Now that the rubble has settled, with the exception of the Sly/Jensen race, were there any real surprises last night? Many of the old hands at politics I talk to, along with myself, don’t think so.
Moving into Tuesday night, you have what you’d like to see, versus what you want to have happen. District 19 was a perfect example of that. Stace Nelson was just coming off of a statewide election, and is arguably one of, if not the dirtiest campaigner in the State. If there’s a place most candidates won’t go, that’s not a problem for him. He faced off against Caleb Finck, the candidate many observers and those involved in the process wanted to win.
The race was always Stace’s to lose, and it was clear he was doing his damndest to move it in that direction with the most negative mailer that people can remember sent by his close allies, and a bizarre Robocall where he kept talking about panties. At the same time his opponent blanketed the district with radio, mail, & newspaper, and an uninvited card came into the district to counter the ultra-negative pro-Nelson mailer
When the dust settled, Nelson still won. But the former congressional candidate lost 2 important counties, showing surprising vulnerability as he found Finck far closer than anyone should be to a person who placed third in a statewide Congressional race. With two more weeks of campaigning, it could have been a different race, as things were NOT trending Nelson’s way.
With the dust settling, Finck might not have the actual victory, but he has the moral one, and is going to be a go-to when a district seat next needs a candidate.
On the other hand, Nelson is being his usual self, and alienating anyone he might need to call on help from moving into the general election. If Dems change out their placeholder to Frank Kloucek or other notable Democrat, this seat could seriously be in play, as Nelson is likely to receive no help from the GOP structure.
If that was the moral upset of the night, Sly/Jensen was the only real one. Given Phil Jensen’s penchant for utterly cringeworthy racially tinged statements that receive national-level ridicule, that race should have been Sly’s to lose. From generous donors who were weary of Jensen, she had all the money she needed. Yet it imploded in her face during the last few weeks.
A major salvo came from controversial Sly ally Stan Adelstein, accusing Jensen of being a conscientious objector in the Vietnam war. It hit Jensen, but it also energized Jensen supporters, who hit back in various ways, and gave a rallying cry for Jensen’s ground troops who mobilized to go to work.
The Vietnam ad was followed by an ad from Jensen supporters which was quickly taken offline, as one person described it to me as “making the Barnett/Kirby skin theft ad look tame.
From a distance, it seemed as if Sly was running a top down campaign relying on advertising, an expensive website, etc, but with nothing to back it up on the ground. And in the face of mobilized Jensen supporters, it withered.
The Russell/Rampelberg race was never in doubt once Russell, a former SDGOP ED, got motivated. Rampelberg’s support of the education tax plan which cost his District teachers was a career killer by itself. Coupled with back to back sponsorships of income tax bills in 2015 and 2016, anyone could have challenged Rampelberg, but he faced far worse – an experienced politico who has never been afraid to make waves, and knows how to run a race.
As for the rest, again, I’m not seeing any big surprises. I’ll talk about some more races later this am.. Time to get out of bed and start the day!