Reported earlier today on Elections Morning Digest David Nir said this:
The Argus Leader describes Weiland as a "prominent South Dakota Democrat" in their lede, but he doesn't appear to have a Wikipedia page or much of a presence on Google.So, a brief intro - and then a leap of faith across the squiggle to learn about Rick Weiland - not the Democratic candidate who was expected, but an experienced, credible and progressive candidate who has shaken up an important race.
(The debate about whether progressives in SD should support "unelectable" liberal candidates instead of Blue Dogs who are "the only candidates who can win" in our red state continues, but as someone who believes we shouldn't have to leave the state to be permitted to support candidates who share our beliefs in marriage equality or reproductive choice or environmental protection, this diary is focused primarily on for information about Rick and his announcement.)
After the retirement of three-term Democratic Senator Tim Johnson was confirmed earlier this year, there has been active speculation about who would run against the Republican candidate, former Gov. Rounds. An important race where a Democratic Senate seat is at risk, there has been speculation about the possibility of current first term US Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD-AL) to offer an alternative for conservatives in the state who don't think Rounds is conservative enough. On the Democratic side, former US Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (who lost to Noem) whose Blue Dog record, has disillusioned progressive voters has generally been seen as the best chance for the Democrats to mount a challenge to either Republican. Progressives were interested in Brendan Johnson, US attorney and son of Sen. Johnson as a more acceptable choice.
After speaking to Brendan Johnson about the race, and believing that Johnson would not run, Rick Weiland announced his candidacy:
The 54-year-old Weiland, a Madison native who lives in Sioux Falls, said he’s in the race because Congress is “broken.”Speaking to local media:
Apart from his broken government message, Weiland said senior programs like Medicare and Social Security will be focuses of his campaign.Weiland currently is a small business owner, running a restaurant he owns with his family. He was a former Daschle aide who ran for Congress in 1996 and 2002. He has worked for the AARP, as regional FEMA director during the Clinton administration, and for nearly a decade at the non-profit International Code Council:
“The American people like them,” he said. “They've given dignity to people in their retirement years. They've given people access to healthcare at a point in your life where it's hard to get when you get older.”
Under Weiland’s leadership, the Code Council developed the nation’s first green construction code, expanded its reach to create a truly global presence, and embarked on a series of initiatives to embrace the digital age and develop online products for designers, builders and regulators.The local media response has been unsurprisingly mostly dismissive:
“Serving as COO and CEO of the Code Council has been an incredibly rewarding chapter in my career and I am proud of the progress we have been able to make to advance public safety over the last decade,” said Rick Weiland
So it’s hard to see the angle for a Rick Weiland candidacy this time, 12 years later after losing to Herseth (now Herseth Sandlin), unless he’s 1) hoping for a federal appointment out of it or 2 ) has the winning numbers for tonight’s Powerball drawing.A local Republican blog not worth clicking on writes:
Dems have Senate Candidate for first time in years; Dr. Kevin Weiland’s older, less interesting brother.The brother was the physician who was outraged at Herseth Sandlin's vote against the ACA and managed to get enough signatures in a matter of days to threaten a primary challenge for her until she pressured him with talk of party unity and agreeing to not vote to repeal health care reform.
But his hometown paper reports:
Although Weiland's announcement was official, he plans to make a more formal declaration in the near future....
According to Weiland, one reason for his entry into the Senate race is a reluctance to "sit back on the sidelines and let the government implode." "This is a discussion about fairness; we've been given false choices about how we need to pay off the national debt," Weiland said. "We're being told that we need to cut Social Security, cut college loan supports, cut the Head Start program...We've been asked for austerity that could lead to the ruin of our middle-class base and damage any expansion to the economy."Ryan Casey who began the Draft Brendan movement has also spoken to Johnson and has asked supporters to shift their support to Weiland.
Former Tim Johnson aide Mike Chapman (see update below linking to his DK post today) has added his support.
Chapman currently heads Heartland America, a Super PAC that a had been one of the prime suspects for what Tim Johnson will do with his $1.2 million war chest — as a Super PAC, it can accept unlimited donations from federal candidates.
South Dakota Democratic Party Chairman Ben Nesselhuf said Weiland’s decision to run is a reflection of Democrats’ determination. “I think it’s indicative as to how excited Democrats are that we’re going to keep this seat,” Nesselhuf said.
"Holy smoke," said Rick Hauffe, the former executive director for the party. “I’m totally shocked that he is, but I think it’s wonderful.”
Weiland did speak with his former boss, Daschle, prior to making the decision public.“I encouraged him with great enthusiasm,” Daschle told the Argus Leader on Wednesday night.Weiland is married to Stacy Newcomb-Weiland. Stacy, writes the Co-op Natural Foods Store,
has been a board member for many years, and has served as Board President in the past. She cooks for a family of seven and is a firm advocate of green living, preservation, freshly prepared food. She is project manager of Bring Back The State Theatre and owns and operates Parker’s Bistro on Main Avenue in downtown Sioux Falls.As Board President for the State Theatre Company Stacy was a successful fundraiser for the multi-million dollar restoration of the historic 1926 building.
Stacy announced the fundraising campaign among area businesses exceeded it's goal. She says now the campaign will focus on donations from individuals and families.In recognition of her accomplishment, Stacy was awarded the inaugural Sylvia Henkin State Theatre Community Award last weekend.
The award... honors the individual who has had the biggest impact on forwarding the Sioux Falls State Theatre Company’s mission and a person with a long track record of community service.There is no campaign site up yet, UPDATE: Facebook page here thanks to Mike Chapman on DK this morning.
but watch for more information on this race. Rick and Stacy are wonderful people who have given a lot to the people of SD, and while electability of any Democratic candidate in the state is always uncertain, I believe Weiland would be a good choice for this race regardless of who the Republicans end up with - although a primary to out-conserve each other would be helpful in the general election. Finally, although the state Democratic bench is not seen as deep, there are a lot of respected Democrats in communities across the state who may be inspired by this announcement to run for other offices. And that would be a very good thing.