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Hofmeister Switches Parties to Challenge Oklahoma Governor; Example for SD Republicans Frustrated with Noem’s Failures?

If you’re wondering how to replace Kristi Noem as Governor in 2022, perhaps Oklahoma provides a campaign template: get a high-ranking Republican to switch parties and run against the incumbent as a Democrat.

Oklahoma’s State Superintendent, their elected version of our Secretary of Education, Joy Hofmeister has switched parties from GOP to Dem to challenge incumbent Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt. Her recitation of grievances against her governor sound like complaints reasonable Republicans in South Dakota could lodge against Kristi Noem:

“Gov. Stitt is running the state into the ground,” said Hofmeister. “Through extremism, partisanship, ineffective leadership, he is hurting our education system, our health care, our infrastructure.

“And unfortunately, Gov. Stitt has hijacked the Republican Party in Oklahoma.”

…“We have a global pandemic, and it mattered who was governor in 2020,” said Hofmeister. “We’ve had 10,000 Oklahomans lost. When you understand now how critical it was to have had a leader who contemplated expert advice and opinion and set an example to help protect Oklahomans, we could have avoided thousands of people dying.”

…“The policy was that if you ignore reality, somehow it will go away — when leadership mattered in reducing spread. With that strategy, Oklahomans bore the brunt of COVID in their own lives.”

…Hofmeister said the state lacks a plan for long-term investments and stability for some of the most important, foundational functions of government here, including public education, health care and rural infrastructure, such as broadband.

“I’m seeing these things erode and relationships are broken, and it all begins at the top,” she said. “Oklahomans don’t like partisanship or pitting neighbor against neighbor, family against family.”

…“We need to respect and listen to the input, the perspective and the priorities of the tribal governments within Oklahoma. From the beginning, I have worked to understand that, to listen and to be a collaborator toward the common good of all Oklahomans,” she said before adding: “I will not betray the trust that I have personally established with our tribal nations” [Andrea Eger and Randy Krehbiel, “Joy Hofmeister to Flip Parties, Challenge Kevin Stitt for Governor in 2022,” Tulsa World, 2021.10.07].

Extremism, partisanship, ineffective leadership, ignoring reality, breaking relationshipsthrow in nepotism and travel, and you have all the material you need to knock Kristi Noem out of office with any sane electorate.

But would any South Dakota Republican risk leaving the good-old-boys club, even for one campaign season? Would Marty Jackley, Dennis Daugaard, or Shantel Krebs even consider bearing the ignominy of running around South Dakota with a “D” around their necks? And would a Republican ship-jumper be able to convince South Dakota Democrats to put Troy Heinert or Billie Sutton on pause and accept a candidate whom they have fought for years as their nominee?

Would a Republican who wants to challenge Noem even have to leave the SDGOP? There may be enough dissatisfaction with Noem within the SDGOP that a smart Republican could simply mount a primary challenge and beat Noem in June. 44% of SDGOP primary voters picked Jackley over Noem in 2018; I’m betting almost all of that 44% would cast another not-Noem vote in 2022 if given a candidate of Jackley’s stature (i.e., not some corny Mugwump legislator… but maybe Lee Schoenbeck, who would be fun as heck on the campaign trail). At least another 20% may be looking at Noem’s focus on coast-to-coast campaigning, suffering buyer’s remorse, and just itching for a chance to atone for saddling South Dakota with this camera-hog-on-pony show. And a big chunk of those Republicans willing to vote against Kristi in the primary would not do so in a general election in which Kristi wears the R and the challenger wears the D. For the empirical example, see 2018, when the Democrats ran a candidate who could have qualified as a conservative Republican but who still couldn’t persuade enough Republicans to commit the mortal sin of putting their mark next to the D.

A similar dynamic could play out in campaign finance. There are all sorts of national Republican players paying attention to Kristi Noem right now. Many of them view Noem as a threat to their preferred GOP 2024 Presidential nominee. They recognize that they could wait until 2023 and 2024 and spend tens of millions of dollars to beat Noem in a long nationwide campaign, or they could spend ones of millions of dollars in a lightning campaign against Noem on her own shaky home turf in the spring of 2022. If Marty Jackley put himself on the GOP primary ballot for Governor, he’d have million-dollar checks from national conservative anti-Noem PACs by Friday. With Jackley in particular, those national conservatives would have the chance to replace Noem with a reliable, competent, and perhaps best of all, quiet conservative who would never think of running for President and upsetting their 2024 plans for DeSantis, Haley, or whomever. Run Jackley or another Republican on the Democratic ticket, and a lot of that national conservative financial support disappears: even more so than South Dakota voters, those national conservative donors will invest in beating Noem, but not at the price of handing a governor’s chair to a Democrat, even a recently rechristened nominal Democrat.

Oklahoma’s Hofmeister shows that some Republicans can recognize when their governor’s extreme partisanship is damaging their state and demands bold change. Whether any South Dakota Republicans can be so bold remains to be seen.

23 Comments

  1. sx123 2021-10-09

    Many people think Noem’s non-handling of covid showed true leadership. No, doing virtually nothing as far as setting a good example, and bashing experts, is not leadership, it’s doing nothing. It’s the easy path.

    And to claim that the covid situation unfolded just as expected shows even more lack of leadership. Leadership changes the future, hopefully in a positive way.

    The Oklahoma situation shows the ridiculousness of parties. I’d rather not have them. They’re too extreme, force one to be associated with things known to be false, and are almost indistinguishable from religion.

  2. Disgusted Dakotan 2021-10-09

    How funny would that be? Republicans having to switch parties to run as Democrats to oust the Democrats who switched parties solely to get elected? Kristi (Arnold) Noem was being groomed by Daschle to be a future Democrat leader and Larry Rhoden was recruited by his fellow Democrats to run in his district as a Democrat. Both political opportunists took a look at the voter registration numbers and magically overnight became “lifelong, Ronald Reagan conservative Republicans.”

    But shhhhhh! Establishment politicos on both sides of the aisle are equally embarrassed about the many Democrats turned “Republicans” to get elected that control the SD GOP. Just ask the SD GOP chairman, lifelong Iowa Democrat Dan Lederman.

    The problem in SD politics are not actual Democrats or actual Republicans, it is the many political opportunists that infest both parties.

  3. grudznick 2021-10-09

    This is like what Mr. Heidepriem did, back in the day. Didn’t work for him, mostly because of his haircut. But if a fellow like Mr. Ravnsborg tried it, or maybe Ms. Taffy, that could work.

  4. Mark Anderson 2021-10-09

    Unless someone in their own family dies from covid, Republicans don’t care. Masks are somehow evil and vaccines even though they have had mandated vaccines from their fifth year, are even more so. It’s a constitutional right to be ignorant in the trumpie party, in fact it’s required.

  5. ArloBlundt 2021-10-09

    Corey…what you’ve written seems logical but I’m afraid you’re whistling in the dark. Sure, its been done before, but generally Republicans care mostly about staying in power and much less about any philosophical position. Power is its own attraction.

  6. larry kurtz 2021-10-09

    Wow, for being the consummate tea-totaler you sure know how to tie one on, Mr. Heidelberger. If John Thune boxes out it’s going to throw the SDGOP for a loop especially if Mrs. Noem is committed to re-election, right?

  7. Yvonne 2021-10-09

    I respectfully disagree with Jackley being a Good one…more of the same this state has had for past 4 governors and more likely worse than what we’vebeen served lately. Just consider what has happened while his official hoorah was manning the highest legal enforcement office of this state. Dont forget the shenanigans he pulled he tried to keep from surfacing during his run against the now reigning Governor and the some that has not surfaced yet.
    My bet would be on Mr. Sutton. He should give it another go. I’d rally behind him. Rick Weiland too.

  8. Porter Lansing 2021-10-09

    Does SD Dem Party even have a pot to p*ss in?

  9. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-10-10

    SX, I agree completely with your assessment of Noem’s lack of leadership. Her effort to portray the pandemic as inevitable is a smokescreen for her unwillingness and her inability to figure out effective policy responses. For more than a decade, her only job has been to win elections, not to engage in active, intelligent government.

    I disagree with your assessment of parties. Parties do not inherently lead to extremism and cultish followership. The Republican Party has fallen into those problems, but not the Democratic Party. The GOP is inspiring violent radicalism and insurrection. Democrats have their problems and internal disagreements, but we’re a darn sight smarter and safer than the party that elects people like Noem and Trump.

    Besides, practically, you have to have an organization to win an election. And if you want to get things done in the Legislature, you have to have an organization that helps not just you but a bunch of other people win office and work with you to pass legislation.

  10. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-10-10

    Yvonne, my willingness to entertain Jackley as our next Governor is similar to the general willingness to view George W. Bush as a decent President now that we’ve suffered through four years of Trump. I would certainly prefer Governor Sutton, or better yet, a Democratic Governor from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.

  11. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-10-10

    DD, it’s hard to accuse the South Dakota Democratic Party of being filled with opportunists when the SDDP doesn’t seem to offer much opportunity… or at least when those opportunists haven’t yet been able to create much opportunity for themselves. Would it really hurt that much to drop your fake both-sidesism and admit that South Dakota’s problem is unprincipled Republicans? Kristi Noem and Larry Rhoden aren’t Democrats. They likely never really were.

  12. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-10-10

    Arlo, I do agree with DD’s assessment that the SDGOP and the national GOP are more interested in power than in principle. Nationally, witness McConnell’s willingness to hold the economy and the Supreme Court hostage while Democrats control the White House just to improve the chances of GOP election victories, followed by his eagerness to raise the debt limit and confirm judges under Republican Presidents.

    However, if I were a Republican interested in taking power myself and in preserving the power of my party, I could make the above case for a primary challenge. Noem isn’t using power well. She isn’t doing anything to help other Republicans win. She’s loading her cabinet not with people who can move up the ladder and maintain the SDGOP’s bench but with out-of-state mercenaries who either don’t care about the SDGOP or actively undermine our good name in this state. She is the weakest, most distracted Republican Governor in a generation. She offers Democrats the best shot yet of retaking the Governor’s office. If I were an ambitious Republican, I would say now is my time to take advatnage of Noem’s weakness and her prominence to boost my own bid for power and to cast my bid as an effort not to upset the GOP but to save it from Noem’s opportunism and failure.

    Bill Janklow primaried Walter Dale Miller in 1994, probably just out of sheer Janklovian megalomania but perhaps also out of a sense the Miller wasn’t that strong of a Governor or candidate. Janklow’s run didn’t weaken the SDGOP; it reversed Democratic gains in the Legislature and set us down the path toward total GOP dominance.

    In that regard, Jackley may not be the right guy to primary Noem. Jackley lacks the Janklovian killer instinct, charisma, and certainty in his absolute superiority. Lee Schoenbeck might be a better choice for a primary against Noem.

  13. larry kurtz 2021-10-10

    Lee Schoenbeck is the Susan Collins of the South Dakota Legislature.

    Shantel Krebs has every reason to see Mrs. Noem fail but how many signatures does a contender need to get on the general election ballot as an unaffiliated candidate?

  14. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-10-10

    I see no comparison between Collins and Schoenbeck. Schoenbeck makes no pretense to centrism, and he far more happily deploys his brass knuckles.

    Candidates like Shantel Krebs, sx123, and Mike Huether who might find adopting the “I” label more palatable need 3,393 signatures to get on the November ballot.

    Huether: now there’s a guy with ambition and a Janklovian opinion of himself. Maybe he’s ready to jump into the show.

  15. larry kurtz 2021-10-10

    Schoenbeck is a catholic first and politician second. His vocal allegiance to conservatism is tempered by his overwhelming compunction for power and control at any cost. His only difference with Senator Collins is that he has no worries about being re-elected while she constantly is.

  16. sx123 2021-10-10

    According to SD Secretary of State, voter registrations are broken down as follows as of Oct 1, 2021 – R: 280,836, D: 155,642, and I: 141,345.
    I need a lot of straight ticket R voter converts to vote for me :-)

  17. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-10-10

    That difference, Larry, is a big difference, one that makes Schoenbeck perhaps the ideal candidate to challenge Noem in the primary. He wants to win, but he’s not worried enough about winning to temper or hide his positions. He’d let Noem have it with both barrels.

  18. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-10-10

    sx123, you and everyone else on the ballot need to convert a significant number of GOP voters to topple Noem.

  19. Disgusted Dakotan 2021-10-10

    CAH,
    I can understand why you would distance yourself from Lt Gov Rhoden’s documented history of being a dedicated Carter Democrat for 20+ years (proving my point). But it does not change the fact he was a dedicated Democrat who only changed parties (after being recruited to run for the SD Legislature by Democrats) because he’s a political opportunist. https://madvilletimes.com/2013/10/03/rhoden-registered-democrat-for-20-years-say-three-hail-ronnies-and-carry-on/

    It’s well known that Noem got her education in “leadership” from Democrat Tom Daschle’s training course.

    There’s no doubt that if Democrats were the majority voter registration in SD? Noem, Lederman, Rhoden, etc, etc, would all be back where they started in the Democratic Party.

  20. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-10-10

    I’m not going any further down DD’s distration road. Fine: if the Republican Party is riddled with opportunist Democrats, then one or more of them should have no trouble switching parties to topple Noem in the general election.

  21. Mark Anderson 2021-10-11

    Cory, I just read that Kanye West is selling his ranch in Wyoming, he couldn’t convince the Kardashians to move there. He could buy a ranch near Pierre and run for Governor instead of President. Yeezus would be good for the state. He’s an independent but so what he could turn Democrat.

  22. ArloBlundt 2021-10-11

    Well…that’s a terrible idea, Mark…there are plenty of Democrats who could certainly run as strong candidates against Kristi Noem, ALL THINGS BEING EQUAL. BUT…any Democrat running against the Republican monolith has to be more than financially secure, willing to run an expensive state wide campaign with very uncertain backing from the Democrat Party, and be able to withstand blatant efforts by the Republican Party to destroy the Democratic candidate financially, personally, and professionally. The Republicans are barbarians when competing for election.

  23. mike from iowa 2021-10-12

    Mathew Dowd, former advisor to dumbass dubya is running for Texass Lt Guv as a Democrat. In Texass, the Lt Guv has the power. The guv is basically a figurehead of magat uselessness.

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