Saturday, May 26, 2012

Jeff the Plumber

Democrat Congressional candidate and Minnehaha County Commissioner Jeff Barth has put with his now viral and nationwide You Tuber some life into what has been a moribund primary election campaign to see who gets the honor of taking on and probably losing to Congresswoman Kristi Noem in November’s General Election.

Opinion is divided at this point about the quality and effectiveness of the video. One thing we can stipulate, it has gotten attention. The SD political press has covered it, even on the front pages of the daily news. On You Tube it has watches in over 6 figures and reportedly Barth was interviewed on a Cable TV news show. How many campaign contributions has he raised from it? Don’t know, haven’t heard.

However I like it. Jeff’s walk in the woods has the potential to be a game changer. While we haven’t heard much about this race, the buzz in political circles is Matt Varilek will win. Varilek the former Tim Johnson staffer who opposes Barth is the establishment candidate. He has the endorsement, Senator Johnson, Daschle, McGovern, et al. The thinking among other pundits and the few Democrat leaders I come in contact with is that Varilek has the cash and the Johnson machine thus is the over whelming favorite and Barth has no chance. Since so little activity has been seen if the buzz is correct, Varilek to this point must be taking a June win for granted and husbanding his cash for Noem in November. I assume the Johnson machine is ready if needed to do robo calls or cards or letters from the Senator.

The no chance may have changed. A couple of weeks ago in an Argus Leader podcast with both Mutt and Jeff, Varilek cavalierly thinking he has the primary sewn up and moving on to the political center revealed he did not agree with President Obama’s support of Gay Marriage. In and of itself that prompted more than a few active Dems to leave the Varilek camp, a crack in the foundation, a crack not a collapse.

One of the most influential and campaign savvy Democrats in South Dakota (if not America) is Steve Hildebrand. Hildebrand is a supporter of Gay Marriage. In case anyone in SD doesn’t know, Hildebrand had been a top Democrat campaign consultant and strategist in the Democrat Party nationally. In 2008 he was the deputy campaign manager for Barack Obama and is widely given credit for Obama’s win in the Iowa Caucus. This is speculation on my part, but with Varilek’s declaration that he does not support Gay Marriage, Hildebrand may have switched horses mid stream in the Dem primary to Barth. Should that be the case and I am speculating that video maybe in part may be the work product of the talented Hildebrand. Its scripting has the DNA of a real professional. It is not lost on me that the You Tube was in the hands of Huffington Post and other national pundits within the hour of its release.

If I were Varilek I would be a little worried. 1. The video may bring some serious attention to Barth with Primary election voters. It’s called earned media and Barth is getting tons of it. 2. It may bring Barth some much needed coin 3. The I am mad as hell message rings true with almost all voters R and D.

If I were Barth, I would be putting together a walk on the woods nos. II and III.

Sidebar – In the run up to the 1980 election, the mad as hell message was the moniker of Eddie Chiles. Chiles ran that message at the conclusion of his nationwide radio ads touting Conservative principles. Chiles who lived in Forth Worth was also at one time the owner of the Texas Rangers later selling the team to a group led by George W. Bush. Chiles wife served for a time as the Republican National Committeewoman from Texas. The mad as hell message help set the stage for the 1980 Reagan victory and the Republicans picking up 9 Senate seats and the majority in the U S Senate.

The Democrat National Committee and the Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee should be helping Barth. He is their 2012 answer to Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher aka Joe the Plumber (and thus the foil to what they call the GOP Do Nothing Congress). If Barth doesn’t win in June he easily could find employment (and I mean Big Bucks) as the Democrat poster boy. The video is effective in the sense it speaks to the frustration of Americans.

Disclaimer on Jeff Barth – Jeff Bath is a good guy. I like him. I posted on him several years ago. It’s always interesting to see the facial hair shaved clean when running for higher office. One of the comments stated “Barth is a huge liberal, did you know that? I know that and just because he’s liberal does not mean that he is bad. Liking him and sending him to Congress are different matters. His mad as hell message is compelling to this Republican as well. Jeff and I just see the solutions differently. Jeff also likes chess and encourages children through SD Chess and Sioux Empire Chess to do the same.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

An Elephant in the Room?

The Campaign for the GOP nomination for the State House District #13 is Intense.

Legislative Redistricting has transformed this once very competitive District that had a marginal GOP voter advantage into the Senator Phiyllis Heineman Full Employment Act. (Prior to Senator Phyllis, former Democrat Senate Leader Scott Heidepriem previously represented District 13 after defeating both Dick Kelly and Heineman.)

The remodeled District #13 is the former Central Sioux Falls district that was enhanced in 2001 with GOP voters in the Tomar neighborhood, and super charged in 2011 with the addition of voters in the south Sioux Falls. Added were voters in northern Lincoln County (overwhelmingly inhabited by Republicans) living between Cliff and Western Avenues. Current voter registration shows a Republican advantage of over 2200 voters

Consequently the Intense GOP campaign is the product of what appears to be an excellent chance of winning in November coupled that there is no Republican incumbent in the primary.

Vying for the nomination for the two Representatives are Dr. Frank Alvine (who was defeated in 2010 by Senator Gene Abdallah in former Distinct #10), and local businessmen Mark Mickelson and Steve Westra.

There is much for this Republican to like about these candidates. Foremost they are from the private sector, are small businessmen, and entrepreneurs. They all have experience in helping others, building our economy and creating jobs. Their bios are linked above. (all are interesting and accomplished)

As Jonathan Ellis detailed in an Argus Leader story, while Mark Mickelson is a first time candidate he has political DNA. Mark's political pedigree is without peer in South Dakota (with the exception of his sister and brother who share Mark's.) Both his Grandfather and Father were Governor.

As the campaign has unfolded it is obvious that Mickelson is not depending on either his pedigree and what is assuredly his name recognition advantage to win the election. Being the Eagle Boy Scout he is, he is running a large and focused campaign. This probably a good thing as his opponents are achievers as well. (BTW in any outcome, the winners will be the people of South Dakota.- In their personal lives all three are people who get things done. Theirs is not extreme nor a “Do Nothing” agenda.

Within political circles Mark's DNA is a decided advantage. He has been close to politics most of his life. His family in many ways have been in political circles for over one half century in South Dakota. His race is not their first rodeo. When Mark lived at home with his parents, his father served I believe as Brookings County States Attorney and then three terms in the State Legislature (one as Speaker of the House).

Mark was also on the scene during the campaign for the Governor nomination and the general election in 1986.

No Governor is without many friends and acquaintances. Of consequence without jumping through a lot of hoops of explanation, the Mickelson, McCahren, Adam, Graham, and Hart clans are well networked. His mother, Linda Mickelson Graham, who was First Lady of South Dakota for six plus years remains active in civic and charitable causes and served as Treasurer of Governor Daugaard's successful 2010 election. His first cousin Karl Adam is a former Chairman of the S D GOP and his father's sister, Patricia Adam has been politically active for her entire adult life and even earlier. In later years Pat served as Secretary of the State Senate and as Vice Chair of the State Republican Party when her brother was Governor.

None of this is lost on Mark's campaign. He knows the drill. The question is will he do it? The answer is Yes! Being around politics and campaigns was not lost on him. His political acumen is a definite plus but far exceeded by his work ethic.

Disclaimer – I live in District #13 and support Mark. I have contributed to his campaign and have two of his signs in my yard. I first met Mark when he was completing college when his Father became the GOP Governor candidate in 1996. He was a friendly and polite young man – always courteous. Like George Mickelson (a High School All American football player (center) at Sioux Falls Washington High, Mark is a physically big man. Over the years he has always greeted me kindly when we would come into contact.

I initially supported Mark's campaign because George Mickelson had been supportive of me and because I knew of Mark's accomplishments in business.

Several weeks ago he reached out to me for a quick talk about his campaign. It did flatter me that he reached out but I know he (knowing the drill) has touched out to many opinion makers throughout the District and Sioux Falls. He has alo touched many voters. He told me then that he and Cynthia (his wife and another well networked and big plus in the campaign) has already knocked on 600 plus doors talking to voters. Mark blindly stopped at my home and spoke to Susan. Also Westra's high school aged son stopped by the other evening and left campaign literature. He was very polite.

While Mark is engaged the other candidates are not idle. District #13 and other areas in Sioux Falls as well are awash with District #13 candidate's signs and billboards. Surely several thousands of them. Mickelson I think has large signs on as much as 5 percent (without exaggeration) of the Commercial properties on the well traveled streets in Sioux Falls (in and out of the district.) On the Mickelson Campaign Facebook page there was a picture of his sign (large 4'x6') building crew that consisted of eight people. Volunteers I assume. Impressive for a Legislative campaign.

Besides all the signs, door knocking, and without doubt mail and maybe phone calls in the next couple of weeks, the Mickelson Campaign is having a picnic next week. What is of note that the picnic has hosts. Many are movers and shakers on the civic and political scene in Sioux Falls. While I was not invited to any fundraisers for any of the candidates, I heard that Mickelson did have at least one pretty successful one. When the campaign finance reports are filed next week, I expect that the Mickelson campaign will file totals that even some statewide campaigns will be envious of. (That would include the announced and rumored candidates for the PUC and even a Democrat Congressional Candidate or two.

I have been around and involved in hundreds of legislative campaigns. This one is superior in money, volunteers, and organization to any I have witnessed. Some campaigns may have spent more but it was a there own money. That is not the case here.

Another Mickelson for Higher Office?

Clearly that is the unspoken question. Ellis raises the question in the article and surely Mark is confronted often with being asked about elective office so frequently during his adult life. When we met, I asked Mark why he was running. He gave me pretty much the same answer he gave the Argus. He thinks that if he is ever to do it, this is the time.

After catching up with each other I asked again, Why? He said that South Dakota had been good to him. He said he felt is important to assure that South Dakota is a great place to live. His prism is as a businessman and business developer. He said that the best thing we can build South Dakota is to promote business in today's knowledge economy, we (South Dakota) must have the best schools.

Does that mean he will run for Governor or Congress, I do not know.

You can never know. First he has to get elected. Then he has to like it and feel he is making a difference. Then you have to see how he is accepted by others both his peers and his constituents. How will his wife and boy's feel about when he is missing in action on the home front?

Mark Mickelson has the skills and I predict based on him, not his pedigree a future if he desires it. Other politicians with ambition should be concerned and be paying attention.