SDWC's Top Ten South Dakota Political Stories of 2005

I see the AP listed their top ten stories of 2005. Curiously enough, I had already begun to compile my top ten list of politically related stories for the year, and was much of the way through this when theirs came out.

This had been my Christmas weekend project so I had a big long article to drop on my website, allowing me to slack off this week and enjoy the company of the other seven members of my family who joined me in Pierre over the Christmas break.

Originally, I was thinking it would be neat to drop it to five issues, and do a panel discussion video, but there’s never enough time in the day to get people together to do such a thing. And there’s a distinct lack of politically active Democrats in the area that I’m acquainted with who might be willing to participate in such a discussion.

It’s not that I’m not willing; it’s that if I was to do it, dark-sided me would want at least some representation from the “lite” side of things to counterbalance my conservative Republican point of view. (and I have to congratulate many of the Dem commenters on the blog; By gosh, there are times I might not agree with you, but by and large, the comments are civil and thoughtful.)

So, in place of a web broadcast panel, which I’m going to do at some point, I will just post my top ten political stories, along with discussion why I chose these topics.
10 . JAIL Amendment

According to an out of state weblog, this proposed constitutional amendment was written by an out-of-state disciple and former right-hand man to a leader in the “patriot movement.”

The movement behind the amendment seemed at times, haphazard. One guy even mortgaged his house to pay for it. And through their efforts using paid signature gatherers, for better or worse, we’re going to be voting on it.

But a serving of humble pie is in order, because they certainly got it on the ballot.

This measure would require a couple of million in expenditures to impanel special grand juries a few miles away from any existing courthouse. And it would be there to punish judges they saw as wrongdoers, as well as those exercising quasi-judicial authority, which is nearly any board in SD...

But don’t get too worked up about it *just yet.* If it passes, I suspect its constitutionality will eventually be challenged. And oddly enough, that constitutionality will be decided by... the very judges it seeks to hold accountable.

I think we see where this one is going.

9. Special Session for Homestake

Once it was a mine of gold. And in 2005 its ownership was transferred to the state, and it sits as a potential gold mine of ideas getting ready to roll into reality. All of South Dakota sits biting their collective tongues to see if we’re going to be picked as the Official DUSEL site.

Will the DUSEL selection be the big story of 2006? We can only hope.

8. S.T.O.P.

Not in the name of love, but in the name of property taxes, State Senator Bill Napoli got his constitutional amendment placed on the ballot to change how our state’s property taxes are assessed from an equalized basis to a sale value basis.

He’s also picked up an early significant supporter in the Black Hills Homebuilders showing it’s an idea that’s broader than just a core group of petition circulators.

It’s controversial, it’s going to get a supreme amount of attention once the schools begin chiming in on it, but you have to give Bill a little credit, he’s at least trying a modification of a tax we already have in place, as opposed to firing up another tax such as corporate or personal income tax.

Unlike those, this measure might have a chance of passing.

7. Democratic Bloggers

2004 was the year of red-hot Republican bloggers driving many political issues through non-traditional means. In 2005, they (we) cooled off, and the Democratic bloggers took a page from our book. They ended up gaving us back a taste of our own bitter medicine.

First, they set their sights on a little payback for the loss to Senator Thune, and got the mainstream media to take up an issue that took down one of his political allies. Lately, they’ve set their sights on softening up the Governor’s popularity in preparation of the 2006 general election.

Hate it or love it, they’re teaching a lesson they learned from us. And we’d better not forget that as we move into 2006.

6. Argus Leader’s Assault on the Governor

The Associated Press considered the Argus Leader’s series of stories of the use of the State Airplane by the Governor as one of its top ten stories. Should that be one of the top ten political stories? Some would argue, yes. But there’s something that has come up since that blurs the focus of that issue for me.

After that series of stories, there have been editorials from the Argus Leader’s editor, Randall Beck. (here, here and here) A story is a story, and that’s fine. But in those editorials from the editor, it’s at least apparent to me that he doesn’t care for our state’s chief executive.

One editorial from Mr. Beck blasted a local group for giving the Governor an award. Another took an additional swipe at him. The tone of these editorials comes off as… well, it certainly seems that he has an ax to grind.

And it takes those stories that they consider serious journalism and places them in a light that some would characterize as partisan.

5. Signs of life - Grassroots Democrats place billboards/ Howard Dean kicks in $85k to SD Democrats

“Doctor…. I thought it was dead, but I’m beginning to hear a heartbeat.”

After a few years of continuously being shellacked, a group of Young Democrats have stopped waiting for their party to get in gear, and got fired up. And they showed definite signs of life. The attention getting billboards noting that “Jesus cares for the poor, so do we” got them some good off-season press and built some momentum for this fledgling movement.

Adding to the Grassroot Dems showing some signs of life at the base level, the SDDP seems to have had the toe-tag removed themselves. That 85k of seed money sent by Howard Dean kicked the dead corpse of the SDDP after the last election into something showing some signs of life.

Added staff, a new website, audio podcasts, signs of political aggression, and a new attitude. All of this is emerging out of that cash infusion. In the big scheme of things, it’s not much money. Compared to the new vigor they got out of it, it seems to have been a sound investment.

The big test? It’s 2006. And whether or not it can all affect elections.

4. Abortion Task Force Walkout

When the going get tough… apparently some people bail out.

After several months of meeting and studying the issue, a group of pro-choice activists followed by a legislator allied with them walked out of one of the final meetings for the State Task Force to Study Abortion.

Immediately following an exchange the likes of which are seldom heard in the meeting rooms of the legislature, several people led by Planned Parenthood director Kate Looby and Republican Legislator Stan Adelstein took a walk after a motion by pro-life State Senator Brock Greenfield to call the question and end debate on a motion.

This was despite an attempt by the pro-choice side to do the exact same thing when they thought numbers were in their favor for a vote only a few minutes before.

It got the task force massive amounts of national press, despite a lack of media at the last meeting. The final report is sure to be labeled as controversial, and both sides are lining up to argue it’s validity, despite the fact that the majority ruled.

I suspect it will get a smidgen of attention during this next legislative session. *Just a little.*

3. Mt. Blogmore

Are the newsmakers now making the news? In 2005, inside the political blogosphere, The Rapid City Journal’s Mt. Blogmore became the website to watch for up to the minute political news and the hot button topics. Expertly written by Bill Harlan, Denise Ross, and Kevin Woster it is THE place for non-partisan political discussion that’s only lightly moderated.

The Argus tried blogging, and it bombed because of their adversarial position with bloggers in 2004. That, and all it did was barf up things they already printed. Mt. Blogmore also got started in late 2004, and in 2005 they not only succeeded, they dominated.

Establishment reporters give it the credentials that many of us bloggers envy, and they’re not afraid to try new technologies like audio blogging, or to discuss controversial topics. And it’s not that the topics themselves (aside from Denise’s hour-long “talking smack” audioblogs) are long and in-depth. It’s the comments. It’s freewheeling and often adversarial comments areas far outshadow anything else like it in the state.

Todd Epp at S.D. Watch, Steve Sibson of Sibby on-line, Charlie House of House, and a several other bloggers (including myself) are known to comment on this board. 2005 was clearly the year of the Mount.

What else can I ask? Maybe 2006 can be the year of the War College. C’mon guys, maybe?

2. Mainstream Coalition Forms

If there’s one topic I examined more than any other, it’s probably the Mainstream coalition. Originally formed by a group of Republican Legislators and funded by Republican Legislator Stan Adelstein, the leadership of the organization has now been turned over to a board of citizens, led by former Democratic Senator Mel Olson, and Director (and current Republican Senator) Ed Olson.

They say they’re apolitical, and they are led by a former Democrat State Senator who many consider conservative, and a current Republican State Senator whom many consider socially moderate. They call themselves for the separation of church and state, but count 2 members of the clergy on their board. And they’ve modeled themselves after a similar group in Kansas that has used tactics some view as controversial.

And we’re still talking about them.

While Democrats have welcomed them with open arms, it’s an understatement to say they’ve shaken up the Republican Party. Some Republicans have openly slapped at them as being Democrat wannabees. Still others smile in public and grumble in private. But make no mistake. They’ve taken people aback with their brazen position that they’re going to march to the beat of their own drummer regardless of party.

It remains to be seen how aggressive they will be in the 2006 legislative and election cycles. Will it burn more brightly in 2006, or will it fade out by election day?

We shall see.

1. Ellsworth AFB Saved

Well, duh. Of course it’s the biggest political story. Senator Thune, Governor Rounds, Senator Johnson, Congresswoman Herseth. They all set politics aside for a time and shared the effort in saving one of South Dakota’s biggest employers. And now that we’re coming into an election season, they get to share the credit.

It’s still fresh in many people’s minds, and it’s going to be a really tough thing for people to forget when you’re asking them to consider voting for another candidate at the ballot box this next November – ESPECIALLY when it’s time for West River to vote.

It’s one reason why there aren’t currently any challengers to Rounds or Herseth that the political pundits term as serious contenders. What’s a challenger to Herseth going to say? “You stink!” to which she’d reply, “Maybe, but I helped to save Ellsworth.” Kind of blunts that argument.

And there’s that whole working together thing. South Dakotans like to see it on occasion, especially on the rare occasion when the planets align properly, and it works.
So there it is. What the SDWC views as the top 10 political stories for 2005. There are several, such as education funding, I left out because I think they’re going to be more 2006 stories, but I tried to hit the high points.

Any you disagree with? Want to change or add? Drop a comment and let me know.

What’s coming up next? I don’t know. But the top 10 political personalities of 2005 is at the tip of my little typing fingers waiting to come out.

Stay tuned.


Anonymous said…
Very good, but too much credit for Ellsworth to the lighweights and too little for Senator John Thune. He is the real McCoy. The others are just hangers-on. Herseth and Rounds better not hang their hat on taking credit for that one. It would look like too much bragging for someone who did a little.

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