At yesterday’s Crackerbarrell in Rapid City, State Senator Phil Jensen made a point to go out of his way to reignite a war of harsh words with Governor Dennis Daugaard that had seemingly died down over the past year or so.
On a question about revenue, Senator Jensen said the governor has finally come out of the closet as a tax-and-spend liberal. Jensen said we had $9 million in tax and fee increases last year, and more would hurt everyone in South Dakota.
Senator Jensen was making a point of calling out the Governor, who, after turning in a series of extremely austere state budgets over the past few years had promoted fee and tax increases for infrastructure maintenance for highways last year, and is now supporting a measure to increase teacher pay from last in the nation. The Governor is also trying to put together a package for a cost-neutral expansion of Medicaid with the Federal government.
Jensen’s comments seem to be a re-ignition of what had been a long cooled war of words starting in 2012 when Jensen expressed his displeasure with the Governor supporting his opponent in the legislative primary in 2012:
Republican state Rep. Phil Jensen of Rapid City is accusing Gov. Dennis Daugaard of “declaring war on conservatives” by picking favorites in some GOP legislative primary races.
“What’s happened is the governor has declared war on conservative Republicans,” Jensen said Thursday. “He wants people in Pierre that will support and represent his agenda, not legislators that will represent the folks in their district.”
Moving past that, Jensen’s relationship with the second floor of the Capital weren’t warmed any at the time of his infamous comments in 2014, which earned Jensen national scorn. In order to inoculate the GOP at large from Jensen’s comments, the Governor made a direct point to distance himself and the party from Jensens’s comments which earned universal condemnation on a national basis:
Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard on Wednesday distanced himself from Jensen in a statement released to the media.
“I found his comments to be completely out of line with South Dakota values,” he said. “I don’t agree with him and I haven’t talked to anyone who does.”
The governor’s comments followed the story in Sunday’s Journal in which Jensen, 61, who runs a cookware sales business, explained why he supported the bill that would have allowed businesses to deny service to customers based on sexual orientation and not fear a lawsuit.
While the bill was killed, Jensen defended it to the Journal as legislation that would ensure businesses have the freedom to choose their clientele. He also said that businesses should also have the right to choose based on race and religion – whether that’s right or wrong, he said, can be fairly addressed by the free market, not the government.
“If someone was a member of the Ku Klux Klan and they were running a little bakery for instance, the majority of us would find it detestable that they refuse to serve blacks and guess what? In a matter of weeks or so that business would shut down because no one is going to patronize them,” he said in remarks published Sunday.
Jensen won that primary by the skin of his teeth, and went on to win that general election. Which doesn’t really explain why Jensen felt the need to throw gasoline on the smouldering fire and attack the Governor in anticipation of the upcoming election.
The word in the field is that Jensen will likely have a primary with one, if not possibly two people looking at taking him on for the State Senate seat. With that as the case, why would he be going after the Governor in such an aggressive manner? Is he seeking to run against a MacGuffin versus running on what he’s accomplished?
While it might give Jensen something to run against other than his primary opponent(s), distracting everyone from his legislative record, the downside might be it could give the Governor a reason to personally become involved in his race.
Never a dull moment in politics.