South Dakota hates University Presidents. At least as political candidates.

Dave Kranz has a good one in the Argus today as he opines whether or not South Dakotans have a thing against University Presidents serving in elective office after Bruce Halverson lost the mayoral race:
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.

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.

In 2002, Jim Abbott, president of the University of South Dakota, lost his gubernatorial bid to Mike Rounds.

And there was the 1994 gubernatorial race when Jim Beddow, Dakota Wesleyan University president, lost to Gov. Bill Janklow.
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:

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.


Anonymous said…
Explain then, pp, political genius, how Munson got beat easily in the working class neighborhoods of SF?
Anonymous said…

Jim Abbott has spent much more of his life in business and law than in academia. I don't think he fits the mold. As to Anne Thompson, while I don't know her well, I found her to be down to earth and very easy to talk to. The state has elected academics. Mary Wagner served from Brookings in the House and Senate and she was a Ph.D. George McGovern has a Ph.D. I think Gerry Lange of Madison is a former professor. We've also elected medical doctors, like Richard Bellatti and Jack Billion. I think a lot of factors go into this, not just whether you are a Ph.D, an M.D., a J.D. or whatever.
Silas said…
I don't know Dr. Halverson except by reputation, but can you cite occasions when he conducted himself as an "effete elitist." He certainly turned around the financial status of Augustana. This characterization sounds more like the stereotyping that people in academic life in South Dakota cite as a perpetual resentment. It is a cultural attitude that underlies the problems with funding education and maintains teachers and professors in the state as the lowest paid in the nation. It also explains why bright young people seek other climes to exercise their talents.
Anonymous said…
I think PP said it was stereotypical...

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