U.S. Senate candidate, Rick Weiland (D), just might be my favorite underdog of the 2014 election season:
Taking inspiration from the late Sen. George McGovern, South Dakota Senate candidate Rick Weiland believes the single most important thing to getting America back on the right track is to take the money out of political campaigns.
“We have a Congress that wants to invest more in billionaires and corporations than they do in our kids, seniors, and crumbling roads and bridges,” he said. “I think that’s a fight worth making.”
Weiland, a Democrat, spoke and even played guitar and sang a song for the crowd at a Yankton County Democrat picnic in Yankton’s Riverside Park Sunday. He is the only Democrat who has announced a candidacy for the seat being vacated by Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) in 2014. Meanwhile, former Gov. Mike Rounds is the only Republican candidate.
Weiland said one of his first acts in the Senate would be to support a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision. It extended First Amendment rights to corporations, allowing those entities and unions to spend unlimited sums of money on political campaigns so long as they remain independent from candidates and political parties.
Several such pieces of legislation are currently being considered by Congress.
“I think Big Money and all that it represents is the reason the rich are getting richer, the middle class is falling behind and the poor are barely getting by,” Weiland said, citing the well-funded corporate agriculture, insurance, oil and pharmaceutical lobbies as part of the Big Money problem. “We have 100,000 people in South Dakota who go hungry every day. One out of nine people you meet in this state are hungry.”
Meanwhile, many of the nation’s most profitable corporations are sheltering money overseas to avoid America’s taxes, he added.
“We’re talking hundreds of billions of dollars. If we could close those tax loopholes, we wouldn’t be kicking kids off of Head Start,” Weiland said. “When CEOs can make 300 times more than the average worker in their factory and we’re asking our seniors to give up some Medicare or Social Security benefits, I just don’t think it’s right. When we’re asking our kids to pay more for the loans they’re taking out to go to college to try to get a decent job, I just don’t think it’s right.”
Prior to the 2014 general election, Weiland said he plans to visit 311 South Dakota communities as part of his “Take It Back” tour. During those stops, he aims to visit with residents and talk about how to “get government back” to the people.
“I think that’s the kind of campaign that will be embraced by reasonable Republicans, independents and Democrats,” Weiland said. “I think so many times, these modern campaigns end up being all about raising as much money as you can, attacking your opponent and having all the TV ads you can buy, as well as radio and news print. It’s all about Big Money. You distort your opponent’s record, and you don’t talk to the voters.”
In an effort to limit campaign fundraising, Weiland sent a letter to the Rounds campaign last week asking it to join him in a pledge to limit all contributions to $100. The Rounds campaign declined such an agreement. - Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan, 6/23/13
Weiland acknowledges that he has an uphill battle but I like and respect the fact that he is going to be fighting hard take make his populist campaign a winning campaign. This is a race we should all be engaged in. Now Mike Rounds (R. SD) has proposed to raise $9 million for his campaign. That's a lot of money to raise in a state like South Dakota where the ad buy is cheap. Plus he's a Republican running in a red state during a midterm election. Why does he need to raise so much money? Well, he needs to if he wants to win his party's primary:
Former Gov. Mike Rounds is prepared to spend up to $9 million in his U.S. Senate campaign, with a good chunk of it likely to be used to fend off attacks from hard-right conservatives in an expected Republican primary.
Rounds, who is seen by some conservatives as too moderate on taxes and size-of-government issues, argues that his conservative credentials are strong. And he believes the core of Republican conservatives in South Dakota support his campaign.
"The vast majority of conservatives in the South Dakota Republican Party are in our camp right now," Rounds said during a stop in Rapid City last week.
He refers to some of his critics on the conservative side as "professional dissenters. Their claim to fame is dissention."
Whatever he calls his critics, Rounds expects to be challenged in the primary by a candidate or candidates who will benefit from outside money attacking the former governor and his record. That will be repeated in the general election, he said.
“We’ll get hit from the special-interests groups,” Rounds said. “We’re prepared for that. And we’re prepared to respond.”
If a primary challenge develops as expected, it could define a Republican Party in South Dakota that has thrown off ultra-conservative splinter factions who don't consider Rounds to be one of them.
Those factions are considered long shots to carry a primary against a formidable party leader like Rounds. Nonetheless, he prepares for them with good reason, according to political science professor Jon Schaff from Northern State University in Aberdeen. - Rapid City Journal, 6/23/13
It really says a lot that a candidate like Rounds who's suppose to be a shoe-in has to raise a lot of money to fend off conservative Tea Party challengers. But even if Rounds does raise that large amount of cash, that's not going to scare away primary challengers:
Rounds has reason to worry, said state Rep. Stace Nelson, a Republican from Fulton and a frequent critic of Rounds, current Gov. Dennis Daugaard and the Republican establishment.
Nelson rejects Rounds' contention that the former governor has strong support from conservatives.
"I can't name one real conservative in the state of South Dakota who is in Rounds' camp," Nelson said. "He's trying to recreate himself."
Nelson said Rounds had "an atrocious record" while governor, allowing government to expand, ballooning a structural budget deficit that topped $100 million and readily relying on federal stimulus dollars that conservatives abhorred.
"The fact that he needs $9 million to run in South Dakota should tell you that he knows his record is poor and he needs all that money to distract South Dakotans from his record," Nelson said.
Nelson hasn't yet decided if he will run for the U.S. Senate, but he is considering it. He said he has been contacted by the Tea Party Express, the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservative Fund.
Schaff said a candidate like Nelson might energize conservatives and attract substantial support from out-of-state groups. - Rapid City Journal, 6/23/13
By the way, State Senator Stace Nelson (R. SD) is also a subject of South Dakota press but it's not because of this race:
A judge’s order has cleared the way for a state representative’s name to be added to a lawsuit over political robocalls.
Stace Nelson, R-Fulton, was named as a defendant in a complaint from Sen. Dan Lederman of Dakota Dunes alleging he conspired with conservative activist Dan Willard to produce robocalls that targeted state GOP legislators for their votes on veteran’s issues.
The newest version of the lawsuit also seeks monetary damages for those who received the calls.
Nelson, a potential primary challenger to for Gov. Mike Rounds in the upcoming race for U.S. Senate, maintained that the lawsuit and the criminal actions are political maneuvers.
Willard also has been charged criminally in Lake County for the robocalls, which did not include the names or addresses of those behind them. - Argus Leader, 6/21/13
So maybe Nelson may not be the best candidate for the Tea Party to get behind. But there are other options of course:
One potential candidate, Dr. Annette Bosworth, emerged last week when South Dakota War College, a conservative blog in the state, noticed some unusual online activity. But her clumsy rollout strategy (which apparently involved her intern changing her Wikipedia page) demonstrates that she might not be the dream candidate conservatives are looking for (via South Dakota Politics in Stereo).
“Annette Bosworth is a complete unknown. She’s coming off the bleachers and running as an outsider with no infrastructure,” Senate Conservatives Fund’s Matt Hoskins said. “She has a very steep hill to climb, but voters are looking for new faces and stranger things have happened.” Bosworth has yet to meet with officials at the Club for Growth or the Senate Conservatives Fund.
According to SDWC, state Rep. Stace Nelson has deferred to another conservative potentially in the race: former state Rep. Mark Venner. The blog found that someone registered VennerforSenate.com on May 28. Other candidates could still surface. - Roll Call, 6/11/13
Here's a little more info on Mark Venner (R. SD):
Former State Representative Mark Venner, who served in the legislature in 2011-2012, and previously served as part of the Hughes County Commission, definitely had a conservative bent during his service in both bodies, and seems to fit all the descriptions given to me. If this is correct, it’s a bit surprising, as I don’t think that Representative Venner was particularly aggressive about climbing up the ladder of office. But, stranger things have happened.
Are the clues and the web name registration just sheer coincidence? Because from what I’m hearing, it’s evidence that there may be something to the rumors after all.
I’ve got a note to Mark asking him to shed some light on all these rumors and coincidences. And maybe why Stace Nelson would be deferring to him in the race. - South Dakota War College, 6/10/13
And of course there's State Senator Larry Rhoden (R. SD):
State Sen. Larry Rhoden, a 54-year-old rancher and custom welder from Union Center, said Thursday that he will decide within the next few weeks whether to run for the U.S. Senate in 2014.
With former Gov. Mike Rounds already months into the campaign for the seat held by Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson, who is not running again, Rhoden would come in to the race as a clear underdog in a Republican primary next spring.
"I know it would be a tall order, especially going up against someone with the high name ID like Mike Rounds," Rhoden said. "But on the other hand, life presents few opportunities like this."
The third-term state senator, who also served four terms in the South Dakota House, said he considers himself more conservative than Rounds and also less a member of the political establishment. Voters tired of the status quo in Washington, D.C., might be ready for an outsider, Rhoden said.
"The status quo won't get us anywhere," he said. "We need people ready to break the mold of traditional politics and work to get something done." - Meade County Times-Tribune, 6/20/13
And of course there's always former State Senator Bill Napoli (R. SD). Napoli became infamous when he had this to say abortion rights:
And of course, Napoli became even more famous thanks to this humorous comic strip:
Napoli has also been a big critic of Rounds and with his girl, Rep. Kristi Noem (R. SD) optioning out of challenging Rounds, Napoli could always decide to give it a go. Either way, it's highly likely Rounds will have a primary challenger. It's just a question if his campaign money can fight off an opponent.
By the way, here's the part of the Rapid City Journal story that makes me laugh:
Rounds said the advent of these Super PACs makes it all the more important for him to have campaign funding to respond to what he calls distortions and attacks. He expects that in both a primary and the general election.
"It's not the other candidates that raise all the money. It's these Super PACs that come in," Rounds said. "We will focus on our story and our message, but we must be able to respond to false information and peg those responsible for it, too." - Rapid City Journal, 6/23/13
He should know, Rounds is the original Super PAC candidate:
Rounds might very well owe his political career to the state's loose campaign finance regulations.
He benefited from large PAC contributions as a fledgling gubernatorial candidate in 2002. Rapid City lawmaker and philanthropist Stan Adelstein funneled $60,000 to Rounds' campaign via two contributions from the Building Rapid City PAC, which was almost entirely funded by Adelstein. Of that $60,000, $25,000 came at a critical point late in a three-way primary race when Rounds was gaining momentum but running out of money.
Candidate Rounds also received more than $200,000 in 2002 in two separate contributions from Adelstein's A Better South Dakota PAC. While that PAC was organized by Adelstein, it was funded by a series of $5,000 contributions from several individuals.
Adelstein's fortune hasn't reached the heights of Sanford's, but he has been actively involved in South Dakota politics on both sides of the aisle since taking over the family construction business as a young man in the 1950s.
Rounds won a Cinderella victory in that three-way GOP primary in 2002, and went on to easily win the general election and serve two terms as a popular governor, from 2003 through 2010. - The Center For Public Integrity, 10/24/12
When it comes to Super PACs, Mike Rounds sounds like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R. KY) type of guy:
Again, this is a race that urge all of you not to write off just yet. I know Weiland isn't Brendan Johnson or even Stephanie Herseth Sandlin but he's someone we should not respect but also support. Rick is fighting for the same progressive values we all share and he is unapologetic about his views, even in a red state like South Dakota.
The election is a while away and I plan on keeping an eye on this race. Weiland's campaign is still getting ready but he's been making great use of social media. You can check out his campaign Tumblr here: