Now before we get excited, let’s remember that the last two times Hubbel said she would run for Governor, she actually made it onto the ballot only once, in 2014, when she challenged incumbent Governor Dennis Daugaard in the Republican primary. Hubbel tried again in 2018, but failed to get enough petition signatures to qualify for the Republican primary, considered circulating an independent petition, then settled on trying to get the Constitution Party to nominate her, which, like most Constitution Party affairs, ended in farce.
In an effort to get her statewide ballot placement record up from 50% to 66.7%, Hubbel says she’ll run as an independent in 2022. That’s a wise choice: if she entered the GOP primary, she’d only be competing with fellow right-wing radical Steven Haugaard for the anti-Noem vote. I suspect there is no significant percentage of SDGOP primary voters who would pick Noem over Haugaard but who would pick Hubbel over Noem. Why should any outsider conservative like Hubbel waste all winter and spring on a humiliating tour of Lincoln Day dinners where Noem’s sniggering big-money insiders and Haugaard’s Legislative pals will control the agenda and make Hubbel sit at the kids’ table?
Hubbel makes a better bet staying out of a Republican Party food fight. Hubbel can let Haugaard do all the damage he can to Noem’s image and war chest in the spring while Hubbel focuses on collecting signatures and cash. She can watch the primary campaign closely, look for polling data to indicate which Haugaard issues gain traction, and then, after Haugaard’s likely defeat, retool those issues to mesh with whatever distinguishing agenda she crafts to appeal to the broader general electorate in the fall.
We liberals should, of course, cheer for Hubbel’s independent candidacy and even sign her nominating petition to help her get the 3,393 signatures she needs to qualify for the general election ballot. Hubbel on the November ballot does little damage to the Democratic candidate (assuming we find one!). No attentive Democrat will vote for Hubbel’s absurd anti-vax, anti-mask, anti-immigrant politics and conspiracy theories. Odds are neither will any other-party Sutton voter from 2018: they’ll either once again approve the usual centrist Democrat that the SDDP nominates or they’ll return for the safety and familiarity of Noem and her alternating fashion hats.
Hubbel’s appeal in the fall is disaffected conservatives who don’t hear enough crazy talk from Noem and the SDGOP establishment. Those disaffected conservatives will never vote for a Democrat in November, so Hubbel’s appeal to those voters only lowers Noem’s edge and makes Democrats’ work easier.
So keep an eye out for those Hubbel petitions, Dems! If Lora comes a-knocking, sign her petition and help her help us on the ballot in November!