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. 

19 comments:

  1. Very interesting post Mr. Chairman,

    Governor:

    If I were handicapping the Governor's race I would have it like this:

    Republican:
    1. Kristi Noem
    2. Marty Jackley
    2a. Mark Mickelson
    3. Matt Michels

    Democrat
    1. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (most likely she challenges Rounds in '20)
    2. Mike Huether

    That is a lot of M's on the primary ballot for the GOP. In the end I doubt Michels will run. He hasn't been out and about much lately like Daugaard was following Rounds' reelection victory.

    Kristi will have the money and name id. Mickelson and Jackley will also have plenty of cash and statewide support. If it's a 4 way race (involving Michels) than I believe Kristi will win. If it's a three way race I would put her as the front runner but expect that voters would give the other two a listen.

    (Sidenote I'd like to see a column about who each of these are most likely to choose as Lt. Governor)

    If I had to choose between these candidates I would rank them like this:

    1. Shantel Krebs
    2. Steve Westra
    3. Dusty Johnson
    4. Jim Seward
    5. Lucas Lentsch
    (Wild Card) Dan Lederman
    6. Howieite

    Democrats:

    1. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin
    2. Brendan Johnson
    3. Aaron McGowan
    4. Mike Huether

    If Costello ran it would throw in a whole new perspective. David Lust would be an excellent congressman but he would also be a great Lt. Governor pick for any of the 3 Republicans.

    My reason for ranking them this way is my impression is Westra is an up and comer. He's well liked. Dusty kind of had his moment a few years ago but he's been out of office for almost 5 years and he quit his PUC position. I don't think that makes him strong in a general and I don't think it was a smart decision on his part to not serve one day of his second term. The Dems could really make that an issue in a campaign.

    Krebs is my pick for the strongest candidate in a general election against Brendan Johnson because of how she stood up to an incumbent member of her own party and really cleaned that mess up. I don't know how many candidates could have that gutsy of a resume. The other reason I put Dusty lower on the list is because two other people who serve in the governor's cabinet are often discussed as potential candidates: Lucas Lentsch and Jim Seward. They would both be incredible candidates in their own right. It tells me the internal pecking order in the governor's office has not sorted itself out yet.

    Much like Mercer's suggestion of Deb Peter's for Congress I would also disagree with your suggestion of Tony Venhuizen for AG. I see no possibility that he would be selected by the delegates as AG unless it is just him and Ravnsborg and then it would be anyone's guess. Most likely that race will be won by Brian Gosch or Jim Seward. Both of whom the delegates like and know well. Venhiuzen just isn't ready for this type of a campaign yet as a candidate or a prosecutor.

    I would also throw Mike Moore from Huron into your list of Democrat contenders for AG.

    If Brendan runs for congress it will make that AG's race much more competitive than in previous years.

    Mayor:

    Greg Jamison would be my guess as the next frontrunner for Mayor of Sioux Falls. He ran well against Huether in '14.

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