After several long hours of crossing flat prairie in the twilight, I’ve entered the bubble at the center of the State. For the next 2 days, I’m in “the Pierre bubble.”
I’m here for a little work, a little pleasure, and a lot of politics. And that wasn’t more evident than the first person I ran into this evening – US House Race candidate in waiting, Neal Tapio, who was asking for something from the front desk of the hotel we’re sharing when I returned my bellman’s cart.
We spent ten minutes or so chatting, and I asked him the inevitable question.. “So, when are you announcing?” And I got the same answer I’ve been getting when I’ve asked the few times over the past few months.. I haven’t gotten one.
Now, he’s not being entirely evasive, as much as the time is not right for his tastes. In talking with Neal, he will know when he’s ready. He has a plan, and I’m told we’ll see more of him in the media before he gets around to announcing.
I questioned him as to whether he was concerned about gathering petition signatures and meeting the late March deadline. And in speaking with him, it didn’t represent a concern as much as an opportunity to flex the grassroots muscle he believes he’s building at the moment from people reaching out to him on the issues he’s speaking on, such as stopping radical islam.
“Since the article came out in the Argus, I’ve had over 2500 likes on Facebook,” Tapio notes as he sees interest grow in his budding candidacy.
Tapio also suggests he has a far different campaign style from his opponents.
“When I went door to door running for State Senate, I was out for three months going to each house, and for 30 to 45 minutes at each stop I sat and explained my position on the issues.”
While in-depth, Tapio might find such campaigning difficult at the frenetic pace of a congressional primary where early voting begins already at the end of April.
As I nibbled at my meal in-between conversations with legislators and old friends, coincidentally Tapio’s competitor Dusty Johnson was in town, briefly working the room greeting friends and colleagues at the Red Rossa restaurant before heading to the Tourism conference taking place next door at the Ramkota hotel.
While not as in-depth as Tapio’s approach, Johnson understands that he has to reach out and touch as many of the 180,000 Republican voters as he can before the June Primary.
As he stopped by to greet me, Dusty apologized for the briefness of the encounter as he had to get next door, noting that he wished he could stop and shoot the breeze longer, but noted there’s “a ton of people at the Tourism conference I need to stop and say hi to.”
While Neal isn’t stepping into the race yet and is busy concentrating on issues important to him, the race is already afoot, and his opponents are out working with June closer than anyone thinks.