Sometimes you can’t help but be embarrassed when you read the story the next day. This morning, Kevin Woster is writing about the reception he received at the Pennington County Lincoln Day Dinner:
“This year,” Ericks said. “We just have too much stuff going on within the Republican Party and outside of the Republican Party.”
I said I wasn’t sure what that meant. So Ericks continued, noting that the party is getting back to its conservative roots and following the path of great GOP leaders like Ronald Reagan in the past and Donald Trump today. He also said the party has important priorities like public-education campaigns on Sharia Law and Islamic extremists and the threats they present to the state and nation.
I didn’t share that information with Ericks, thinking it might completely destroy my wounded chances of getting into the banquet room. But I did say:
“Honestly, I haven’t even seen Stan Adelstein in months.”
Which did not put Ericks at ease.
“I don’t know, I only have your word for that,” Ericks said. “But if you take any of that stuff I said and write something that isn’t true, I’ll find you and kick your ass.”
He glared at me, then laughed a little. So I think he might have been kidding. But I wasn’t quite sure. I don’t think he was kidding about the threat of Sharia law, so I guess I had to presume he might well have been serious about most things he said — including giving me a good old-fashioned pummeling.
Either way, I fired back: “I’m not sure you could. I’m pretty quick.”
Meaning foot speed, not fists, of course. I’m a writer, not a fighter.
Speaking of which, Ericks expressed a powerfully negative attitude about my chosen profession, and about the media outlets — the Rapid City Journal and South Dakota Public Broadcasting — for which I currently write. And after some dialogue on that and the butt-kicking comment, he and I seemed to grow weary of our conversation, which was beginning to seem circular.
I mention my situation and Johnson expressed surprise, with just a hint of outrage. It seemed to him that they’d want all the publicity they could get at a Lincoln Day Dinner, which is how it seemed to me. Johnson offered to call Ericks and intervene, a notion we were discussing when Haugen emerged and waved for me to follow him through the now-closed doors.
Which I did, concluding my conversation with Johnson. Once inside Haugen told me that Ryan Nelson, Thune’s chief of staff and state director, had called and told organizers that the Thune team would cover the cost of my ticket.
I was grateful for that gesture, as I was earlier when a member of the Noem team offered to give me a ticket. And Marty Jackley also has my gratitude for inviting me to sit at his campaign table.
None of which I felt comfortable accepting or doing.
Ugh. What on earth was Craig Ericks doing? Threatening to get physical with Kevin Woster, who has been a long-time reporter in Rapid City for the Rapid City Journal, KELO (and now Public Broadcasting) for the sake of reporting the news is beyond the pale, even in jest. Not that it seemed very funny.
(I don’t know where he’s coming from when he claims “The party has important priorities like public-education campaigns on Sharia Law and Islamic extremists.” There are those in the party who are concerned about those issues, but that’s not a party thing in general. But, one problem at a time.)
I’m not sure why the County Party wouldn’t want to show that the majority party in the state is open and welcoming. Republican Lincoln Day Dinners have always been pretty neutral ground, even among Republicans who might not care for each other very much. It has always been part Thanksgiving dinner to celebrate fellowship, even with a crabby uncle or two, and part debutante ball for presenting the new candidates for the season to the greater audience at large.
It’s actually not a bad thing to get the media to show up and pay attention. Usually we get irked when they ignore it. Tales as Woster related do not help the rest of us.
Thankfully, some of our statewide elected officials & candidates tried to salvage what was already a horribly embarrassing episode that should not have happened in the first place.
Kevin, on behalf of everyone who cares about the Republican Party, I would offer my apologies, as I’m sure there were people who did Saturday night. I hope I can live long enough to say that was a once in a lifetime occurrence.