Republican candidates benefit from Democrats

This is intriguing. Republican candidates for the Big Three offices — governor, U.S. Senate and U.S. House — are holding a bigger share of support from their party’s members, than the Democratic candidates are from their members, according to the SurveyUSA polling results released this week.

The poll, performed for the Aberdeen American News, KOTA TV and KSFY TV, was the first independent look at where the candidates stood among the likely voters in South Dakota two months before the Nov. 4 elections.

The telephone poll depends on people saying whether they are likely to vote. And it depends on people self-identifying their party registration. The poll wound up with a sample split 50 percent for Republicans, 33 percent for Democrats and 16 percent for independents.

And with Republicans outnumbering Democrats in the latest monthly totals 238,791 to 175,178, and independents as the third major group at 99,509, it’s no wonder that Republican candidates were the frontrunners in the poll.

But the loose bolt for the Democrats was the weaker support they had among their own side.

For governor, Republican incumbent Dennis Daugaard had 78 percent of the Republicans and 23 percent of the Democrats, while Democratic state Rep. Susan Wismer had 65 percent of the Democrats and 13 percent of the Republicans. The third candidate, independent Mike Myers, had 6 percent of Republicans and 5 percent of Democrats.

For U.S. Senate, Republican former Gov. Mike Rounds had 61 percent of the Republicans and 10 percent of the Democrats, while Democratic candidate Rick Weiland had 56 percent of the Democrats and 11 percent of the Republicans.

There are two other candidates, both former Republicans running this time as independents for U.S. Senate. One is former U.S. Sen. Larry Pressler who had 21 percent of the Republicans — and 29 percent of the Democrats. The other is former legislator Gordon Howie, who had 4 percent of the Republicans and 1 percent of the Democrats.

Only 3 percent of the Republicans and 4 percent of the Democrats were undecided in the Senate contest.

For U.S. House, Republican incumbent Kristi Noem had 83 percent of Republicans and 17 percent of the Democrats, while Democratic challenger Corinna Robinson had 78 percent of Democrats and 14 percent of the Republicans.

In the contests for governor and U.S. House, the Republican candidate has a larger share of the Democratic vote than the Democratic candidate has of the Republican vote. In the U.S. Senate contest, it’s essentially a draw with Weiland slightly better — but with Pressler the wild card as the former Republican drew more Democratic support than Republican.

So Republicans are ahead or tied on the crossovers as well as holding their own party’s voters.

Where are the independents? In two of the contests, they are foremost for Republicans.

For governor, they are 41 percent for Daugaard, 36 percent for Wismer and 8 percent for Myers, with 15 percent undecided.

For U.S. Senate, they are 34 percent for Rounds, 24 percent for Weiland, 31 percent for Pressler and 1 percent for Howie, with 10 percent undecided.

For U.S. House, they are 41 percent for Noem, 44 percent for Robinson and 16 percent undecided.

Overall, the survey indicates Republicans lead all three contests by fair to big margins, with undecideds all in the single digits and already pretty small to play much of a role in the remaining seven weeks.

In the governor’s race, Daugaard was at 54 percent, Wismer 34 percent, Myers 6 percent and 7 percent undecided.

In the U.S. Senate race, Rounds was at 39 percent, Weiland 28 percent, Pressler 25 percent, Howie 3 percent and undecided 5 percent.

In the U.S. House race, Noem was at 53 percent, Robinson 40 percent and undecided 6 percent.

The strangest thing of all? Rick Weiland has worked the hardest among the three Democratic candidates and has spent the most money on advertising — and he’s faring the worst. But Susan Wismer and Corinna Robinson don’t have to contend in their races with Larry Pressler, who has certainly turned the U.S. Senate contest into a three-way race.

Our next U.S. senator: Mr. Plurality

The trouble with having just one poll is you don’t know the trends. And when the poll is taken two months before Election Day, there is a lot of time for things to change. But one good poll is much, much better than none. When it comes to former Gov. Mike Rounds, the small uncertainty he faces in his Republican candidacy for the U.S. Senate is not so much whether he can win — but whether he can avoid losing.

The SurveyUSA polling conducted Sept. 3-7 for the Aberdeen American News, KSFY TV and KOTA TV would seem to put Rounds in a very strong position two months before the election. Those results indicate that, if he holds onto his share of voters, the other three candidates have only a small chance to overtake him.

Rounds had 39 percent, followed by Democratic candidate Rick Weiland at 28 percent and former Republican U.S. Sen. Larry Pressler, now an independent candidate, at 25 percent. The remainders were “undecided” at 5 percent and former Republican legislator Gordon Howie, now an independent candidate, at 3 percent.

The undecideds are such a small piece of the pie, at least in the Survey USA results, that it’s risky to make too many guesses about where they might flow. The undecideds tended to be young — 18 to 49 years old — and Rounds did best among those age groups overall. They tended to be independents and Rounds did better than the three others among independents. They tended to have a high school education rather than something higher, and Rounds was best of the four among that subset, doing slightly better than Pressler. They also tended to be in the lowest of three income categories, at less than $40,000, and Rounds and Weiland tied among that group overall with 30 percent apiece.

The core constituency for Rounds, based on the survey, seems to Republicans of course and those with incomes above $80,000. He had 61 percent of the Republicans, with Pressler next at 21 percent. He had 34 percent of independents, with Pressler next at 31 percent.

The surprising soft spot for Rounds was among people age 50 and older. He led with 37 percent, followed by Weiland at 33 and Pressler at 25.

It would be surprising if any of the four candidates won with an outright majority of 50 percent. The best positioned to do that remains Mike Rounds. Instead our state’s next U.S. senator likely will win with a plurality under 50 percent. The best positioned to do that remains Mike Rounds. Right now Rick Weiland and Larry Pressler together are more popular than Rounds. But Rounds is more popular than either of them alone. None of the four can leave the ballot at this point. Absentee voting starts in a week.

Weiland and Pressler can chop away at Rounds’ support for the next seven weeks, but they would need to get Rounds down to about 30 percent for either Weiland or Pressler to have a real chance of overtaking him. Even if Rounds loses that much support, there’s no guarantee that enough of those voters would flow strongly to just one of the other candidates. For Rounds to lose would take a cataclysmic political event in the next five to six weeks.

On the other hand there was Jesse Ventura. Running on the Reform Party ticket, he was elected as governor of Minnesota in 1998. Ventura received 37 percent, followed by Republican Norm Coleman at 34 and DFL candidate Hubert Humphrey III at 28. In South Dakota this year, neither Rick Weiland nor Larry Pressler has shown himself to be a Jesse Ventura.


Legislators travel out of state to meetings

Official travel by South Dakota legislators to meetings and conferences elsewhere in the nation isn’t new. Since the 2014 session ended, approximately two dozen lawmakers have submitted vouchers so far for their trips this year.

Rep. James Bolin, R-Canton: $532.20 to attend a Council of State Government leadership training; $467.90 to attend the International Legislators Forum; and $1,043.01 to attend the Midwestern Legislative Conference.

Sen. Deb Peters, R-Hartford: $1,446.02 to represent South Dakota at the May meeting of the Streamlined Sales Tax Governing Board; and $1,478.30 to attend the spring meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Rep. Isaac Latterell, R-Tea: $748.70 to attend the Mount Vernon Assembly.

Rep. Jim Stalzer, R-Sioux Falls: $713.80 to attend the Mount Vernon Assembly; and $552.25 to attend an oil and gas conference.

Rep. Paula Hawks, D-Hartford: $761.99 to attend the Council of State Governments national task force on workforce development and education.

Rep. Kathy Tyler, D-Big Stone City: $420.34 to attend the International Legislators Forum.

Rep. Roger Solum, R-Watertown: $363.66 to attend the International Legislators Forum; and $1,202.69 to attend the Midwestern Legislators Forum.

Rep. Scott Parsley, D-Madison: $421.65 to attend the International Legislators Forum.

Sen Chuck Welke, D-Warner: $322.49 to attend the International Legislators Forum.

Rep. Mary Duvall, R-Pierre: $516 to attend the International Legislators Forum.

Rep. Susan Wismer, D-Britton: $252.51 to attend the International Legislators Forum.

Rep. Spencer Hawley, D-Brookings: $399.55 to attend the International Legislators Forum.

Rep. Brian Gosch, R-Rapid City: $2,500 to attend the Uniform Law Commission annual meeting; and $1,839.09 to attend the American Legislative Exchange Council annual meeting.

Rep. Marc Feinstein, D-Sioux Falls: $2,500 to attend the Uniform Law Commission annual meeting.

Rep. David Lust, R-Rapid City: $1,877.39 to attend the Uniform Law Commission annual meeting.

Rep. Ray Ring, D-Vermillion: $852.34 to attend the Midwestern Legislative Conference meeting.

Rep. Kristin Conzet, R-Rapid City: $1,399.75 to attend the Midwestern Legislative Conference meeting.

Rep. Fred Romkema, R-Spearfish: $1,365.60 to attend the Midwestern Legislative Conference meeting.

Sen. Jean Hunhoff, R-Yankton: $1,020.42 to attend the Midwestern Legislative Conference meeting.

Sen. Craig Tieszen, R-Rapid City: $1,465.30 to attend the Midwestern Legislative Conference meeting.

Sen. Mike Vehle, R-Mitchell: $1,098.48 to attend the Midwestern Legislative Conference meeting.

Sen. David Omdahl, R-Sioux Falls: $256.62 to attend an oil and gas conference.

Rep. Jenna Haggar, R-Sioux Falls: $2,036.85 to attend the American Legislative Exchange Council annual meeting.

Sen. Jeff Monroe, R-Pierre: $2,104.47 to attend the American Legislative Exchange Council annual meeting.

Rep. Manny Steele, R-Sioux Falls: $1,727.76 to attend the American Legislative Exchange Council annual meeting.

Is 2014 the new normal for pheasants? (w/correction)

In Sioux Falls this afternoon Gov. Dennis Daugaard holds an event with the working group he appointed regarding pheasant habitat in South Dakota. The governor and panel will release its report. This is the product of the habitat summit the Daugaard administration held in Huron in December and the work group that came out of the summit. Looking at the meeting minutes for the group, the conclusions seem evident: There are small steps to consider, such as changing rules for when ditches can be mowed, but state government can’t replace the tens of millions of dollars that the federal government isn’t spending any longer on Conservation Reserve Program payments to landowners for putting cropland into grasses.

One key finding that popped up in the recent report from the state Wildlife Division, regarding the 2014 July-August population estimates, was the importance of winter wheat as winter cover for pheasants. The 2012 drought decimated winter wheat heading into the winter of 2012-2013 and bird numbers suffered. By contrast, conditions were solid for winter wheat in much of South Dakota during the winter of 2013-2014 and bird numbers rebounded — especially hens, who are the crucial component when it comes to producing nests of eggs come May and June.

The real question now is whether 2014′s population and conditions will be the new normal for pheasants in South Dakota. 2014 looks a lot like 2002 and that wasn’t a bad season. Pheasant hunting in South Dakota has changed in four big ways during the past decade. The number of non-resident hunters sky-rocketed. The number of South Dakotans reached a modern low in 2013 as part of a steady decline. The CRP acres peaked and are now in a decline that isn’t likely to reverse itself given the deficits in the federal budgets. And many South Dakota landowners have invested in pheasant hunting operations to supplement their ranching, grazing and farming income.

Less than 10 percent of all South Dakotans purchased licenses for hunting pheasants in 2013. It’s possible we’ll see some return to the fields this fall with the promise of somewhat better hunting. The 2013 season was the worst in modern times for South Dakota’s pheasant population. We certainly enjoyed the golden years while they lasted. The Game, Fish and Parks Department was able to purchase much more land and pay for some big projects, such as the Rapid City outdoor campus, from the money that poured into South Dakota from non-resident hunters buying pheasant licenses. What seems to be needed next is an examination of the business plan that GFP had used for the past two decades and careful consideration of the business plan going forward.

Make no mistake: Pheasant hunting is important business in South Dakota including for GFP. What happened in the past two decades was pheasant hunting became increasingly a pursuit for visitors more so than South Dakota residents, in much the same way as the Sturgis motorcycle rally. Those at the December summit know the unspoken unease in the room between agriculture producers and pheasant shooters. How we go forward is the issue now.

CORRECTION: The reference to winter wheat was to nesting cover, not winter cover. I apologize for the error.

Real polling numbers are on the way!

We all know political campaigns can spin their polling results any way they want if they want and consequently they all come tainted with doubt guilty or not. But come Tuesday afternoon, three of South Dakota’s leading news organizations — the Aberdeen American News, KSFY TV of Sioux Falls and KOTA TV of Rapid City — will start releasing results of their latest independent polling. First in the chute is the U.S. Senate contest. Those results will be posted on-line Tuesday afternoon and will be in print Wednesday morning. I am excited about what they will say, including all of the neat break-outs on gender, age, party and issues.

Then comes the contest for governor on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning, followed by the U.S. House contest on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. We’ll get polling results too on the secretary of state contest and three ballot measures regarding expansion of the types of games played in Deadwood gambling halls, the ‘any willing provider’ exception to medical plans and raising the minimum wage.

My expectation is another round of polling will follow in the weeks ahead by the three news organizations. That is good practice because there is that strange thing called a margin of error and because we get a better sense of whether a field of candidates or public opinion on a ballot measure is changing as we approach the election.

From my bleacher seat in Pierre, I look forward to answers to four basic sets of questions.

1) Are Republican candidates ahead in each contest? Republicans are well ahead of Democrats in voter registration.

2) Are any candidates already over the 50 percent mark  – and are any of the challengers close enough to still win if they picked up two-thirds of the remaining undecideds?

3) Just where are those fast-increasing independents lining up in each race?

4) And are there any partisan trends in the ballot issues?

Yes, Virginia, I do love polls! And I do admire candidates who keep truckin’ to the very end.

Three good stories and a bonus in a Sunday paper

I don’t write for the Sioux Falls Argus Leader but I read the newspaper. I plunked down my $5 bill Sunday and received $3 in change. There were three good reads for the politically interested about Loila Hunking, Dave Nelson and Larry Pressler. (Taken together the two profiles and the column provide a pretty good snapshot of South Dakota politics in the recent past.) The bonus was a fun article about post World War II-era Lustron homes made of steel panels! When the mail arrives later this morning I’ll get my Monday stack of Saturday and Sunday editions of the papers I serve. Those daily stacks are always a true treat and proof each day that all politics is local — and sometimes very, very local. Keep reading everybody!

Better times? More big farms? Both?

You can read the whole thing here – and I enjoy looking through it — but there is a noteworthy set of numbers about sales volume at South Dakota farms and ranches in the South Dakota Agriculture 2014 report. On page 7 in the farms section there is a simple chart showing the number and average size of farms by sales class during 2008 through 2013.

The smaller classes — $1,000 to $9,999 and $10,000 to $99,999 — don’t change much, although the smallest class declined from 9,500 to 8,900 in number.

The middle class of $100,000 to $249,999 saw a decrease from 5,100 to 4,500 in number, and the average acres also dropped from 1,725 to 1,328.

The upper-middle class of $250,000 to $499,999 didn’t change much in number, going from 3,800 in 2008 up to 4,100 in 2009 and coming back down to 3,800 last year; but again the average size dropped from 2,605 acres to 2,105. As my brother in Louisiana might say: Laissez les bons temps rouler.

In the largest sales class of $500,000-plus, the number grew every year, from 3,400 to 3,800 to 4,100 to 4,700 to 5,000 and to 5,300 in 2013. At the same time the average size gradually came down, from 4,706 acres in 2008 to 4,264 acres in 2013.

A better mathematician than me could probably tell you what’s happening, but here’s my simplistic view on a Saturday morning. Farms have had larger sales volumes in recent years and smaller-acreages have been pushing up into higher classes.

Driving over South Dakota’s two-lanes brings up an obvious question: How many more new implements and new steel buildings and new grain bins remain to be bought after the past few years? As my brother in Louisiana might say: Laissez les bons temps rouler.

Video lottery director post is vacant

State government’s job listings show applications are being accepted by the South Dakota Lottery for the position of director for security and video lottery. Closing date is Sept. 10. That post was held for nearly 10 years by Deb Reese, from Nov. 22, 2004, until Aug. 13 of this year. The advertised pay range is $54,000 to $60,000. Her last listed annual salary was $67,519.

The South Dakota Lottery has struggled to rebuild revenue from video lottery since the economic crisis of 2008-2009 and voters’ approval of the statewide smoking ban in 2010 for bars, casinos and restaurants with alcohol licenses. It had flattened before those events. Ironically, Lottery officials reported Thursday there has been a small surge in video lottery play this summer.

Norm Lingle, the lottery’s director, confirmed that she no longer works there. “Since this deals with personnel,” he said in a written response to a reporter’s inquiry, “I cannot answer your other questions.” Lingle was named director shortly after Reese started work there.

There wasn’t any mention of her or the vacancy during the South Dakota Lottery Commission’s meeting Thursday.

Wessington Springs party should be a lot of fun

The governor’s office issued a news release today regarding the activities planned for next week when the sesquicentennial wagon train reaches Wessington Springs on its journey from Yankton to Pierre. Rather than rewrite Jim Soyer’s work, I’ll just share it with you. (Jim, by the way, handled a lot of the publicity about statehood centennial 25 years ago in 1989. Time flies!)

Bowlers, Bull Riders And Wagon Train Coming

To Wessington Springs

 PIERRE, S.D. – Wessington Springs will be offering four days of 125th anniversary events next week when the wagon train comes to town.

The events will begin the night before the wagon train’s arrival on Thursday, Sept. 11, with a calcutta of top area bowlers at 7 p.m. Local political candidates will be among those participating in the Bowling Bonanza at Starlight Bowling.

On Friday, Sept. 12, the wagon train will arrive and the annual Bull Bash will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the rodeo grounds. This will be the Territorial Bull Riding Finals Championship with additional $10,000 in prize money available. The event will be followed by a street dance featuring Dustin Evans and the Good Times Band. Funds raised will be donated for the replacement of the American Legion Building which was lost when a tornado hit Wessington Springs on June 18.

On Saturday, a local wagon train honoring the life of Kyle Evans will join the 125thanniversary wagon train on the trail. The wagon trains will travel together for two days. On Saturday night, both wagon trains will camp at Crow Lake and will be served a meal sponsored in part by the Wessington Springs Chamber. The public is invited to the campfire at 8 p.m. for music, storytelling and history by Gail Arnott, and Frank and Joe Pettrle. Special guest Doug Hansen, owner of Hansen Wheel, will also be present to talk about the art of building stagecoaches. 

On Sunday night, the wagon trains will camp at Gann Valley.

Kyle Evans was the Centennial Troubadour during South Dakota’s 100th birthday year in 1989. He and his Company Cowboy Band created a special album about South Dakota which included songs such as “Celebrate the Century,” “These Dakota Lands,” “South Dakota You’ve Been Good to Me,” “That Great State of Mine” and “In Heaven on a Horse.” The album earned the Western Heritage Music Award from The National Cowboy Hall of Fame. Evans died in a highway accident in 2001. 

Funds raised in the Bowling Bonanza Calcutta will go to the 1905 Opera House, which Evans supported and played at often.

For more details, call the Wessington Springs Area Development Corporation and Chamber Office at 605-539-1929