Embarrassing Argus Legislative Election Analysis fails fact checking and basic understanding of state legislative contests.

I was reading the Argus Leader Election State legislative “analysis” this morning ….if you can call it that…. and you have to wonder if anyone bothered to notice that this analysis lacks a basic understanding about how state legislative races work in South Dakota. As well as completely failing some basic fact checking.

Why do I get the distinct feeling that they don’t understand how state house races work?  It takes only a glance at this analysis to see that there’s something wrong with it.

Take a look at their charting. For example:

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A recurring theme is that they have District House races broken out into two separate contests. Guys, I hate to the the harbinger of bad news, but they’re not two separate contests. At all.

It’s a single race with two seats at stake.

It’s not Bootz v Dennert and Bricoe V Kaiser. Bootz is not running against Dennert. She’s running against Dennert, Briscoe and Kaiser. And the top two vote recipients in the race win the election.

Their odd division of the contests is illustrated further with their snapshot of the Brookings District 7 House Race:

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Not only does the Argus erroneously break out Hawley from the other two running in the house, it calls him unopposed. So, explain to me exactly how is Spencer Hawley unopposed? While he might wish it were so, he’s running in the exact same race as Brandt & Tim Reed. They are his opponents. He’s NOT unopposed.

(The Argus’ analysis is awful in this contest anyway. It’s not going to be remotely competitive. It’s going to be Reed & Hawley, but that’s my 2 cents worth).

And they do it again in District 19:

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They have Schoenfish as unopposed, with Mentele and Peterson in a separate contest. Same as above. They’re all in the same race.

I’d say that this was bad enough, but it gets worse.  Their other faux pas? The story shows that they don’t understand what an incumbent is. As found in the dictionary…..


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Now that we’ve established that incumbent means people who currently hold the office, let’s see how the Argus uses it:

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The problem with everyone they note as an “Incumbent” in this list? None of them actually are.

In each and every instance above, the people they have noted as incumbents are actually House members who are running for a Senate seat.   Yep, Novstrup, Wiik, Stalzer, Bolin, Russell & Jeff Partridge are all House members looking to cross over to the Senate.

Don’t believe me? Click on their names, and see for yourself.

I’m not sure how someone could get so many basic election facts so wrong, as well as not bother to even look and see what offices some of these candidates currently hold. But when it came to basic fact checking and editorial oversight, it’s as if the overlords at the Argus looked at it and said Whatever. Leave me alone, time for another bicycle article. 

I won’t get into the part where they claim races are going to be competitive when they’re not, and completely miss the swing on a few races that the Argus gives a “not likely” when the races are actually going to be extremely competitive.  Whether races are going to be competitive or not are a matter of opinion based on experience, knowledge, insight and fact.

Not that we get evidence of that from this badly flawed mess that purports to be authoritative political analysis.


I see they’re in the middle of a rewrite putting House races together. We’ll see if they figure out which races actually have incumbents.

15 Replies to “Embarrassing Argus Legislative Election Analysis fails fact checking and basic understanding of state legislative contests.”

  1. Anonymous

    It is an odd method for sure. However, I think the conclusions are fairly accurate.

    This also exposes something that I’ve never understood: why we have Republican vs Republican in the House races. It makes very little sense. House Districts should be split into two and that way the party won’t have to run against itself. Senate districts then can compromise both house districts. This would also make a huge differentiation between the chambers instead of basically being a unicameral in two houses.

    1. Pat Powers Post author

      I’d disagree with calls they’ve made in several races. Some of them are highly superficial, and ignore basic facts.

      1. Anonymous

        I guess I interpreted the ‘likely’ not to mean that the race will be competitive, but that it has potential to be competitive (which I don’t think will be the case and I think democrats make zero gains in either chamber this fall).

  2. Anonymous

    Much of South Dakota elections down ticket are based on the results of a national wave.

    The better angle would have been to do a comparison of the state senate in 2008 when the Democrats said they were going to take over the state senate. It was a 20-15 breakdown. Democrats had some really good candidates running and the national wave for Democrats at their back Democrats needed three seats to take the senate – they ended up losing 1 and the seante became 21-14.

    In 2010 Daugaard won, Noem defeated SHS and Thune went unopposed in the national Republican wave.

    The legislature had not completed the new districts yet through the redistricting process. Obamacare, stimulus, cash for clunkers etc all lead to the state senate going from 21-14 to 30-5.

    The Democrats real problem is that the national mood changed from being anti GWB to being anti Obama. Let’s not forget that in 2008 Obama came within 10% of John McCain in this state. In 2004 Bush defeated Kerry by over 20%. The national mood has a lot to do with the electoral map for down ticket races.

    The 2010 Democrat massacre was the same map that 2 years prior Democrats thought would give them the majority. Redistricting was not a factor in that epic landslide.

    1. Anonymous

      Ellis is the worst reporter in the state. He’s cynical and a dbag. I don’t read his complaints and BS.

      1. SDGOPer

        I find Ellis pretty refreshing. He sees through the BS and is rightly skeptical of the government (as we all should be).

        Also, I think a lot of people get confused between reporting and opinion. A lot of Ellis’ stuff these days is in the form of opinion columns.

        Ferguson, who did this crap that PP is referring too, is extremely naive and clearly hasn’t taken the time to get to know SD politics.

  3. grudznick

    This just goes to show you how ignorant that Lalley fellow and his minions actually are about politics.

  4. grudznick

    I notice that they have a fancy picture of the legislatures chairs that seem incorrect, and under that picture it says there are 105 races. That might not be right either. There are 105 people who will sit there but are there not 35 districts in the Great State of South Dakota, and for each of those districts there is a Senate race and a House race? That is 35 times 2 = 70 races. The Argus is doing French math now.

  5. SDGOPer

    I thought the same thing when I read this piece, PP. Does she not know how SD legislative districts work? And it is pretty lazy analysis to simply pull a statistic from Ballotpedia (90% of state legislative incumbents win) to declare all of the races with incumbent as uncompetitive. A good reporter would’ve take the time to review the dynamics of each race instead of just making a blanket statement based on one statistic and the results of 2 elections.

    Leave the electoral analysis to someone who knows what they’re talking about next time, Argus.

  6. Troy Jones

    This was an attempt at both analysis and then form a prediction/projection/opinion.

    By definition, analysis is breaking part something complex/multi-faceted into something more simple. For instance, polls show Hillary isn’t trusted. Analysis would be to somehow find root causes/influences which leads voters to reach that conclusion.

    And, then from that analysis, one can form an opinion such as the lack of trust is caused by these factors and possibly the assertion the grounds for the lack of trust are legitimate or illegitimate.

    But, what you have here is something flawed from the beginning. The person who put this together didn’t have a correct understanding of the original whole from which the analysis/opininion flowed. Think garbage in, garbage out.

    Finally, and here is the worst part of this entire piece. It is a manifestation of either a lack of any real intellect (ability to look at something and discern its meaning or discern something is nonsense), a lack of general curiosity (desire to know something more than what knew previously), laziness (devising an analysis which was easy without regard to its veracity or relevance) or a lack of humility (grasping that just because one says it or thinks it doesn’t make it so).

    One could start the process thinking each district had two races. But, when one got to Districts 26A and District 26B, one would be confronted with a very obvious question: Why is this different than the other 34 Districts? Just asking the question should have directed this person to go back to the beginning (making all prior work virtually worthless).

    The failure to pick up there is a difference at that point belies either a lack of intelligence or curiosity, laziness or hubris or maybe all three.

  7. Anon

    Makes you miss David Montgomery. He always dug deep into the actual politics and gave some interesting insights/ historical background.

  8. Troy Jones

    There is also something even bigger than one person writing something so blatantly uninformed. No matter how green a reporter might be, where was the editor? Makes you have a rationale presumption anything coming from the Argus is suspect.