South Dakota hates University Presidents. At least as political candidates.
You can diagnose political races in a number of ways, but after Bruce Halverson's loss Tuesday night to Mayor Dave Munson, it raised one question about voters and their decision-making process.I'd also add the loss of former Capital University Center President (and Democrat) Anne Thompson in her Legislative race against Tim Rounds and Ryan Olson in 2002. Anne was expected to be tough, but as you can see, she just couldn't make the grade:
Do they have a hard time voting for college presidents?
Some of Halverson's supporters mentioned along the way that it might be a hurdle but doubted it would be a factor in the Augustana president's first political competition.
But there is some history to support that notion that voters might not be warm to the idea in this state.And there was the 1994 gubernatorial race when Jim Beddow, Dakota Wesleyan University president, lost to Gov. Bill Janklow.
In 2002, Jim Abbott, president of the University of South Dakota, lost his gubernatorial bid to Mike Rounds.
Tim Rounds - R
Ryan P. Olson - R
Peggy Cruse - D
Ann Thompson - D
I suspect it's not a thing against University Presidents as an occupation. I suspect it's more a symptom of being ensconced in academia. When he campaigned, Jim Abbott seemingly didn't listen as much as he lectured. And as he made his points, he'd stab the table with his finger as if he were disciplining the boys of Delta House as they pulled another wacky prank.
As a University President, Bruce Halverson seemed like he fit perfectly in the stereotypical mold of an effete elitist who we can easily envision sipping sherry on the balcony as they lament the uneducated masses, and plan their next trip to the Hamptons.
I'm sure he made an OK University President. But as a politiican who had to appeal to the masses, including those with dirt under their fingernails, I don't know if he could have ever pulled it off.