So you guys like Marty… you really, really like him.


It’s been about a week and almost 300 votes, but in our completely unscientific, inside the bubble, poll of readers, you guys really like Marty Jackley for Governor, with Mark Mickelson a close second. Matt Michels, Dusty Johnson, and Kristi Noem rounded out the top 5 as we stuck our finger in the air for a momentary 4-years out benchmark.

There’s lots of time, and lots of jockeying left to do.  This list could completely turn upside down in a month. But, it’s a glimpse into who you see in that role.

Any comments?

Dusty Johnson/Mike Rounds to headline GOP Luncheon in Aberdeen on January 9th.

Dusty_JohnsonAccording to a release by the Brown County Republicans…

Reagan Lunch – Dusty Johnson, Speaker – January 9, 2014 at Mavericks

Dusty Johnson, Chief of Staff for Governor Dennis Daugaard, will be our guest speaker at the Reagan Lunch. Once again we will be at Mavericks Steakhouse, next to Target, on January 9th starting at 12 noon. A buffet and menu choices are available.The lunch is casual and social. You will not regret coming to the lunch. Bring a friend.

Former Governor Mike Rounds will also be in attendance at the Reagan Lunch.

He is a candidate for the United States Senate. Come and have lunch with Mike.

Mitchell Daily Republic jumps to conclusions

I knew there was more to the story then Tom Lawrence had given us in his article about the division in the SD GOP. Lawrence painted much more division in our party than actually exists.

Dusty Johnson, a Mitchell resident, was the featured speaker, and a member of the traditional GOP. He drew loud applause before and after his typically wry, graceful speech.

State Rep. Stace Nelson is very different from Johnson, and not just in size.

 Nelson is a huge man, over 6-5 and broad of beam, while Johnson fittingly compared himself to Barney Fife during his speech.

 Nelson runs hot, his passion always on display, while Johnson is cool as a spring morning.

 That was clear during Johnson?s speech. Nelson stood up and walked to the back of the room, chatting with a couple people and pointedly ignoring Johnson?s words.

 At one point, Nelson left the room, only to return and sit down as Johnson finished his speech.

 But don?t think Nelson is an outsider here. He spoke for only a few minutes, but he received a louder ovation than Johnson did.

Stace has since cleared up the controversy by posting this comment.

The Daily Republic concocted an OPINION piece drama to jump on the stir that the Argus Leader article caused two days previous and almost a week after the event in question. I simply got up to ask Phil Carlson to turn up the AC because the place was getting too hot, and stepped out of the room to the bathroom. I wrote Dusty yesterday and apologized that my ants in the pants was portrayed as a perceived intentional snub to him. I assured him there was no such intent.

All of those reporters who would like to see the SD GOP blow itself up in controversy need to realize that the Democrats are so pathetic and worthless across this state they have set the miserly goal of getting back to double digits in the Senate. 10 out of 35. Meaning they need to double their current numbers. Pathetic.

And when the Dems choose to run candidates like the two Matt’s (Varilek and McGovern-Rowen), they run the risk of being trounced no matter what the SD GOP does.  They choose candidates who disregard common sense centrist policies in favor of left wing ideology all while lacking personal qualities that resonate with the average South Dakota voter.

Our party could be in an all-out civil war, and we still might not notice the Democratic party until they are fortunate enough to not have the weight of Obama, Pelosi and Ried around their necks.

If the Democrats want to start winning elections in red states and moderate places across this country again, the best thing they could do is turn on President Obama. His policies create the single biggest vulnerability to Democrats who do not represent liberal population bases.

Lawrence continues:

In some ways, it?s hard to believe the South Dakota GOP can continue to thrive with its house divided, to borrow a line from its most revered figure, Abraham Lincoln.

It’s not actually that hard to see how the party thrives. Look at the GOP bench (I’d need more than two hands to count the up and comers – the Dem’s don’t even need two fingers). Look at our law makers. For the most part, they get along. Noem, Daugaard and Thune have great working relationships.

There might be divisions, but they aren’t that deep or nearly as broad as some would like to believe.

Reflecting on the Minnehaha Lincoln Day

The Minnehaha Lincoln Day Dinner Saturday night was an impressive event with around 500 people attending. It has been a while since we’ve had a dinner of that size. It must have doubled last year’s.

Whoever was in charge of setting the stage and decorating the convention center deserves a big pat on the back. They did a great job with the huge American and South Dakota flags set as backdrops and the music entertainment to set the mood.

Throughout the night I kept thinking how much our party has changed over the years and how fortunate we are to have so many great leaders. Marty Jackley gave an outstanding update on the health care law and made it very clear he is doing all he can to get Obamacare overturned.

Dusty Johnson proved once again that he is a fantastic Master of Ceremonies. He had probably the best line of the night and also maybe the most akward. The best was when introducing Kristie Fiegen. He commented on her opponent Matt McGovern’s recent name change. When McGovern lived out of state he was Matt Rowen, but since he’s moved to South Dakota and decided to get involved in politics he’s decided to change his name to Matt McGovern after his grandfather George. So Dusty announced that Kristie Fiegen would be changing hers back to her maiden name. “Kristie Abnor Pressler Janklow.” The reaction from the crowd clearly indicated that it was the line of the night, and I heard it repeated continuously on the way out after the dinner.

The awkward moment came when Dusty was introducing Governor Daugaard and said, (paraphrasing) This Governor hasn’t just courted controversy he’s shacked up with it and he has three kids with it. The crowd kind of half laughed and groaned. You never know how much of any of this is planned at an event but you could clearly tell the crowd was uncomfortable with the joke and most were clear about it following the dinner. Dusty quickly made a joke about how he had waded into something he didn’t intend to (unintentionally implying the First Lady might be “controversy”). He joked that he realized now why most Chief of Staffs only last 18 months. Obviously there wasn’t any ill-intention and everyone in the crowd knew that, including Dennis and Linda Daugaard who were great sports.

While listening to our speakers, I was impressed by the very powerful message delivered by Dennis Daugaard that stressed unity and a willingness to make hard decisions. He repeatedly referenced Reagan’s eighty percent ally rule and encouraged the party to come together in 2012.

For quite a long period of time the microphone went out, but that didn’t phase Daugaard. After a couple of moments he simply pushed it aside and began delivering his speech the old fashioned way, earning applause from the crowd. He is clearly a well-liked and respected Governor.

Most importantly we can tell that our Governor is an emotional person, and that was very clear when he closed his remarks speaking about his recent trip to Afghanistan and visiting the soldiers serving overseas, particularly the wounded soldiers. One thing many appreciated was that he didn’t sugar coat his trip. He gave vivid descriptions of the accomplishments of the soldiers and the injuries he witnessed.

Everytime I see Governor Daugaard speak, I am reminded why I support him. He is absolutely genuine and clearly a man of the people who has carved out a unique life story that strongly resonates with the individuals of our state. Even at the odd times when we disagree with him on issues, his sincerity makes it impossible not to respect and admire him.

The event made me wish I could attend another dinner. Until next year!

Congressman Dusty Johnson? Sure sounds like it…

Just caught wind of an interesting little rumor making the rounds the past few days. Allegedly, Daugaard’s Chief of Staff Dusty Johnson is actively laying the ground work for a congressional run if Noem chooses to seek Tim Johnson’s senate seat in 2014. The source also told me that he has dropped hints of already seeking Senator Thune’s backing if he were to run. The source did not say if Dusty had sought Noem’s backing.

This is all coming on the heels of a speech Dusty gave in Huron at the annual Beadle County Lincoln Day Dinner, a “Washington is broken” style of speech. The speech reportedly left many in attendance wondering why the Chief of Staff to the Governor was more focused on the problems in DC rather than advocating for the Governor’s policies and the issues facing our state.

He compared his experience with today?s political climate in Washington.

?I get that annoyed, I get that frustrated almost every time I think about the ridiculous regulations of Washington, D.C.,? said Johnson.

He talked about the current administration?s lack of leadership regarding to health-care reform, financial reform, and economic leadership. The current administration?s reforms have contributed to the mounting U.S. debt, he said.

?Although I hardly ever hear it said, it?s true: Our per capita debt right now is higher than the per capita debt in Greece. Now that?s ridiculous financial leadership,? said Johnson.

He specifically referenced the ridiculousness of the 947-page Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the 848-page Dodd?Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

Both acts have cost jobs lost for not only thousands of Americans, but also hundreds of South Dakotans.

Johnson’s speech only seemed to pour gasoline on the rumors already swirling around the Capitol and across the state.

Word has it that he is not the only person looking into the possibility of an open House seat. He’s presumably not even the only person in the same office. Daugaard’s chief legal council, Jim Seward, is purported to be actively interested in running for congress if Noem moves into the senate race. Seward, with his military and legal background, would also offer a very compelling choice for an open house seat.

The big question, however, is whether Noem intends to jump into a senate race with former Governor Mike Rounds who himself has been dropping unsubtle hints about interest in running for the senate seat currently held by Tim Johnson.

The only thing certain is that congresswoman Kristi Noem holds the fate of many political hopefuls with regard to her future decisions. (And yes, I’m assuming she wins handily in 2012.)

Future plans for Rounds and Dusty Johnson?

Mike Rounds/Dusty Johnson

While Janklow’s closing of his political campaign account was a look back at the past, the Argus also noted that Dusty Johnson and Mike Rounds also have considerable funds still in their campaign accounts:

Nor is it unusual for politicians to have extra money in their accounts once their time in office is over. Former Gov. Mike Rounds had more than $267,000 at the end of last year…

Former Public Utilities Commissioner Dusty Johnson had more than $58,700 in his account at the end of last year. Johnson resigned and is serving as Gov. Dennis Daugaard?s chief of staff.

Johnson says he hasn?t given a lot of thought to how he?s going to use the money. But it almost certainly will involve donating to candidates he supports or donating the money to charity.

Johnson could use the campaign contribution money if he chose to run for another office in the future. But, he said: ?I don?t have any plans to run for any office at this point. If I was going to run for office, I?d raise funds for that office.?

The funds Dusty Johnson has sitting in his campaign account are one more reason most believe he is still a very likely candidate for future office. How do you see Dusty’s political career taking shape beyond his time as Chief of Staff to Governor Daugaard?

40 under 40: Top 10 SD Republicans

Jason Gant

10. Jason Gant: Secretary of State is one of the more prominent offices in South Dakota politics, and Jason Gant has shown a strong vision embracing technology to take the SOS office to the next level. Gant, a former 3-term state senator from Sioux Falls defeated a former deputy secretary of state and a former speaker of the House to win the nomination before easily defeating BJ Nesselhuf in the general election.

Brian Gosch

9. Brian Gosch: Rising to the rank of Speaker Pro Tempore last session, Gosch has shown a great ability for leadership in the State House of Representatives.  He is very active in the Rapid City Community. Gosch was originally appointed to the legislature by former Governor Rounds in 2007.

Todd Schlekeway

8. Todd Schlekeway: The state senator from district 11 has a very bright future in South Dakota and is often the subject of political rumors for statewide office, but the recent buzz suggests he could more likely be a serious contender for Mayor of Sioux Falls. Schlekeway served in the State House of Representatives before running for State Senate in 2010. Schlekeway brings a tone of civility to an all-too-often coarse political climate.

Jon Lauck

7. Jon Lauck: Senator Thune?s senior political advisor, Lauck has deep knowledge of political strategy that often makes the difference between winning and losing. He has played an important role in the biggest federal elections in SD in recent years. Lauck is also an accomplished author: Daschle vs. Thune and Prairie Republic.

Dustin "Dusty" Johnson

6. Dusty Johnson: Few can energize a crowd like Dusty Johnson. He rose to prominence in SD GOP circles by defeating Jim Burg in the 2004 PUC race, winning reelection in 2010 with over 70% of the vote and then stepping down when asked to serve as chief of staff to Governor Dennis Daugaard.

5. Ryan Nelson: Nelson serves as Senator John Thune?s Chief of Staff/State Director. He is one of Senator Thune’s closest advisers. Nelson worked with Lauck and they get credit for lining up the stars to encourage a Noem candidacy and helping ensure her success in the 2010 election cycle. It’s also hard argue against Nelson considering his boss is one of only 3 Republican Senators to go unchallenged in the US since direct elections were established in 1913.

Russ Olson

4. Russ Olson: No one dominated a contested Senate election more in 2010 than Olson, garnering over 80% of the vote in District 8. He also became Senate Majority leader this past session and is viewed by many as having a very bright political future ahead of him. Olson used to have to deal with blogger Cory Heidelberger as one of his constituents. That alone makes Olson deserving of his ranking.

Jason Glodt

3. Jason Glodt: If you are going to win elections you need good people. Glodt has become the workhorse for the party over the last decade. He has been the one constant in every election. Whether it?s been John Thune, Mike Rounds, SD GOP Senate, Dennis Daugaard or Kristi Noem on the ballot, Glodt is leading the front lines. We predict he will be worth his weight in gold again in the 2014 senate race.

Marty Jackley

2. Marty Jackley: Jackley became a rising star in the South Dakota GOP after he was selected as US Attorney for South Dakota under President Bush. He followed that with an appointment to Attorney General of South Dakota by Governor Rounds when Larry Long stepped down to become a circuit court judge. Jackley then went on to receive the endorsements of 65 of 66 SD states attorneys and handily won his own term in 2010.

Kristi Noem

1. Kristi Noem: Noem shot to the top of our list after last year’s upset win against Chris Nelson in the GOP primary and her upset victory against Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin in last falls Congressional race. She quickly made her mark in the House of Representatives by winning a leadership position among her fellow freshmen.

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?