Republican whackadoodles showed up in Pierre yesterday to oppose Senate Bill 40, the party elites’ plan to remove lieutenant governor, attorney general, and secretary of state from the convention nomination process. The party elites responded by amending SB 40 to remove all statewide elected officials from the convention nomination process.
Senate Bill 40 is one of those curious bills in which Republicans are proposing a good democratic reform. Right now, South Dakota’s parties nominate their candidates for lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, auditor, treasurer, commissioner of school and public lands, and the three public utilities commissioner seats at their midterm-election year conventions. That means candidates for these statewide offices are chosen by a group of hyperpartisan delegates smaller than the number of people who have to sign nominating petitions to place candidates for governor or Congress on the ballot. It should be easier for party elites to control its convention than a primary election, but Republicans have found the fringe radicals whom it invites into its tent to bring otherwise disengaged Trumpists to the polls don’t listen very well and upset the nomination process by picking unqualified radical candidates instead of the elites’ favorites.
That radical angst has thus tricked Republicans into supporting more democracy in the form of SB 40. As originally proposed, SB 40 would require candidates for AG and SOS to circulate nominating petitions and face the primary process. Those candidates would still be chosen by he hyperpartisans who show up to vote in primaries, but regular people would also have a chance to vote, tempering the impulses of the fringe radicals, who have a harder time mounting effective statewide campaigns due to their lack of practical organizational skill and their lack of focus on the practical interests of a majority of voters even within their own party.
SB 40 moves away from democracy by letting gubernatorial candidates pick their own running mates, but the loss of democracy in moving the LG from selection by a few hundred to selection by one is outweighed by the gain in democracy of moving the AG and SOS from selection by a few hundred to selection by tens of thousands.
But radical Minnesota immigrant and election conspiracy theorist Rick Weible (who helped make radical election denier Monae Johnson Secretary of State) and radical racist West River preacher Matthew Monfore don’t like elections or democracy, so they called in to Senate State Affairs yesterday morning to testify against SB 40. Weible said SB 40 doesn’t help the grassroots because the candidates for lower statewide offices can’t raise as much money as the top-tier candidates. Weible then got sidetracked revisiting the campaign tactics Weible used to help Johnson beat incumbent Steve Barnett at last summer’s convention, and the committee redirected him to address SB 40 itself. Reminding the Republicans of all the slime he threw at their favorite son Steve Barnett probably wasn’t the wisest tactic, but when given the opportunity to talk more about SB 40 itself, Weible first elbows his mute button, then upon figuring out his error, simply closed his testimony.
Then Monfore got on the line and said he doesn’t trust the election process, “the SNS”, or the county auditors. He says his people have evidence that South Dakota’s elections aren’t clean. Chairman Casey Crabtree reminded Monfore that testimony should focus on the bill at hand, but Monfore said nothing else, leaving implicit his position that you, regular voter, should not get to choose your elected officials and should instead surrender your will and your government to the internal hackery of radicals like Monfore and Weible trying to hijack conventions.
Monfore did not stick around to explain how party conventions are cleaner than public elections.
In rebuttal, Prime sponsor Senator David Johnson (R-33/Hisega) put plainly the Weible and Monfore’s thesis:
I think what we’re hearing the opponents say is that the people of South Dakota are not smart enough maybe to pick their candidates for Republican Party or for Democrat[ic] Party offices. I hear the opponents saying that perhaps the grassroots people… are not educated enough on political issues, that they shouldn’t probably be voting.… Well, I don’t think that’s the case. I think that dozens of elections in the history of the state prove quite otherwise. It doesn’t take a dollar bill to win an election. It takes effort. It takes good policy. That’s what gets people elected in the state of South Dakota [Sen. David Johnson, testimony to Senate State Affairs on SB 40, 2023.02.13, transcribed from SDPB audio, timestamp 16:50].
Wow—so who are the real elitists: the SDGOP establishment that’s expressing its confidence in your ability to cast an informed vote in clean elections, or the Weible-Monfore whackdoodles who think their secret cabals should pick your leaders?
Senate State Affairs accepted Johnson’s motion to amend SB 40 to include auditor, treasurer, PUC, and CSPL in the petitioning/primary process. Senate State Affairs then endorsed having more South Dakotans having a say in who their elected officials are going to be instead of leaving those choices to the “backroom deals” and unrepresentative delegates that Senator Lee Schoenbeck (R-5/Lake Kampeska) lambasted in his committee statement in favor of SB 40.
Senator Reynold Nesiba (D-15/Sioux Falls) said SB 40 improves the current process, but he still cast one of the three nays because he worries that Democrats won’t be able to field candidates to mount successful petition drives in the spring. Nesiba would prefer an amendment to allow parties to fill vacancies in those statewide offices at convention if no one files a nominating petition. I appreciate the sentiment, but the proper solution is not to rig the law to do favors for a failing political party but instead to fix the failing party, or disband that party and replace it with a new alternative party like the Libertarians, which SB 40 still allows to nominate statewide and Legislative candidates at convention.
SB 40 now goes to the full Senate, where Schoenbeck’s support means it will enjoy easy passage over the fuming of whackadoodles like Weible and Monfore.