Nemec and McGovern-Rowen look to get a wooping…

I’ll give the Democrats credit for at least putting candidates on the ballot. They haven’t always been good at filling slots, and they can’t win if they don’t try. Unfortunately, what chance do they really have to win a statewide race?

Mercer has an interesting post about Nick Nemec and the PUC race here:

Nemec, 53, received the nomination for a Public Utilities Commission seat during this weekend?s South Dakota Democratic state convention. He?ll be paired against Republican Chris Nelson, the former two-term secretary of state and unsuccessful 2010 candidate for the Republican U.S. House nomination. Nelson was appointed to the PUC a year ago by new Gov. Dennis Daugaard when Dusty Johnson abdicated the PUC seat to which he was just re-elected so that Johnson could become Daugaard?s chief of staff. Nelson and Nemec will be running for the remaining four years of the Johnson six-year term on the commission.

Democrats also gave our favorite name changer, Matt McGovern-Rowen, the other PUC nomination to run against Kristie Fiegen.

Democrats have struggled to win statewide offices in Pierre for several years. And with President Obama tied around their necks dragging the Democratic Party down to new depths in red leaning states, why would anything be different than 2010?

Here are the 2010 statewide races:

Secretary of State REP Jason   Gant 163828 54.17%
Secretary of State DEM Ben  Nesselhuf 118635 39.23%
Secretary of State CON Lori  Stacey 19971 6.60%
Attorney General REP Marty  Jackley 202499 66.90%
Attorney General DEM Ron  Volesky 100182 33.10%
State Auditor REP Steve  Barnett 181975 60.82%
State Auditor DEM Julie  Bartling 117218 39.18%
State Treasurer REP Rich  Sattgast 191408 65.25%
State Treasurer DEM Tom   Katus 101924 34.75%
Commissioner of School and Public Lands REP Jarrod  Johnson 188985 66.49%
Commissioner of School and Public Lands DEM Bob   Pille 95244 33.51%
Public Utilities Commissioner REP Dustin “Dusty”  Johnson 217346 73.21%
Public Utilities Commissioner DEM Doyle  Karpen 79543 26.79%

In 2008, even with the Democratic national wave, Gary Hanson defeated Matt McLarty with nearly 65% of the vote to win reelection to the PUC, in 2006 during the cycle in which Democrats reclaimed the US Congress and swept Nancy Pelosi into the speakership, Jarrod Johnson defeated incumbent Dem Bryce Healy in a very close election for Public Lands, and in 2004 Dusty Johnson started the trend by trouncing longtime incumbent Dem Jim Burg. Things have only been getting worse for the SDDP in these races, not better.

What's next for Jeff Barth?

The rumor going around is that Barth will now seek the Democratic Party’s second PUC nomination and run against Chris Nelson. Matt McGovern is currently the only announced candidate running for an SDDP PUC nomination, and he is seeking the nomination to run against Kristie Fiegen.

How would Jeff Barth fare as a PUC candidate? Didn’t he say somewhere he spent 30 years in the telecomunications industry?

I’m sure 28% of the vote in the primary wasn’t exactly the launching pad he was hoping for. The rubber chicken in his video had a better take off. However, the crash landings were about equal.

Is Varilek avoiding debates like Johnson in 2008?

Argus Leader reporter Jonathon Ellis makes a great point about the Democratic congressional primary (or lack of one).

Attention Democratic organizations: How about a debate or two?

In a month, the Democrats (along with independents, if they wish to vote) will pick a candidate to challenge Rep. Kristi Noem in the November election. But outside of the two candidates running in the primary, the Democratic Party chairman and maybe three or four other people in the state, nobody else seems to know there?s a race.

There hasn?t been a lot of media attention, that I?ll grant. The two candidates, Jeff Barth and Matt Varilek, pointed that out to me last week. Well, I asked, is there a debate coming up that we could cover?


What is going on with these guys? If medicare, keystone, the tea party, the GOP are so terrible, wouldn’t you think the Dems would want to get out and make as much noise about those issues as possible?

Curd, Noem and Nelson took advantage of a contested primary and used it to their advantage.

It appears to me that Matt Varilek is following Tim Johnson’s playbook from 2008. No debates. Period.

Uphill climb for Dems in PUC races

I can’t help but feel Matt McGovern-Rowen and his liberal friends were not given a very good option in choosing which PUC candidate to challenge in this election cycle. Chris Nelson and the four-year term (remainder of Dusty Johnson’s) or Kristi Fiegen and the six-year term aren’t easy choices. In Chris Nelson, they have the difficult task of running against a popular two-term former Secretary of State with high name recognition who won his first election in 2002 with 56% of the vote and in 2006 went unopposed.

In Kristie Fiegen, they have the choice of going against someone who has served four terms in the legislature but is a relatively new face in the PUC. Fiegen will make up that ground rapidly as she is very high energy and likable. I believe she will also be a gifted fundraiser, and it wouldn’t surprised me at all if she easily surpassed the amount Nelson raised for his congressional run.

By election time, Nelson will have almost two years of experience as a public utitlities commissioner and thanks to former commissioner Steve Kolbek, Fiegen has been on since last summer, giving Fiegen vastly more experience in the energy industry than her hyper partisan name changing opponent from Wisconsin who advocated for the devastating Cap and Trade energy policy for the Obama agenda.

No word yet whether the Democrats have decided to let Nelson go unopposed again like they did in 2006 or muster up a sacrificial candidate.

I am very confident Fiegen will be a strong candidate in the general because she is an extremely hard worker.

And considering that energy issues vastly favor Republican ideas going into the election year, it will be a steep climb for any Democrat on the statewide ballot this year.

2012 SD GOP convention discussion

Will the 2012 GOP state convention in Sioux Falls be exciting? Probably not compared to the fun we had in 2010. Conventions are always a great time, and I hope to attend again, but so far we aren’t going to be treated with the exciting races we saw two years earlier.

We have two Governor appointed PUC officials up for nomination, Chris Nelson and Kristie Fiegen. Currently discussion has slowed on any other likely entries into these two races.

The other two races at the 2012 convention will be the National Committeewoman and Committeeman.

All expect Dana Randall to seek a second term as National Committeeman. He has strong support with the more seasoned delegates and also with many newer faces in the party.

At the moment, the only position discussed with much interest among delegates and activists is the National Committeewoman position held by Mary Jean Jensen. Several individuals have told me Mary Jean is not going to run again. This wouldn’t be surprising news for the delegates who have consistantly been strong supporters. Mary Jean has served the state well, and we will wait for her official word on this matter.

Someone often discussed as a potential candidate if Mary Jean doesn’t run is Sandye Kading (former Chair of the Pennington County GOP). It is also speculated that in SD’s current political climate a candidate strongly aligned with the tea party could run for this position. And no one should rule out a potential candidate coming from the delegate rich Minnehaha/Lincoln area.

Contested races or not, conventions are a great time to gather and see old friends. I’m looking forward to it! (The convention is in June so we still have plenty of time for the races to change)

Chris Nelson for PUC

Chris Nelson is ready to hit the campaign trail!

From my inbox:

Chris Nelson Public Utilities Commission
December 28, 2011
Four short days and Election Year 2012 will be upon us.  The Chris Nelson for Public Utilities Commission campaign is preparing to shift into high gear!
I have greatly enjoyed serving as your PUC commissioner this year and look forward to running for the four year PUC slot in 2012.
You deserve a commissioner who is passionate about digging into the details of utility operations, law, and regulation in order to provide you with utility rates which are affordable and service that is reliable.  I enjoy that challenge and am committed to continuing that work for you.
I have one important request.  The Nelson PUC Campaign needs to end 2011 on a strong fundraising note.  Your year-end contribution will help put us on solid footing going into 2012.  Please visit our website at , learn more about our campaign, and click that donate button today.
We need your help before the end of 2011!  Thank you!!
Chris Nelson

An unsettled PUC – part 2

Kristie Fiegen

The six year term (aka Steve Kolbeck’s seat):

Kristie Fiegen, Governor Daugaard’s appointment to replace Commissioner Steve Kolbeck (D), is considered by many to be “a stronger general election candidate than a convention primary candidate”. In short that statement represents the type of opinion Fiegen needs to change in the next five months. Several people with a broad convention base, well respected in party circles, were giving strong consideration to running for the position before Kolbeck unexpectedly stepped down earlier this year.

A convention primary is a totally different ball of wax than what most candidates and elected officials typically envision when they start this type of campaign. Fiegen, out of inter party politics since she stepped away following the 2001 legislative session, must be cognizant of her lack of familiarity with the party faithful.  She will need to get out early and start locking up support. Her number one priority must be to keep anyone else from entering the fray, or she may find herself running against not one but two or three potential challengers — once one person crosses the line as a challenger, it provides cover for those who wish to run but hope to avoid disapproval from the Governor’s office.

There is speculation as to who the candidates will be that come forward, but I have it on good authority that at least one current member of the House of Representatives is leaning toward running. There are also a couple of other names that will be familiar to convention delegates.

Fiegen, comes across as friendly and smart, and if she puts in time getting to know the delegates, she will be a very difficult candidate to defeat for all but the upper tier of challengers. That said, at least one of the potential challengers already has the advantage of knowing delegates across the state.

In both (Nelson & Fiegen) cases, the questions will be 1) Can they make a convention challenge look like an uphill battle, 2) how will the Governor’s office respond if challengers truly do start to emerge, and 3) do the challengers have the star power to pull delegates away against the will of the Governor’s office?

An unsettled PUC – Part 1

Word travels fast across this state in political circles. And the word right now is that the PUC appointments of Chris Nelson and Kristie Fiegen made this past year by Governor Dennis Daugaard are very much still up in the air when it comes to potential rivals choosing to get in or stay out and the likelihood of delegates to the 2012 GOP convention in Sioux Falls staying uncommitted for an extended period of time.

Chris Nelson

The four year term (AKA Dusty’s seat): In Chris Nelson’s case the talk is that he is very concerned about facing a strong challenger from the delegate rich Minnehaha/Lincoln County area. The convention delegates have changed quite a lot since he won the nomination for Secretary of State in 2002. Ten years is a long time in politics, and last year he lost a congressional primary race to a relatively unknown Kristi Noem. In that race, Nelson showed a lack of direction early on and gave the appearance that his hand was forced by announcing his candidacy the day after Blake Curd had officially announced he was running for the nomination.

At the 2010 convention in Huron, then state senator Jason Gant hailed from Sioux Falls and was able to garner an insurmountable percentage of delegate support from his home area. Of the 61 delegates representing Minnehaha at the 2010 convention, Gant received support from 49 for the GOP nomination for Secretary of State, representing over 30,000 of the 38,000 votes from that one county. That is an incredible number when a candidate only needs to receive about 100,000 votes to win. This advantage is even more striking when Lincoln County delegates are factored in, totaling nearly 50,000 votes between the two Sioux Falls counties.

The hard part for Nelson’s opponent would be to capitalize on that potential.

This is why talk around the state in political circles makes a potential run by state senator, Shantel Krebs, the perfect storm confronting Chris Nelson at the convention in 2012. When you factor in her very outgoing personality, she could make Nelson’s habitually low profile campaign a weakness in the race once again. The possibility of a credible challenge starts to look very real.