My 2021 Blog Wish List didn’t come true. Killer Jason Ravnsborg still hasn’t spent a day in jail, one in three vaccine-eligible South Dakotans still haven’t gotten their coronavirus shots, and nobody was generating sales tax revenue by selling pot at Sturgis.
But if you think those multiple flops will deter me from making a 2022 Wish List, you have another think coming. (And on Dakota Free Press, there’s always another think coming!)
So Happy New Year! Here are my Top Ten Stories of 2022, my fifteenth annual list of the news I hope I get to write about in the coming year!
1. South Dakota Rejects All Federal Funding (Pierre, SD—April 1, 2022): After four days of tense round-the-clock negotiations and shouting matches in the halls of the Capitol, the South Dakota Legislature finally approved state spending bills that do not authorize spending any federal money. Governor Kristi Noem had proposed spending an additional $859 million in federal dollars this year and $2.2 billion in Fiscal Year 2023. But House conservatives rallied around Noem’s primary challenger, Representative Steven Haugaard (R-10/Sioux Falls) to reject both spending requests and demand budgets that spend zero federal dollars.
The Haugaard counter-budget appeared doomed at the start but won surprise support on March 10 from Senate President Pro-Tem Lee Schoenbeck, who postponed the final Senate vote on the budget until March 28, the last scheduled day of Session. That final day is usually reserved for vetoes, but Schoenbeck and Haugaard kept their chambers at work through the week hammering out a revised budget package that passed each chamber with no votes to spare.
Schoenbeck has offered no public comment on his support for Haugaard’s budget, which some say could seriously damage public services and the state economy. But after Friday’s final gavel, Haugaard told a media gaggle in the Rotunda, “The Governor can sign this budget, or she can admit to the voters that she can’t balance her budget without Joe Biden’s help. Her call.”
2. Haugaard Wins Primary After Ballot Theft Drama (Sioux Falls, SD—June 8, 2022): Steven Haugaard has beaten Kristi Noem in South Dakota’s Republican gubernatorial primary 50.2% to 49.8%.
Results remained in doubt until the final thousand votes from Haugaard’s precinct were delivered by police to the Minnehaha County Courthouse at 6:14 this morning after a dramatic chase around Sioux Falls and a tense stand-off in the East 10th Street Hy-Vee parking lot. A man absconded with a ballot box from a north Sioux Falls polling station and fled in a vehicle with New Hampshire plates. Police finally corraled the vehicle at Hy-Vee around 2:30 a.m. but kept their distance when the man threatened to blow up the car and the ballots.
At dawn, a Hy-Vee security guard, identified so far only as Karen, conspicuously laid her sidearm and taser on a trash can at the store entrance and approached the vehicle carrying a bag of the bakery’s first batch of doughnuts. The suspect took a doughnut, spoke briefly with Karen, and then surrendered.
3. Epidemiologist Specker to Become South Dakota’s Second Woman Governor (Brookings, SD—November 8, 2022): Amid far less drama and delay than the vote count in June’s primary, epidemiologist and Democrat Bonnie Specker has been declared by AP, KELO-TV, and KJAM Radio the winner of South Dakota’s gubernatorial election. With 600 of 733 precincts reporting, Specker leads Republican Representative Steven Haugaard 65% to 35%, a margin the remaining votes from the Black Hills and Indian Country cannot surmount.
“The chaos created by the Haugaard budget eroded Haugaard’s support at the polls,” said SDSU political science professor emeritus Bob Burns. “South Dakota voters realized they really need someone smart and sensible running the state. Plus Bonnie and Amanda [Bachmann, Specker’s entomologist running mate] are really nice people.”
Governor-Elect Specker vows that her first action in office will be to work with Joint Appropriations to enact emergency adjustments to the current budget to restore federal funding and vital public services by the end of the first week of the 2023 Session.
4. South Dakotans Reject Texas-Style Abortion Ban (Pierre, SD—November 9, 2022): South Dakotans erased another pillar of Governor Kristi Noem’s legacy Tuesday when they rejected Noem’s House Bill 1069, an attempt to copy Texas’s abortion ban into South Dakota law. Noem signed HB 1069 in March, but a coalition led by health care providers, the ACLU, and the South Dakota Democratic Party collected over 28,000 signatures last spring to refer the measure to a vote. Despite significant spending by out-of-state conservative groups, South Dakotans rejected HB 1069 59% to 41%, a slightly larger margin than the margins by which South Dakotans rejected abortion restrictions in 2006 and 2008.
5. Republicans Leave Cwach Unchallenged for Attorney General (Pierre, SD—August 9, 2022): Secretary of State Steve Barnett stood expectantly at the door of his Capitol office at 5:00 p.m. today. He had hoped someone from his party would hand-deliver letter from his party chairman to nominate a Republican candidate for Attorney General.
At 5:01, the Secretary’s hands remained empty.
Six weeks after the Republican convention in Watertown devolved into fisticuffs and multiple arrests, party leaders and delegates remained deadlocked on a choice to run for Attorney General. Marty Jackley faced a surprise challenge from his former law partner Sara Frankenstein, and Jason Ravnsborg, who remains in office as the House Select Committee enters its ninth month of investigating Ravnsborg and discussing impeachment, has clung to enough support from rural delegates to prevent either Jackley or Frankenstein from amassing a majority of support.
Representative Ryan Cwach (D-18/Yankton) will thus appear alone on the November ballot and succeed fellow Yankton lawyer Ravnsborg as South Dakota’s Attorney General.
6. Ahlers Returns from Washington After “Productive” Meeting with Sanders (Dell Rapids, SD—December 14, 2022): Senator-Elect Dan Ahlers returned from Washington, DC, this morning after a week of meetings with fellow incoming Senators and party leaders, including likely Majority Leader Bernie Sanders from Vermont. “My opponent this fall talked a lot about Bernie Sanders and ‘East Coast liberals’,” said Ahlers, referring to Mark Mowry, whom he defeated 51% to 49% in November. “But Vermont is a really rural state, and Bernie understands the unique challenges rural voters face across the country.” Ahlers said he had “productive” conversations with Sanders about farm bill reforms, renewable energy, and rural development measures Ahlers plans to introduce after he takes office in January.
7. Coronavirus Depresses GOP Voter Turnout (Rapid City, SD—December 23,2022): Researchers from Benchmark Data Labs announced today that Democratic candidates in South Dakota elections appear to have benefited from Republican vaccine resistance. As hospitals across the state have observed, the new strain of Covid-22 has run rampant among the over 200,000 South Dakota Dakotans who have refused to take coronavirus vaccines. “The most conservative Republicans still refuse to get their shots,” said Dr. Shankar Kurra of Monument Health, who consulted with benchmark on this research. “The most conservative Republicans got sick. Whether they were home sick, in the hospital, or worse, the most conservative Republicans showed up in smaller numbers at the polls here in South Dakota just like in the rest of the country, and that had a statistically significant impact on the results of the 2022 election.”
8% fewer Republicans cast votes in South Dakota’s 2022 general election than did in the last mid-term election. Turnout among independents dropped just 1%; turnout among Democrats increased 2%.
8. Dumpster Dive Reveals Files Detailing Nepotism, Misuse of State Funds (Sioux Falls, SD—October 18, 2022): Dakota Free Press has published a series of electronic files from the Governor’s Office revealing special treatment for the Governor’s children and multiple misuses of public dollars on political activities and personal expenses by the Noem Administration. Noem spokesman Ian Fury tweeted that the files are “rubbish”.
“Sure, they’re rubbish,” says DFP blogger Cory Allen Heidelberger. “The files were on a hard drive that someone threw in the dumpster outside the Governor’s mansion. The drive was retrieved from the trash, came into my hands, and I was able to open it up and find the documents, letters, emails, photos, and recordings that I’ve been publishing.”
Heidelberger refused to say who obtained the hard drive, but he says the files are legitimate and include of Noem calling for Sherry Bren’s immediate firing, receipts showing the use of state credit cards for campaign expenses, and a series of emails between herself and Corey Lewandowski in the days before her June primary defeat.
9. Schoenbeck Support Helped Democrats Secure Veto-Backing Minority in Senate (Watertown, SD—December 31, 2022): In November, Democrats won twelve seats in the South Dakota Senate. That’s enough votes to support any veto issued by Governor-Elect Bonnie Specker and to force the Republican majorities in the Senate and House to negotiate with the incoming Democratic Executive Branch.
According to a campaign finance report filed yesterday, Republican Senate President Pro-Tempore Lee Schoenbeck (R-5/Lake Kampeska) contributed to nine of those twelve incoming Democratic Senators. In each case, the Democrats Schoenbeck supported with funds from his own campaign war chest faced radical right-wing Republican candidates who professed loyalty to Donald Trump and promoted the thoroughly disproven claim that Democrats stole the 2020 Presidential election.
“I condemned the Trump insurrection two years ago as traitors to our nation,” said Schoenbeck from his vacation home in the Black Hills. “I’d rather work with a few more reasonable Democrats than with a bunch of traitors. We Senators take an oath to support the Constitution. Like Congresswoman Cheney says, you can support the Constitution, or you can support Trump, but you can’t support both. If you support Trump, I don’t want you in my chamber.”
10. Noem Pardons Lewandowski, Files Divorce Papers, Flies to Nevada (Reno, NV—December 1, 2022): Yesterday Governor Kristi Noem signed a full pardon for Corey Lewandowski, filed divorce papers at the Hughes County courthouse, and left Pierre by plane for Idaho with Lewandowski in tow.
Lewandowski, former campaign advisor to Noem and Donald Trump, was facing an April trial for stealing ballots, eluding police, and making terroristic threats the night of the June primary in Sioux Falls. Lewandowski’s wife filed for divorce from him shortly after Lewandowski’s arrest on June 8. Noem offered no explanation for her pardon or for the papers filed an hour later by her lawyer Matt McCaulley seeking divorce from her husband Bryon, who was back in Hamlin County preparing a family gathering for the Governor, who sources close the family say was expected to fly home Wednesday to celebrate her 51st birthday.
Noem did board a plane registered to T. Denny Sanford at the Pierre airport at 4:16 p.m. Central Standard Time. However, that plane landed at Reno-Tahoe International Airport at 4:52 Pacific Standard Time. A search of FAA records confirmed the arriving plane’s tail number, and two reporters at the airport obtained photos and video showing Noem and Lewandowski deplaning and getting into a black Suburban together.
No one in the Governor’s Office could shed any light on the Governor’s departure or current whereabouts. “All I know,” said Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden, “is I found a draft of the budget address on my desk with a note on top saying, ‘Study up; speech is Tuesday.’ I think I need a drink.”
* * *
Will any of those stories come true in 2022? Who knows?! But if they do, you’ll read about them here on Dakota Free Press!
Now, readers, can each of you come up with a story for the 2022 Wish List?
Past Dakota Free Press/Madville Times Wish Lists:
Fourteen years of jump-off points to alternative South Dakota futures!
|2015||2014||2013: no list!
trip to France!