The most influential Republican Men in South Dakota

I think people love these "most" posts coming from one weblog or another. And actually, coming from the author's standpoint, they are kind of fun to come up with. It's just an off-the-cuff gut check on who comes to mind as the people who affect different aspects of the political spectrum.

Now that we've touched on the ladies in a previous post, we men can discuss the most powerful Republican men in much more manly manner... or I'll at least come off as slightly less misogynistic as I did before.

Really, how do you pick who is the most influential? That's why when I do this, they are in no particular order. I can't tell you who is the most influential. It could change tomorrow. Arguably, it WILL change tomorrow.

What I don't like about this category is that some of these are just bonehead choices. Duh, the Governor and John Thune are on the list. That's like the biggest "no shit, Sherlock" statement ever. OF COURSE they are on the list.

Governor M. Michael Rounds - The head of the State Republican Party. Period. The State Party Chairman may be elected, but it doesn't happen without the Governor's blessing. He sets the agenda, he directs the legislative program, etc. In South Dakota, the Republican in the big chair is it.

U.S. Senator John Thune - The heart of the State Republican Party. While the Governor is in charge organizationally, the Senator (when we have one) often sets the tone of the party. And this tone at the moment is socially conservative.

In effect, it works better this way, because when the head of the party and the heart of the party come into conflict, as in 1986, chaos rules, and we lose seats. Now that we've gotten past the head and heart of the GOP, who else sets the trends and moves mountains for everyone else?

#1 State Senator Bill Napoli - Where better to have loyal opposition from, then within your own party? He's irascible, he's incorrigible, he's quotable, and where he stands is on pure principle. Call Bill the conscience of the Republican party. He is one of those types who doesn't take guff from anybody, no matter what level of office they've been elected to. Like Don Quixote, he's not afraid to joust at windmills. In Bill's opinion, if it's right, it's right. No compromises here.

#2 State Senator Stan Adelstein - Where Bill Napoli might be the Yin of the party, Stan is his Yang. Actually, much like the head and the heart of the party, the Stan's of the party keep the Bill Napoli's of the party in check. Where Bill will fight battles through principle, Stan does through pragmatism. And with the ability to bankroll any battle he chooses, Senator Adelstein is not afraid to pick his fights and spend the money to win.

And he's proven he's willing to roll the dice. Where Senator Napoli's conservative group seems to have fizzled, Stan is likely to take a direct hand at making sure the moderate one hangs around for a while.

#3 Lance Russell - OK, this one might be a "what the heck?" one for you. As the State's Attorney for Fall River County, also contracted for the same work in unorganized Shannon County, you might think this is just another West River attorney. Think again.

I call Lance one of the most influential Republicans in South Dakota because he is. This former Pennington County GOP director and ex-State Republican Party Executive Director is from the Bill Napoli "school of principle." And like it or not, his counsel is still sought and highly valued among many influential West River Republicans. If a Republican wants to make a showing in the Hills, they'd best get on his good side.

From his days in the College Republicans in Black Hills State, through his tenure in Rapid City and where he sits now, his influence goes throughout most of the Black Hills and in places, that influence can be deep.

Lance is also the attorney and chief representative for a coalition of grassland interests at the forefront of the prairie dog fight. Many Republicans might be intimidated by the people a person in his position has to fight with. Not Lance. (Like I said, the "Bill Napoli school of principle.")

#4 - State Senate President Pro Tempore Lee Schoenbeck - Is he the next Governor? Could be. He's East River, and Lee isn't afraid to stand on his own and set an agenda. He's got a State Senate pedigree (as does Barb Everist). Interestingly enough, he's an unusual Republican officeholder who is a bit of a hybrid. He was a former Abdnor staffer and was in good with the Janklow people. Could he bring the party together for himself in 2010?

Before Stan Adelstein did it out of his own pocket, Lee held the previous record for fundraising in a South Dakota state legislative race. And he did it without a Sioux Falls or Rapid City in his district.

Lee is probably one of five people to watch for 2010.

#5 - Former State Party Chairman Joel Rosenthal - Yes, his weblog "Straight Talk" is now on the blog scene. Despite it's super-spotty posting. (For someone who was chairman as long as he was, he should tell some stories.) Joel was kicking around the party a long time, and knows who the people are, and who to talk to. If he's blogging, he also understands the use of technology.

Like Lance Russell out west, Joel's influence is fairly strong in the Sioux Falls area. One of Joel's biggest strengths is that as state party chairman, he knew how to raise money. Not a bad talent to have. Watch for him to continue to be in demand as one of the rings that it's a good idea for new GOP candidates to kiss.

#6 (collectively) The Crew over at South Dakota Politics - The reason why we're all blogging today. In 2004 NOBODY influenced South Dakota politics like these guys. From the first post waaay back in December 2002, these guys have built up like a wildfire.

Love them? Hate them? So what? You're still reading them. They influenced what we thought, either directly, or indirectly through how the media covered politics.

We're either pretenders or trying to kick it to the next level. But it had to start somewhere.


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