Remembering the 1986 primaries for governor

There are some moments from the winter and spring of 1986 that stick in this reporter’s memory about the Republican and Democratic primary campaigns for governor. One was Dick Kneip, the former Democratic governor, acknowledging things weren’t going so well. He said contributions weren’t coming like they should. He read the political weather right as Lars Herseth won the three-way contest for the nomination. On the Republican side, I remember the delight that Dwight Adams felt each time he saw a news release from the campaign manager for Clint Roberts proclaiming that Clint was still in the lead. Dwight, who was campaign manager for George S. Mickelson, said the lead would get smaller and smaller. Dwight proved right. Clint wound up second with 37,250 votes behind George’s 40,979 in their four-way primary. With the death today of Clint Roberts, at least five of the major figures from the 1986 races now are gone: George Mickelson, Dwight Adams, Dick Kneip, Alice Kundert. The popular analysis at the time was that Alice played a decisive role in electing George because many of her 15,985 votes would have seemed likely to have flowed otherwise to Clint. (George appointed Clint and Alice to posts in his administration.) We don’t always get to work with good people as we cover the news, but they were five of the best that my path crossed.

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About Bob Mercer

I am a newspaper reporter in Pierre where I cover state government, issues and politics for the Aberdeen American News, the Black Hills Pioneer, the Mitchell Daily Republic, the Pierre Capital Journal, the Rapid City Journal, the Watertown Public Opinion and the Yankton Press & Dakotan. I began covering the Legislature in 1985 and have lived in Pierre since December 1986. I grew up in Wisconsin, worked my way through college, took my first full-time newspapers jobs in Wyoming, and have lived in South Dakota since the summer of 1984 when I moved to Aberdeen to join the American News. I worked for the Rapid City Journal as its state government reporter in Pierre from late 1992 through late 1998. I spent four years as press secretary and a senior aide to Gov. Bill Janklow during his fourth and final term from late 1998 through 2002. I returned to journalism in January 2003 as a self-employed reporter, providing state government coverage to the Mitchell, Watertown, Spearfish, Pierre and, depending on the year, Aberdeen newspapers. In 2008, the Aberdeen American News offered to hire me as full-time member of the AAN staff, with my reports continuing to be available to the Mitchell, Watertown, Spearfish, Pierre, Yankton and Rapid City papers. The new arrangement has been in effect since January 2009 as the seven papers continue their remarkable dedication to their readers and the general public, as the only South Dakota news outlets with a full-time reporter covering state government in Pierre throughout the year. In addition to focusing on the Legislature during the annual winter session and its various activities during the interim periods between sessions, I spend many days throughout the year -- traveling as often necessary -- to cover state government boards and commissions which oversee the state universities, technical institutes, outdoors, water, environment, business, public schools, banking, agriculture, utilities, health care and various other areas of public interest. I purposely don't register to vote because of my profession; the last time I recall voting in a presidential election was the first time, 1976, when I had just turned 18. I think I voted for Jimmy Carter over Gerald Ford. Make of that what you want, just don't make much of it.

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