Twenty years later, some want early primaries again

For three cycles of presidential elections, from 1988 through 1996, South Dakota held a separate round of primary elections in February for choosing presidential candidates. They weren’t a big success. At the time U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle was a rising power in the Democratic ranks and he could swing voters to support one of his favorites, Missouri U.S. Rep. Dick Gephardt. Former Gov. Bill Janklow still had plenty of pull on behalf of Republican Vice President (and later President) George H.W. Bush. But the bonanza people had sought never came. By the end, some county auditors questioned the cost, and legislators decided the public’s money could be better spent. The February primary was repealed and South Dakota went back to making its presidential picks on the same June Tuesday as a handful of other states such as California. People are showing interest again this year, asking why South Dakota must be last. The real answer is efficiency. We’re not significant nationally and we’re frugal at times. Getting rid of the presidential primaries was one of those times.

Tapio gets two potentially important endorsements w/update

Neal Tapio’s bid for the Republican nomination to the state Senate seat representing the Watertown area received a big boost this weekend. He is running against Rep. Roger Solum for the nomination. The current senator, Ried Holien, and former Rep. Al Koistinen publicly endorsed Tapio in an ad in the Watertown Public Opinion.

The race boils down to a decade-old split in the Codington County Republican organization. It was headed at that time by Koistinen. Former Rep. Burdette Solum engineered a takeover. Burdette, who died in 2012, was Roger Solum’s father. Burdette served in the House during the 1991-92 term and was appointed to a vacancy in the House in 1998. He then served from 1998 through 2004. Al Koistinen served in the House from 2001 through 2008. Roger Solum won election to the House in 2008 and now is term-limited.

Roger Solum didn’t plan to run for the Senate this year until Ried Holien decided against seeking re-election. Holien, who lost a Senate Republican caucus election last winter to be president pro tem, now is running to be South Dakota’s national committeeman on the Republican National Committee because Dana Randall of Aberdeen isn’t seeking re-election to that post.

Many think Neal Tapio meanwhile might be a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives at some point. His mother, Jan, was a stalwart volunteer for Codington County Republican activities.

This primary election is a jumble. A Tapio victory on Tuesday opens the path to an all-new delegation of three legislators from the Watertown area. A Solum victory on Tuesday provides some continuity. The third current legislator, Rep. Lee Schoenbeck, isn’t seeking re-election and was rejected from the Republican caucus amid the fight over the sales-tax increase after he repeatedly criticized House Republican leader Brian Gosch in their dispute over the governor’s tax proposal. There are many intriguing primary contests on the ballot Tuesday but this might be the most interesting because of its history.

(UPDATE: Al Koistinen offered a statement Sunday night. “There was no animosity between Burdette Solum and Judy Trzynka who was the displaced county chair and me, the displace vice chair. We stayed in the party, helped with fundraising, helped candidates and when Judy and I regained our offices in 2008 Burdette continued to help with fundraising also. When Roger Solum ran for the House the first time that same year, our county party gave him $5000. Bob Faehn who was also running with Solum for the House got only $1000 as he being an incumbent had the ability to raise a lot on his own.”)

Here is the ad:

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Leaving a legacy in local sports journalism

This letter published today by the Aberdeen American News says so well what so many have thought for so many years about Dave Vilhauer. No one in South Dakota in my professional lifetime covered local sports better than Dave did. Some might have been as good. But the tie goes to the legend.

“Vilhauer will be missed

“I was very sorry to hear that long-time sports reporter Dave Vilhauer will be leaving the American News. Dave’s career at the American News and mine as a coach have paralleled for the past 36 years. Dave is the consummate professional, who not only reports things accurately and articulately, but also displays a great love for the sports and athletes that he is reporting on. Dave was not afraid to ask difficult questions while maintaining his journalistic integrity by not sensationalizing stories.

“Dave is legendary for the wide range of special projects he worked on and the amount of information he could acquire on both current and historical athletic events. He put in tremendous effort and time in making sure things were as complete and accurate as possible, from the South Dakota Track Leaders to the histories of Northern State University sports that he and compatriot John Papendick worked on.

“I think one of the things that always impressed me was his demeanor when conducting an interview. Dave knew how to ask pointed questions whether his subjects were elated with a win or frustrated with a loss. I think this opened the door to many more in-depth interviews, because he won the confidence of those he was working with.

“Dave’s greatest gifts are sincerity and his faith. I greatly appreciated his friendship and willingness to pray for my family in times of difficulty in our personal lives. Not many people can say that they have impacted other people’s lives on a professional, personal and a spiritual level. I truly believe that Dave has accomplished that many times over during his career with the paper. The American News, its readers and countless coaches and athletes, including myself, were blessed by his dedication to his craft.

“As Matthew 25:21 says: “Well done my good and faithful servant.” Thank you Dave!

“Terry Dosch
Head Football and Boys Track Coach
Roncalli High School”

SD Lottery play still ahead of 2015 pace

The South Dakota Lottery Commission received good news in its Thursday meeting packet. Sales reports show play and revenue are strong across all three sets of products with June yet to go in the 2016 state fiscal year. Video lottery was projected to finish at $103 million as the state’s share from the privately owned terminals, up from $98 million for fiscal 2015. Scratch-ticket games are expected to finish at about $5.4 million, about $50,000 below 2015. Lotto jackpot games are forecast to finish at nearly $8.8 million, up about $300,000 from 2015. The commission and Gov. Dennis Daugaard have placed an emphasis on the state treasury gaining more money from the state-sponsored gambling products. They remain on track, although the growth hasn’t been as fast as some want.

S.D. ranks high, again, for fiscal condition

Last year the Mercatus Center at George Mason University ranked the 50 states by their fiscal health. The top five were Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Florida. This year the center has Alaska first again, followed by Nebraska, Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota. (Wyoming was No. 6 last year.)

Here are the summaries for the top five from senior research fellow Eileen Norcross and assistant researcher Olivia Gonzalez. Their report was released Wednesday.

1. Alaska – “Dependency on oil revenues shows that Alaska’s revenues and spending account for 43 percent and 28 percent of total resident income, respectively. This highlights the risk that, given a decline in oil prices, the state is spending beyond the capacity of residents to pay for current service levels.”

2. Nebraska – “Nebraska exhibits strong fiscal health across all categories.”

3. Wyoming – “Total debt is $29 million. Unfunded pension liabilities are $10.53 billion on a guaranteed-to-be-paid basis, and other postemployment benefits (OPEB) are $244 million. These three liabilities are equal to 34 percent of total state personal income.

4. North Dakota – “Total debt is $1.60 billion. Unfunded pension liabilities are $8.27 billion on a guaranteed-to-be-paid basis, and other postemployment benefits (OPEB) are $72 million. These three liabilities are equal to 24 percent of total state personal income.

5. South Dakota – “Total debt is $486 million. Unfunded pension liabilities are $7.70 billion. These two liabilities are equal to 21 percent of total state personal income.”

The report is here.

SDRtL opposes Tidemann, Kolden, Nesiba

The South Dakota Right to Life organization gave $3,500 and the Aberdeen-area Right to Life group provided $300 to the SDRtL political action committee, which spent the money on advertising by newspaper, Facebook and mailings to oppose three candidates running in the June 7 primary elections for nominations to seats in the Legislature.

Specifically, the PAC is working to defeat:

Sen. Larry Tidemann, R-Brookings, who faces a challenge for the Republican nomination from Volga farmer Doug Post;

Reynold Nesiba, a Sioux Falls Democrat who is competing with term-limited Rep. Patrick Kirschman, D-Sioux Falls, for the Democratic nomination to the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Democratic Sen. Angie Buhl of Sioux Falls; and

Todd Kolden, a Republican from Aberdeen who is in a three-way primary for the two House Republican nominations in District 3. Kolden is competing with Rep. Dan Kaiser, R-Aberdeen, and Republican activist Drew Dennert of Aberdeen. One of the district’s House seat is open this election cycle because Rep. Al Novstrup, R-Aberdeen, is running for the Senate. The Senate seat is open because Sen. David Novstrup, R-Aberdeen, decided against seeking re-election. David, the son, has served 10 years in the Legislature. Al, the father, has served 14 years.

The PAC reported spending $1,521.48 on 3,406 postcards sent to District 7 voters in support of Post and against Tidemann.

The spending in favor of Dennert and Kaiser and against Kolden included a newspaper ad costing $278.33; and $1,973.86 for 4,400 postcards sent to to District 3 voters in support of Dennert and Kaiser and against Kolden.

Facebook ads cost a total of $850 against Nesiba, Tidemann and Kolden and in favor of Post, Dennert, Kaiser and Kirschman.

Altogether the PAC reported spending $4,650.18 on the three primary contests. The PAC didn’t show any other spending to help or oppose candidates so far in the June 7 primary campaigns.

Eight candidates backed by SDGO

The Rapid City-based organization known as South Dakota Gun Owners, which is not the National Rifle Association, has put a total of $5,500 into eight primary contests for Republican nominations to seats in the South Dakota Legislature.

The group’s political action committee report filed May 27 shows $1,000 contributions to Sen. Phil Jensen, R-Rapid City; Rep. Lance Russell, R-Hot Springs; and House candidate Travis Lasseter, R-New Underwood.

The PAC also gave $500 apiece to Rep. Dan Kaiser, R-Aberdeen; House candidate Drew Dennert, R-Aberdeen; former Rep. Stace Nelson, R-Fulton, who is a state Senate candidate; House candidate Taffy Howard, R-Rapid City; and Senate candidate Tina Mulally, R-Rapid City.

The PAC run by Ray Lautenschlager of Rapid City has also spent nearly $3,200 for printing and postage. The report doesn’t identify whose legislative districts’ residents have been receiving the mailing.

Lautenschlager doesn’t identify the source of $10,000 his organization gave his PAC. He reports $8,000 from a Windsor, Colorado-based group, National Association for Gun Rights. He also reports that $6,000 is owed to a business known as Front Range Consulting but no other information is shown for that business.

In a nutshell Lautenschlager-backed candidates are running for Republican nominations against Republican incumbents in most cases backed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard. Many of the SDGO-supported candidates this spring formed the nucleus of Nelson’s primary campaign in 2014 for the Republican nomination to U.S. Senate, which was won by former Gov. Mike Rounds.

Prior to the 2014 general election, SDGO gave $3,392 to Prairie Country PAC. The Brown County Republican central committee also gave $3,738.

Despite the past support from the Brown County committee, this spring Prairie Country is taking sides. Prairie Country mailed a piece in to Nelson’s legislative district showing Nelson as a U.S. Marine and showing his Republican primary opponent, Caleb Finck of Tripp, as a cross-dressed college student as part of a Hobo Days parody at South Dakota State University.

On its Facebook site Prairie Country is openly supporting Dennert, Kaiser, Nelson, Russell, Lasseter, Senate Republican primary challenger Doug Post of Volga, Howard, Republican Rep. Sam Marty of Prairie City, Republican Senate primary candidate Janette McIntyre of Rapid City, House Republican primary candidate Richard Kriebel of Rapid City and Jensen, while also attacking Finck and Republican Rep. Jaquelyn Sly of Rapid City, who’s challenging Jensen.

The people behind Prairie Country PAC are its chairman, Richard Hilgemann of Aberdeen; and treasurer Ken Santema of Aberdeen, a libertarian blogger who’s been analyzing all of the legislative primaries on his website. This spring Santema gave Prairie Country $1,000 and Dennert donated $180. Prairie Country reported in its pre-primary campaign finance report last week that it didn’t donate to any candidate but spent $1,619 on advertising.

The anti-Finck / pro-Nelson mailing sent into their legislative district no longer appears on the Prairie Country site on Facebook. Posts attacking Finck and Sly, a co-chair of the Blue Ribbon task force that called for higher teacher salaries across South Dakota, remain on the Facebook site.

Prairie Country PAC has become an unusual intersection of Brown County Republican and South Dakota Gun Owners money from 2014 and libertarian money in 2016 (small l). The PAC’s current purpose appears to be to help Nelson’s and Russell’s wing of candidates under the Republican banner.

They are challenging established Republican incumbents who supported the governor on the increased sales tax that takes effect Wednesday, June 1, for the benefit of better salaries for K-12 teachers, property taxpayer relief and pay raises for tech-institute faculty.

The primary elections are Tuesday, June 7. The results in the Republican primaries promise to be a look at what Republican voters care about most — and whether they care enough to vote in a primary.

Governor takes a side in most GOP Senate primaries

Campaign finance reports filed in recent days show Gov. Dennis Daugaard made $1,000 contributions to a variety of Republican legislative candidates who have primary elections June 7.

He focused most on Republican primaries for Senate seats. Among those receiving money from the Republican governor’s campaign committee were:

Sen. Larry Tidemann of Brookings, challenged by Doug Post of rural Volga;

Sen. Deb Peters of Hartford, challenged by former Rep. Lora Hubbel of Sioux Falls (Hubbel ran against Daugaard in the 2014 gubernatorial primary);

Caleb Finck of rural Tripp, who faces former Rep. Stace Nelson of Fulton for a Senate seat. Republican Sen. Bill Van Gerpen of Tyndall isn’t seeking re-election and donated $100 to Finck’s campaign;

Sen. Bruce Rampelberg of Rapid City, challenged by term-limited Rep. Lance Russell of Hot Springs;

Term-limited Rep. Jacqueline Sly of Rapid City, who is challenging Sen. Phil Jensen of Rapid City;

Sen. Alan Solano of Rapid City, challenged by Richard Kriebel of Rapid City;

Rep. Jeff Partridge of Rapid City, who is competing with Janette McIntyre of Rapid City for a Senate seat being vacated by term-limited Sen. Craig Tieszen of Rapid City;

Sen. Terri Haverly of Rapid City, who challenged by Tina Mulally of Rapid City; and

Rep. Roger Solum of Watertown, who is competing against Neal Tapio of Watertown for the Republican nomination to the Senate seat now held by Republican Ried Holien of Watertown. Holien hopes to be chosen as South Dakota’s Republican national committeeman and didn’t seek re-election to the Senate.

Tidemann, Peters, Rampelberg, Sly, Solano, Partridge, Haverly and Solum all voted in favor of the state sales-tax increase that takes effect Wednesday, June 1.

Daugaard proposed the tax increase as a means to raise teacher salaries and to increase property-tax relief.

Jensen, Russell, Van Gerpen and Holien voted against the tax increase.

Nelson, who ran for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 2014, is a political ally of Russell. McIntyre and Mulally come from the same wing of Black Hills Republicans as Jensen and Russell.

Pre-primary campaign finance reports weren’t available on-line yet as of Saturday for Nelson and Russell.

In the Senate Republican primaries where both candidates have reported, the candidates backed by the governor had broader and deeper financial support than their opponents in every instance.

In several of the contests, the candidates challenging incumbents provided substantial amounts of personal money into their campaigns, such as McIntyre $15,000; Hubbel $5,000; Tapio $10,000 and Kriebel $700.

Tapio didn’t report any contributions other than his money.

Daugaard didn’t take a side in the Republican primary between former Sen. Ryan Maher of Isabel and Belle Fourche city council member Steven Ritch.

According to his report, Ritch didn’t receive or spend any money for his campaign.

34 years and 7 months later…

That’s how long Kevin Goeden has worked for the South Dakota Department of Transportation. A retirement event is planned for Friday, June 3, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the DOT commission room in Pierre. For those who don’t know (or know of) Kevin, he has been DOT’s chief bridge engineer for more than nine years. “It’s a big loss for us,” state Transportation Secretary Darin Bergquist said Thursday as he announced the move to the state Transportation Commission. Bergquist said Steve Johnson succeeds Goeden in the chief bridge engineer’s role.