Saturday, June 20, 2015

2018 Election Sweepstakes

Based on the current increase in political activity, I have been contemplating for several weeks posting a few thoughts about what is on the 2018 political horizon. One of South Dakota’s Top political reporters, Bob Mercer, on his PurePierre Politics blog put his oar in the water first. At Bob’s prompting and since I have been thinking about the 2018 landscape, I thought this is a good time to jump in.

It is important to note that the primary election is in three years and much will change before the primary.

First the GOP - Since the GOP Lincoln Day Dinner circuit began last winter it’s obvious Attorney General Marty Jackley and Statehouse Speaker Pro-Tem, Representative Mark Mickelson are gearing up their efforts to win their parties’ 2018 Governor nomination. I have spotted both working the political circles in Sioux Falls and reports are they are both working to find and develop support across the State. Perhaps more in the Attorney General’s case he has been working a tad longer because of his longstanding fundraising efforts. Specifically his General’s Club (fundraising for his political account) and the campaign cash he raised for an almost non existent 2014 election.

Representative Mickelson who I have noted in a previous post is as well connected across South Dakota as anyone and is an able fundraiser, perhaps Goliath might be a better word given his bank in his two previous Statehouse races.

When discussing the upcoming GOP primary with my political acquaintances the other name that continually comes up is U S Representative Kristi Noem. While I have a hard time understanding why she would consider giving up such a secure and important political position, my sources indicate she is serious and is going to run. If being Governor is something she is possessed to do I totally accept it. If she is doing it to serve the people and the State, I do not understand. 

Rep. Noem is doing a good job. Defeating incumbents is difficult enough but given the current state of South Dakota Democrats her position is secure. Equally important she is gaining influential seniority and sits on the (I love saying this) important and powerful House Ways and Means Committee. From this point in time it appears the Republican majority in the U S House is also secure. When asking why she might want to be Governor, it might be asked if her desire to run for Governor isn’t being reinforced and urged by her cadre of top political supporters who favor the influence of a Governor over a U S Representative?  (Or a Senator if she chose to step up to the U S Senate and challenge Mike Rounds in 2020?) It might also be asked why she would forfeit the increasing value of a coveted Congressional pension if she chose to leave Congress?

I would add that it might be expected a fourth or fifth candidate to enter the GOP Governor primary. Will there be an extremist Howielike candidate in the race? Will another current officeholder enter the race (read here Lieutenant Governor Matt Michels) or a political outsider?

Both Jackley and Mickelson are capable and serious men both capable of serving as Governor. Unlike many of these primaries, these two candidates seem to be less dominated by geography. Marty Jackley is a Sturgis native, has lived in Vermillion (USD Law School), Sioux Falls (U S Attorney), Rapid City (law practice) and Pierre (Attorney General). Mark Mickelson grew up in Brookings, lived in Vermillion (USD), and Sioux Falls (entrepreneurship). The Mickelson family also has strong roots in Selby and Pierre. I touched on it in my previous post but it should not be discounted that both Mickelson’s father and grandfather served as Governor. The Mickelsons are well connected. Nobody on the scene has the Mickelson political DNA.

If the race has three top horses, geography may come into play in deciding the outcome. For instance would Noem cut into important West River support?  Kristi plays best on offense, not so much defense. How would her campaign style contrast to Jackly’s or Mickelson’s. Jackley’s campaign style is slightly more formal with people than the more relaxed style of Mickelson. Kristi Noem’s primary advantage is that she is well known. Being well known is essential but hard work can overcome it. That both Jackley and Mickelson are out beating the bushes early shows they understand. It would be foolhardy to forget Mickelson is a very successful businessman and Jackley was a long distance runner and like a great race horse doesn’t quit.

Jackley and Mickelson both have good political instincts. Jackley it seems to me is a more conventional conservative that would be popular with S D Republican primary voters. While Mickelson a down the line conservative is more open to the important and growing Independents (who are generally conservative on economic issues) who have the power to win General Elections. Keep in mind that the Democrats have not won the Governorship since 1972.

An Open House Seat – As Bob Mercer notes a Noem Governor candidacy would throw open the door to the U S House race. When the federal seats become open expect lots of action (think 1986, 2002, and 2010). Mercer speculates that if there is an open seat, he considers State Senator Deb Peters a possible candidate. This is the first I have heard her name in this role and it could make sense. Other possibles looking at the race - candidates may be former Secretary of State and current Public Utility Commissioner Chris Nelson, former Public Utilities Commissioner and Governor’s Chief of Staff Dusty Johnson, former State House Majority Leader David Lust, former State Senator and Secretary of State Shantel Krebs, former State Senator Dan Lederman, Senate Majority Leader Corey Brown, former Sioux Falls City Councilor and Commissioner of Governor’s Office of Economic Development Pat Costello, and Assistant State House Majority Leader Steve Westra. Of course there could be many more (and probably would be). You might also find Howlike in this race as well.

The one name I think may be a real possibility and likely an instant favorite is Governor Dennis Daugaard. History shows the Governor would be very well positioned to consider serving in Congress and winning a primary. Remember he would have the GOP establishment behind him and tons of name id. Recently Governors have taken a prominent role in these open seats: Governor Janklow in 2002 (he announced in February of 2002 for a June primary) and Governor Rounds in 2014. Mike Rounds did the political Texas two-step and announced in November (I think) or December of 2012 that he was running for Senator Tim Johnson’s seat despite what Johnson decided for 2014. Rounds thus forced Kristi Noem or for that matter any really serious candidate from getting into the primary. The 2014 primary was bizarre for a lot of reasons. Would Governor Daugaard as sitting Governor announce like Janklow or Rounds? Or for that matter announce he is not considering seeking the seat?

Open seats are attractive to Democrats too. Would there be a possibility of a return of Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, an entrance by Brendan Johnson or perhaps a new Democrat face? History also shows Dems can exploit these opportunities and win these federal races.

Mike Huether – Mayor Huether is the third candidate working already to position himself for a run for Governor in 2018, all be it from the left side of the plate. He is always busy planning his work and working his plan. In the last few weeks he is actively touring the state. While I don’t think any Democrat can easily win the Governorship, Huether is persistent. I am not sure a Mayor from Sioux Falls who has worked in concert to host the High School Basketball Tournaments to Sioux Falls on a permanent basis will generate the love.  One trait Mike Huether has demonstrated is his ability (despite his methods) of overcoming objections (the classic trait of a great salesman). BTW the last great salesman who was Governor of South Dakota was Dick Kneip, the last Democrat to serve. Kneip was a Dairy salesman.

Should Noem’s House seat open up, given that Huether is not a fool, when he looks at the polling he may in fact re consider Governor and jump into the U S House race instead.

Other 2018 Actions and Collaterals – Given the forgone speculation two other races become interesting; South Dakota Attorney General and Sioux Falls Mayor.

It looks like Jason Ravnsborg who finished last in a five way race for the 2014 GOP US Senate nomination is again acting like a candidate for office. I suspect it is the Attorney General nomination but it could be that U S House seat and a possible two step. Another possibility for Attorney General is Tony Venhuizen the Governor’s Chief of Staff who is politically active. On the Democrat seat for the open seat is possibly Minnehaha County States Attorney Aaron McGowan. While Venhizen and McGowan are solely my speculations keep your eyes on them.

With Mayor Mike Huether term limited in 2018, Sioux Falls Mayor open seat will once again be a free for all. Current councilors who have Mayor desires are Greg Jamison, Dean Karsky, and Kenny Anderson, Jr. Undoubtedly there are others but I might look for the aforementioned Pat Costello to again look at running for Sioux Falls Mayor. Clearly Development Director Darrin Smith is setting himself up for another run hoping to capitalize on Huether coattails.

Like Ravnsborg, Darrin did not get the message in his 2006 run for Mayor when he even failed to make the playoffs. Smith subsequently resigned his Council seat because his office was not as important to him anymore.

The Mayor’s race could also attract others.

In all events 2018 is starting to shape up. It will be interesting and perhaps even a wild ride.

June 21 Post It Note - BIG Oops (just forgot) Councilor Michelle Erpenbach is also reported to be expressing an interest in the SF Mayor's job and it has been mentioned that Councilor Christine Erickson should be thinking about it. - Could be a crowded field. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

What Are We Doing?

This post and my outrage is not about my personal support of certain issues but rather the time our governmental bodies are dithering on the relatively less important issues.

I am leaving any thoughts on solutions to perhaps a later post.

My frustrations permeate almost all levels of government.

Our school board is bogged downed squabbling about school start dates. The City is yacking about restricting food trucks. County government is bogged down figuring out how to have fair elections. (It isn’t that complicated We know how to do it. We have had fair elections in South Dakota since statehood. Election problems were caused by unpreparedness and election officials’ mistakes – some who took responsibility and some who did not.)  

The State Legislature spends inordinate time on concealed weapons. We have one of the most pro gun concealed carry laws in the nation.  Is security in the State Capitol in jeopardy? Our Legislature wants to abolish the U S Department of Education (which they have zero power to do) and they are spending lots of committee time, discussion and public engagement on restricting rare almost non-existent abortions. Our federal government is playing political one upsmanship putting national security at risk over the debate on the immigration issue.  

Feelings on these issues vary greatly. Feelings on some are intense, some issues are very personal, and some issues are simply political wedge issues. A lot of time, energy, and political capital are being wasted at the expense of much bigger problems.

South Dakota K-12 education is not doing their job. (Before my school and educator friends put me on their unwelcome list remember School people play the hand they are dealt. It’s up to the Legislature and School Boards to effect policy and change. Taxpayers provide the money.) At South Dakota Universities, about 30 percent of South Dakota High School graduates require remedial work. Should not our Legislature and School Boards be having discussions and taking significant action on high school grads not being ready for higher ed?. Maybe our School Board ought to be working not on when school starts but why the school year isn’t longer or standards higher?

In South Dakota our jails are full. Minnehaha County increasingly is spending more of its budget on incarceration costs. The County has noticed some of the neighboring tenant Counties and they may be turning away their prisoners. Brown County also has said they are nearing over capacity. While all the evidence is not in on our Criminal Justice reforms (and they must be given a chance), new jails may still have to be built or criminals turned lose.

Locally exacerbating the jail problem, the crime rates in the City of Sioux Falls have risen dramatically. The City has been reluctant to admit there is even a problem and public safety has been given a lower priority than development issues.  Despite a 58% growth rate in crime, little focus and less discussion has been given this important basic problem?

Federally our most important issue seems to be a pipeline (that I support and think is a no brainer) while foreign policy is dismissed. We may be on the brink or WWIII (or maybe its already started and we just have not recognized it yet). No one seems to be working of finding solutions to our persistent federal deficits or needed social security reforms  whose fiscal magnitude is overwhelming

Particularly frustrating to me is that despite all the effort (public and private) and the billions of dollars that are spent, people are hungry in America. We have literally thousands of federal programs and grants for practically every imagined and even unimagined purposes yet many people among us including large numbers of children remain hungry.

With all the smart people and our smart elected officials why can’t we even fix this most basic welfare need? For perspective, as a national problem where does hunger rate say compared to the 17 percent default rate on Student Loans over $100,000, the oil depletion allowance, or the space program?

The point of this rant is that we need to focus government and politics on our Big Problems not sideshows. Way too much time is being spent on the mice while we ignore the elephants. The elephants being America’s  kids are falling behind in education, our jails are full, and the world is a dangerous place. And Oh Yes, we are spending billions on food assistance but people are still hungry.

We can solve these problems but we must first give them priority; and then summon the political courage, dedication, and statesmanship to solve them

Monday, December 29, 2014

Guns, Pawn, and Rock & Roll

Sioux Falls business and community leaders have worked diligently over the past thirty-five plus years to change our City from a one industry town to the economically and culturally diverse Sioux Falls of today.

The Queen City is no longer largely dependent on agriculture and meat packing. Unquestionably our city has changed because of the arrival of Citibank and the transformational generosity of T. Denny Sanford. Sioux Falls is viewed as a vibrant city whose economy is led by world class health care systems and financial services.

Sioux Falls is marketed as a great place to live, raise a family, and to do business. For the past thirty-five years, the City has more than doubled in population. Sioux Falls has become the regional retail destination, the Washington Pavilion put through a Cinderella like transformation; Falls Park, downtown (Phillips Avenue and East Bank), and River Greenway revitalized; and the Bird Cage, Convention Center, and Events center constructed. And the Sanford Sports complex

So it is a shock in the last few days, seemingly out of nowhere comes the news of efforts to change our city and its well-crafted image. In the name of entertainment Sioux Falls will now have Rock and Roll 24/7/365 (the radio station), a Guntry Club, and the Midwest’s (if not the nation’s) largest Pawn Shop.

Chuck Brennan of Dollar Loan Center has announced he will build the Badlands, Pawn, Gold and Jewelry entertainment complex, which he describes as “Disneyland or Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory of pawn shops."  According to press reports Mr. Brennan wants to make shopping at the pawnshop fun and “create the pawnshop experience.” It was stated Badlands Gold & Jewelry would be a tourist destination attracting as many as 500 people per day.

Plans for Badlands will include large selections of jewelry, electronics, a gun shop with shooting range, a silver and gold foundry, a FM Rock radio station, a tattoo shop, a delli, and a merchandise shop.  

The Argus Leader  reported the City is excited about this venture and the City’s director of development in speaking about this stated, “this is what we were hoping would come” relative to the creation of the Sioux Falls Sports and Entertainment District.

This development creates a conflict for me. I believe in free enterprise with a minimum amount of government interference. This conflict is similar to my feelings about the issue of limiting the rate of interest and charges assessed by payday lenders.

While I am undecided (still thinking about it and want to see the specific proposal) on the payday lending issue (free market forces versus hurtful business practices), I would not favor the City issuing Badlands an on premisis beer and wine permit or alcoholic beverage license if their were a shooting range at the site. I don’t feel any differently about Badlands than I do about Scheels Sports who I think has created a real destination attraction at their Sioux Falls store with their Ferris wheel, faux shooting gallery, and cafĂ©. Sheels also has an extensive gun shop at their store. Despite I am pro gun, I wouldn’t favor giving Scheels a license to sell alcohol either.

If Mr. Brennan wants to invest his money legally as he sees fit, he can go for it. From my perspective however I don’t think it will materially benefit our city. In terms of attracting high quality jobs, keeping the conservative pro business image required to foster financial services jobs, attracting more family trust business, and projecting our image of hard working Midwestern wholesomeness, I don’t think Sioux Falls should participate with special assistance for Badlands to participate in remaking the Queen City’s image to Pawn City.

Endbar  - I really do like Pawn and Rock and Roll. I frequently watch the “Pawn Shows” on Reality TV. Foremost understand that almost all Reality TV is scripted. I like Pawn Stars with the Harrison family, but I view it as the History Channel’s entertainment version of PBS’ Antiques Roadshow (which I also occasionally enjoy). No day goes by that I don’t listen to 50’s on 5 or 60’s on 6.

While in Las Vegas for the Thanksgiving holiday, (my son lives there) my wife, children, grandchildren, and I played KISS Golf in Las Vegas. It was glow in the dark mini golf with blaring rock and roll. It was great fun for all ages (all 7 of us, from 5 to 68). I don’t know if it would be considered a destination venue but it was a great place. If this was the image Badlands were pursuing it would be palatable. I like Las Vegas but just want to keep it in Las Vegas, I just don’t want a Sin City image in Sioux Falls.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

TCU v Mississippi – Deju Vu

Straight Talk living in the past edition

Words can’t describe my Horned Frog pride in how the Texas Christian University football team performed this season. If it were not for their fourth quarter collapse against the Baylor Bears they would have had an undefeated season that should have put them in the NCAA playoffs.

Sidebar – former Paschal Panther and TCU alum, famed sportswriter and the yoda of Fort Worth’s soul, expressed some skepticism when he tweeted:

When my beloved Frogs beat OU and Texas in the same season, it's a great year. Playoff committee was always about TV ratings, nothing else.

(for more on Jenkins check out his bio or many of the great books he has penned. His latest book, his memoir, “His Ownself – A Semi-Memoir” may be his best.)

Not making the playoffs puts the #6 Frogs in the Chic-Fil-A-Bowl (non officially Peach Bowl) on December 31 playing #9 Ole Miss Rebels (officially University of Mississippi.)

This isn’t the first time the Frogs have met the Rebs in a bowl game. The last time was the 1956 Cotton Bowl game. The Cotton Bowl game then was played at the actual Cotton Bowl at the Texas State Fair grounds in Dallas. Interestingly the game was played not on New Years Day as the only “real” and “major” bowl games were played in the day but on January 2nd, which was a Monday. Presumably then because College Football, a frivolity, was not to be played on the “Lord’s Day.” College football as Jenkins suggest may not any longer be a frivolity.

That day was going to be a great day for me. I was a TCU fan and the Frogs were going to the Cotton Bowl. My hero TCU halfback, Jim Swink, had been named an All American and another Frog and Fort Worth legend Johnny Vaught was the Mississippi coach. Vaught who was Valedictorian at Fort Worth Polytechnic High School played his college ball at TCU and too was an All American. Because Vaught was “local” his career and Mississippi had many followers in Cowtown.

What made the TCU – Mississippi special for me is my Daddy and a friend’s Dad got tickets for the game (I think they were $5 each – and fairly hard to come by). So it was off to Big D for the game. The Rosenthals and the Hermans first made a stop at the regionally famous Southern Kitchen for lunch. They had a buffet with all the fried chicken and shrimp with what were called fixins (now sides) for maybe $3 per person.

It was a clear day and as memory serves (I was 9) cool and brisk. Today I would translate that to between 45 to 50 degrees for the 2pm game. 

One thing I clearly remember was the Mississippi band unfurling the large Confederate Stars and Bars on the field prior to the start of the game and playing Dixie. In sixty years that has changed. While the team is still named the Rebels, their mascot is no longer a Confederate Colonel but a bear named rebel.

It is not the point of this post, but worth noting, one of the flash points of the 1960s Civil Rights movement was the admission of James Meredith to the University of Mississippi in 1962 with the assistance of Attorney General Robert Kennedy, the Federal Courts and 500 U S Marshalls.

It did not turn out to be a winning day for TCU. They lost 14 – 13, but it was a great game. The Frogs led 13 to zip at the half but could not hold back Vaught and the Rebs. TCU’s big problem was Chuck Curtis, their All Southwest Conference QB, was injured on the kickoff and was out for the rest of the game. You would not ever see that today. Back then players played both ways (O & D) and special teams (we didn’t even know what those were). There were few player substitutions.

Duly noted - Curtis played for a time in the NFL as backup QB for the New York Giants behind Charley Connerly, under assistant coaches Tom Landry and Vince Lombardi. Interestingly Connery had played his college ball at Mississippi under Johnny Vaught. Vaught also coached another pretty successful NFL QB, Archie Manning, (who is the father of oh you already know that.)

In 1957 (actually played on New Years Day) TCU returned to the Cotton Bowl and beat Syracuse 28 -27 in another hard fought battle. Syracuse their premier halfback that year, some guy named Jim Brown.

We will see what fate has in store for TCU at the Peach Bowl but they have proven a lot this year. Their performance shows a quality program can be built with focus and good coaching at even a private school with only 10,000 students.

End bar – I have linked in this post quite a bit. If you are interested take a look. The information on TCU’s reemergence as a mini Goliath and the look at Jim Swink are worthwhile.