifth* opportunity to appoint a legislator in the last twelve months, and in this case, surely, the most satisfying. Throughout his Legislative career, Nelson has been a bigger thorn in the SDGOP elephant’s foot than most Democrats. His angry resignation message blasting his own party’s governance of South Dakota epitomizes the withering if ineffective criticism he has regularly leveled at the Noem/Daugaard/Rounds/Lederman SDGOP establishment.
I would say that the Legislature is losing its most consistent and honest conservative voice. Nelson has done a remarkable job of calling out South Dakota Republican hypocrisy in overregulating ballot access and bouncy houses, wasting money on vanity projects and excessive travel, showing a general lack of fiscal restraint, covering up the sexual misconduct of its own favored sons, failing to act against crony corruption, and showering CAFOs with corporate welfare. But I cannot fully praise the integrity of any professing Christian conservative who falls for and excuses the reckless and rootless policies, the atrocious un-Christian example, and the dangerous lies of Donald Trump. That Trumpism of Nelson and Noem alike will forever stain whatever achievements and moral authority they try to claim.
Nelson’s honest and open fight against the corruption of the South Dakota Republican Party caused him great suffering; continuing to make excuses for the corruption of his party and his country at the selfish hands of Donald Trump will only erode his soul. One can only hope that Nelson’s retirement from politics will include a retirement from flacking for the political and moral disaster in the White House.
*Legislative vacancies giving Noem appointment opportunities:
- Chuck Turbiville died before the 2018 general election, but District 31 voters re-elected him anyway (proving that they vote for the party, not the person); Noem appointed Dayle Hammock of Spearfish.
- Deb Peters quit the House before she started last November; Noem picked Rhonda Milstead of Sioux Falls.
- Justin Cronin left the Senate in August; Noem promoted John Lake of Gettysburg from District 23 House to Senate, then named JD Wangsness of Miller to House.
- Alan Solano is leaving the District 32 Senate seat that he himself got by appointment in 2014. We await Noem’s pick for that position.