If there was a race where you made an exclamation when seeing the results such as “Good Lord” or “Holy Election, Batman” this was the race.
Nurse Practitioner Erin Tobin was concerned about the direction the leadership her Legislative District was taking under current house member Lee Qualm, who was making a move to the Senate to continue his tenure. And she decided to do something about it. Which seems to make light of what was a tremendous accomplishment.
First elected to office in 2012, Lee Qualm has been on the ballot at least 5 times since 2010, including a loss in his first election, had risen to the office of House Majority Leader, and was one of the most powerful men in the legislature.
But, there were cracks. Especially over the last two years in office, with questions over leadership decisions in the House of Representatives over banning lobbyists, and a proposed dress code for female House members. Qualm’s own legislation was peppered with bills laking the lead on many important issues for administrations.
And then House Bill 1235 – his anti-vaxxer legislation – brought it all crashing down.
Wildly unpopular in his own district, it was the talk of crackerbarrels, and continued to build. College Republicans harangued him over it in what was to be a friendly meet & greet during Republican days at the legislature. The Governor and administration disavowed it. And that was before the coronavirus hit.
At this point, Erin Tobin had begun reaching out to seasoned politicos asking about what it would take to run in a race like this. What would a race look like? A physician was also considering entering the primary – how would it affect the contest? But none of those possible bumps in the road dissuaded her, and she navigated them with skill.
At this point, Tobin began juggling a very demanding profession as a Certified Nurse Practitioner with the demands of the campaign – and never let up for one moment. She raised a tremendous amount of money against one of the most powerful men in the legislature – out-raising him even with money he had built up in the bank. She peppered the district with signs, leaving him to play catch-up. In an environment when door to door was out, she blanketed the district with postcards both pre-printed and personally written.
Literally, if there was something that could be done in a campaign, she did it. Tobin challenged one of the most seasoned legislators in Pierre, and completely and utterly took him to campaign school, smashing him in a landslide of 61% to 39%.
This was the #1 race to watch this Republican primary season, and it did not disappoint.