Monday, March 17, 2014

Memo To The SD Democratic Party: Are You Crazy?

     I wish the South Dakota Democratic Party hadn't made such a big splash over Susan Wismer's announcement that she would seek the party's nomination for Governor.  I mean last January's rollout is so loaded with inner circle fanfare that it comes off like a virtual endorsement. Dem Party Chair Deb Knecht's gushingly enthusiastic prose style reads more like a beatification than the announcement it's supposed to be.  And just to allay any doubts about where Knecht's support is directed, her concluding  pro forma mention of Joe Lowe as the other candidate for the nomination is terse, short, and obligatory in tone.  Along with the fact that SD Dems didn't give Joe Lowe any such treatment when he announced his candidacy last Fall, this so-called announcement makes a travesty of the notion that political parties, before primaries, should be neutral when it comes to showing preferences.
     I've never met Wismer, I've met Lowe once.  I understand the former to be competent, thorough, and familiar enough with the workings of SD state government after serving in the state's legislature for three terms.  I also understand that a bundle of charisma she is not, though I'm depending on hearsay for that one.  If it's true, and I'm confident that it is, I think SD Dems are making a big mistake if they overlook Joe Lowe.  Wismer's background has given her lots of east river connections with what little "establishment" that the Democratic Party has in South Dakota, but that's not much of a reason to brush off Lowe.
     It will take a lot more than being an establishment candidate for a Dem to knock off incumbent Dennis Daugaard in the Fall.  If I were a Dem I'd be concerned that Wismer just doesn't have the muscular persona (think Hillary, think Elizabeth Warren, think Debbie Stabenow, you get the picture) that it will take to convince voters that fundamental changes have to occur in South Dakota's political landscape. 
I think the successful candidate can define Daugaard as the caretaker of the past, using the same old initiatives to achieve the same old status quo for South Dakota.  To accomplish that, a protean political effort is the task at hand, and I doubt that Susan Wismer--fine a person as I'm sure she is--will be up to it.
     But will Joe Lowe?  I haven't got a clue, honestly, but if  political past is political prologue, I'd say he has a much better shot at it than Wismer.  Re-locating to South Dakota back in the 1990s, Lowe honed his political skills in Southern California, taking over in the early '90s as Mayor of Mission Viejo in Orange County, where the politics are vicious and no prisoners are taken--I lived there myself until I was in my thirties and can still remember it as the land of dirty political tricks  ("Tricky Dick" Nixon was a product of that tradition--you get the idea).  If Lowe has retained the toughness that it took to be a winner a couple of decades ago, he'll match up just fine with Daugaard on any stage.  Does all this mean I'm supporting Lowe for Governor?  No way.  I'm not supporting anybody right now.  What I am supporting is a vigorous gubernatorial contest that will be a fight over the future of South Dakota--and I'm pretty sure that Joe Lowe is the Dem that can best come out punching.  Despite their party leadership's none-too-subtle favoritism toward Susan Wismer, South Dakota Dems really should be giving Joe Lowe a hard look before they make their decisions at the primary. 

15 comments:

  1. I totally agree with you on how the South Dakota Democratic Party leadership handled Susan Wismer's campaign launch. What a way to shoot your self in the foot being an opposition party. It was obviously biased and divisive rather than present it publically as neutral with two excellent Democratic Party candidates for Governor and let the primary process and voters decide who is the best candidate going into the general election against the incumbent Republican Governor.

    The other thought I had on this is what kind of a message does it send to others who might consider running for public office as a Democrat here in South Dakota? Will they be supported or left high and dry to fend for yourself?

    The Democratic Party being closest to an opposition party here in this Republican dominated one party rule state simply cannot afford to make mistakes like this.

    We really need competition in our state for elected office and by political parties to challenge each other and help prevent scandals like slaughterhouse EB-5 or lack of focus on economic development in promoting Black Hills tourism to China and other future tourists from East Asia that have money to spend. The list goes on and we as citizens will benefit from good competition I believe.

    Lynn G.


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hadn't even thought about the "what kind of message does it send" angle, but that could well be the deepest self-inflicted wound of all. A travesty indeed. Thanks for bringing the thoughtful addition to the conversation, anonymous.

      Delete
  2. He didn't start out all that well with his commentary on Daugaards response to blizzard atlas. The state didn't get involved with disaster relief but immediately differed to the fed- which they have always done for decades. It's pretty much a forgone conclusion that had Joe been in the governors chair when the storm hit, his response would have been nearly identical. It's where fire suppression funding comes from!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting. I hope Joe will respond and expand on this. Thanks for bringing it up--probably like most South Dakotans, I'm clueless about the table of organization when it comes to disaster response. For the most part, though, I think the race will be about budgeting priorities, tax reform, and economic development philosophy--shifting from the present top-down approach to a bottom-up one. Appreciate the comment, anonymous.

      Delete
  3. South Dakota Republicans (especially) seem to disparage the Federal government every chance they can, but of course when they want something done that they don't have to pay for!!

    In the case of the October storm (I refuse to use the name, which is scientifically inappropriate because terrestrial storms are too complex to be discussed with such shorthand -- the naming thing comes from the folks that make their money off sensationlizing Federal science -- but I digress), it was a multi-state massive weather event which is appropriate for the Feds to help with -- the resources of state and local govt's just aren't enough to meet the need.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for commenting, Mr. Price. Next time I see Mr. Lowe I'll try to pin him down as to exactly what the nature of his criticism of Gov. Daugaard's response to the storm was. Until you and anonymous above mentioned it here, I hadn't realized that there was some concern about the state vs. federal involvement with disaster relief. I might be seeing him tomorrow and I'll be sure to bring it up and report here. Appreciate the post.

      Delete
  4. John, I don't think Joe Lowe has received a frosty reception from Democrats? In fact, on the two occasions when he came to Pierre he was received very warmly by everyone, including Susan Wismer who speaks highly of him. I think all this is way off the mark. If Joe had chosen to announce in the capitol building during session by hunch is that a number of local Dems and legislators would have attended as they did for Susan. Both candidates will benefit from a primary -- they'll be sharper and have a victory under their belts -- and the party will be stronger for the contest.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for the most appreciated comment, Bernie, but it doesn't respond to the issue I raised, which I will pose in a question: Why did the SD Democratic Party choose to give Ms. Wismer a red carpet rollout with a picture and a glowing affirmation of her qualities as a candidate without a similar announcement and presentation for Joe Lowe?

      Delete
  5. John, I meant to answer that but apparently did not. I'm saying that if Joe Lowe had reached out i think he would have also received quite similar treatment. You're a businessman and you know ... YOU GOTTA ASK. Again, he received very good attendance and reception when he did come to Pierre twice during session.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I appreciate your commentary and explanation.

      Delete
    2. By the way, Bernie, Cory Heidelberger, who as you know runs South Dakota's best political blog (and believe me, I'm not just saying that) The Madville Times, had a reaction quite similar to mine after he saw the Wismer red carpet rollout when it came out a few weeks ago:
      http://madvilletimes.com/2014/01/sd-democratic-party-trumpets-wismer-run-for-governor-no-dough-for-lowe/

      Delete
  6. My comments have to do with the handling or mis-handling of the Storm event in Oct. I don't know Joe Lowe, only watching his handling of fire events in the Black Hills. Ten days after the storm and Gov. DD had done his flyover we had no disaster declaration. Not even and a maybe it is a disaster. The Governor's office was proceding with caution. We were at a meeting with USDA under-secretary Scuse at Union Center. The government as you recall was shut down. Sec. Scuse listened and commented that he had access to dollars for a situation like this but he needed a disaster declaration from the Governor to proceed. One of the legislators present said the Governor is exersising caution. We did not get that declaration till almost the end of the month. The word that seeped out of Pierre was the young guns that run the governors office had never seen a disaster like this and didn't know what to do so did nothing.
    I always think back to Gov. Janklow, Something would have been done and done right away. It would have been sorted out as you went or when the job was done. I see Joe Lowe proceeding like this. It was his job for years to handle disasters. As with most disasters there is no right way or wrong way, but you get it done.
    We were in the thick of the storm. We took care of the live ones and buried the dead ones and fished the dead out of the flooding creeks. There was no proceed with caution. You would like to see your leader doing something not being cautious in Pierre.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've been talking around town (sorry, no names, no genders) a bit myself, Dallis, and I'm getting a sense that many feel Governor Daugaard didn't take pre-emptive action a few days before the storm, when it was clear that it was going to be a monster. Not sure what he could have done, but I certainly welcome some input from Pierre on this. I believe it is going to be an issue in the campaign, basically targeting Daugaard's leadership abilities. Though I was in the teeth of the storm with a building full of tourists out by the Badlands, snow blocking them from even opening their front doors and no power for 14 hours, I was too immersed in my own plight to pay much attention to how the civil authorities were proceeding. I'd love to hear from somebody who can give us Daugaard's perspective.

      Delete
  7. I am trying to remember these many months later, when the storm hit and abated. I talked to a business owner in Rapid City who said that on Monday, the roads for his employees to be able to make it to work were still not opened. He said that on Sunday he had one 60 something employee, who had walked/waded through the deep snow over two miles to get to work.

    My main concern about the Dem governor candidates, is that Cory pointed out on Madville tonight that so far only Daugaard has filed the petitions. That is what would really be disheartening if either or God forbid, both Dem candidates, with only five days left, did not get enough signatures to qualify. Mike Myers still has a full Month to get his signatures in as an Independent.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A note to readers, Lanny. "Cory" is Cory Heidelberger, "Madville" is Cory's outstanding and educational blog, Madville Times. Lanny, as I note above, I was up to my eyebrows in a giant mess at a motel I own out by the Badlands. The worst of the storm hit Friday night and we were digging out Saturday and Sunday, with no power from late Saturday night to early afternoon Sunday. By Monday, I-90 was mostly cleared. From this general discussion I'd say that the response to that storm will be a campaign issue if Lowe wins the nomination. I can't imagine that South Dakota Dems couldn't gather up enough signatures to put both Wismer and Lowe on the primary ballot, but I guess it's a possibility. At this point I really don't know how the respective campaigns are going, though Wismer has apparently put hers on hold until she finishes up the tax prepartaion work associated with her accounting business.

      Delete