South Dakota… Political Sleeper State?

How badly have the beltway Democrats forgotten South Dakota? So badly that D-Trip and DSCC aren’t even bothering to anoint candidates and helicopter ’em in! Yup, despite the fact Senator Tim Johnson and Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin won statewide as recently as 2008, the beltway Democratic Party leaders have painted South Dakota red on their map, assuming the state is even on their shrinking map. Historically, South Dakota is a purple state, often sending democrats to DC and republicans to the state house, much like it’s neighbor Dakota to the North. But the disastrous 2010 midterms were especially hard on South Dakota democrats with Stephanie narrowly losing her house seat. As a result the beltway Democrats and their dollars gave up on South Dakota, and perception became reality with South Dakota democrats not winning a single statewide seat in 2012. Meanwhile, South Dakota’s trendy urban (and democratic leaning) population in Sioux Falls is booming, and the Native Americans that have often provided the margin of democratic victories are becoming increasingly politically active.

To make South Dakota even riper for a democratic turnover, the republicans that dominate state politics have worn out their welcome. Over the last couple republican governor’s “leadership”, corporate welfare has flowed freely from the state treasury to a succession of failed corporations with failed business plans. For a start we had a pair of mega dairies that went bankrupt with the paint barely dry on their visible from space mega milking parlors. Then we had Northern Beef Processors, an on again off again wet dream  whose construction dragged out over a decade or so, punctuated by liens from unpaid contractors and serial recapitalizations. That capital largely came from corporate welfare and the EB-5 “buy a green card for $500,000” program. One of the masterminds of that scam recently committed suicide, or at least that’s the official version. Now not every recipient of this South Dakota taxpayer funded corporate welfare has gone bankrupt- Trailcraft Trailers got a bunch of state $$$ to train welders, who soon moved on to higher pay in other states. A consulting firm is still quite solvent, having been paid a few million $$$ by the state to recruit folks to move to South Dakota to work for less with little success.

All of the above corruption, great and small, was the handiwork of republican South Dakota governors and legislatures, which means darn near every republican candidate in South Dakota is vulnerable, as we saw in the republican rout after Nixon’s fall from power. Heck, even the republicans that are too wacko to make it to the general election ballot are getting in on the corruption, with one extremist republican candidate for U.S. senate co-mingling funds between her charity, medical practice, and campaign. 

Fortunately a few South Dakota democrats didn’t get the memo from the beltway and are running for statewide office. Campaigning hard (and all over South Dakota) to hang on to Tim Johnson’s U.S. Senate seat is Rick Weiland, a Wellstone style prairie populist. His major republican opponent and and probably the only one not deserving psychiatric commitment is former republican governor Rounds, who would be the odds-on favorite were it not for much of the aforementioned corporate welfare having been doled out on his watch. The wild card in this race is former U.S. senator Larry Pressler, who has left the republican party to run as an independent in the race… He’s a social liberal who could siphon votes from either party. In the battle for South Dakota’s lone U.S. house seat, republican incumbent and corporate farm welfare queen Kristi Noem is vulnerable, and democratic candidate and Iraq War vet Corinna Robinson belatedly has her campaign up and running. Running to retire republican governor Daugaard is wildland firefighting guru Joe Lowe, who’ll be holding Daugaard’s feet to the fire.

So ignore the “nothing to see here” nonsense from the beltway, grab a comfy chair, and enjoy a democratic uprising in South Dakota this year. Better yet, support our democratic candidates, and help turn South Dakota blue again. The best news source for everything ’bout politics in South Dakota is Cory Heidelberger’s blog, and you can keep up with and support the South Dakota democratic party and it’s candidates at .






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