The South Dakota War College's top 10 political personalities of 2006!

Just like the top ten political stories, I've given it some thought, and quickly, before I change my mind, here's who I've chosen as my top ten political personalities for the year, along with a few honorable mentions.

Saddle up, read them, and let me know if you disagree.

10. Democratic Lt. Governor candidate Eric Abrahamson
Who would have ever thought the State Library Board would be a launching pad for Statewide political office? As the Democrat’s Lt. Governor Candidate, Eric came across as introspective and thoughtful. After he got his feet under him, it seemed like Democrats might have preferred him as the gubernatorial candidate.

9. State Senator Bill Napoli - Never say "die." Or "virgin raped and sodomized in the worst possible way."

Don't forget that in addition to his verbal faux pas with a national reporter, and having a target drawn on his head by Stan Adelstein, who spent plenty of money on his general election opponent, Bill also authored and ran the STOP Property tax measure which attempted to eliminate the need for county equalization offices.

At the very least, Bill had people talking about HB 1215 exceptions, as well as property tax relief. And despite being torn in two or three ways, he still won his senate race with authority.

8. Senate President Pro Tempore Lee Schoenbeck
Lee had lots of face time during session, and at the pinnacle of his power walked away to spend more time with his family. But he didn’t walk that far.

Lee was behind the scenes helping Republican candidates running for the legislature. And just when he thought he might get to rest, that Sutton thing came back up thrusting him back into the public eye.

There was lots of initial chatter in the beginning that his ultimatum of “face a special session to have charges heard or resign” to Dan Sutton was political in nature, despite the fact that the Democratic Minority leader didn’t disagree.

But in retrospect, that chatter of “it’s politics” has now died down, and everyone’s approaching the session with a feeling of dread, and there's much less talk of it being purely a political matter. Very possibly, everyone will have to admit that this likely 2010 gubernatorial candidate was right

7. School and Public Lands Commissioner-elect Jarrod Johnson
The second hardest working man in politics this year was Bryce Healy. Unfortunately, he was faced off against #1 – the man in the cowboy hat, Jarrod Johnson. You couldn’t drive a mile down the road without seeing one of his green on white 4x8 signs. They were everywhere.

After a couple of primary election losses at the legislative level, Jarrod is now the man, and has done what many legislative candidates have never been able to do – he came out of the blue with little money and no name ID to win a statewide race.

6. Campaign for Healthy Families spokesperson Jan Nicolay
Jan Nicolay had seemingly retired from active politics until HB 1215 reared it’s head across South Dakota. While Planned Parenthood director Kate Looby faded into the background, Long-time Republican Legislator Nicolay moved forward as the public face at the helm of the Campaign for Healthy Families.

And as the public figurehead, Jan was never one to disappoint for a public comment or quote. Does this mean a possible future return engagement for the former head of the appropriations committee? Probably not. But I think this appearance means that Jan isn’t remotely ready to fade in to the sunset just yet.

5. Yes on 6's Leslee Unruh
The public face of the pro-life side of the HB 1215 battle, Leslee has long been a fixture at the right end of the Republican spectrum. Often sought out by the media because she doesn’t compromise on her politics or her commentary, most people in KELO-land or the Argus Leader’s reading area could pick her out of a lineup immediately.

But in this instance, in addition to being the chief media contact – Leslee was the field general for the Yes on 6 movement. This massive and well organized grassroots effort was the envy of any voter ID and GOTV operation in South Dakota this year.

With it’s committed troops ready to wage pamphleteering on the front doors of South Dakota, the movement hasn’t really broken up, giving this field general considerable sway. And that means you could see a return engagement of the abortion issue at a ballot box near you.

4. Governor M. Michael Rounds
Some would argue he was coated with teflon this election. Others would argue he was covered in gold.

Either way, not even signing the relatively controversial abortion measure HB 1215 could tarnish him for long. No matter how much mud was thrown at the Governor, nothing stuck. Nothing at all. One day it was the Argus. The next it was his Gubernatorial opponent Jack Billion. And nada. Zip.

When he walked away with the election in November, nobody was surprised, and it seemed least of all Jack Billion.

3. Former Republican State Senator Stan Adelstein
What was I saying about Stan’s qualities in a prior post? As far as how he himself was a huge story this year? Let me count the ways:
  • A) His campaign money was political poison in June.
  • B) He was noteworthy for his defeat in the primary and subsequent sour grapes against his opponent.
  • C) He shamelessly self-promoted himself as a running mate for Billion.
  • D) He was Planned Parenthood’s Republican poster-legislator.
  • E) He continued backing the mission of the Mainstream Coalition, and
  • F) He shocked his party with Bill Napoli calling for his resignation because of his treason against the GOP (accompanied by tens of thousands funneled into Democratic races).
No other elected official could morph himself into the subject of the day like Stan. And he got huge coverage for it.

I get down on him because he hasn’t done anything for unity in the GOP. But even I would admit he knows how to get media and to stay in the public eye.

One more thing- we already know he’ll be back.

2. Democratic State Senator Dan Sutton
If the whole process had started earlier, I’d put him at #1. But since October, the allegations of him sexually groping a high school boy serving as a legislative page has been THE political topic on the tips of everyone’s tongue.

Formerly, he was viewed as just another up and comer in the SDDP. But after the lurid scandal laced accusations went public, people stopped talking about how high he could rise in the political process and started talking about “did he” or “didn’t he?”

Now, he faces a hearing of historic proportions. And his name will likely be connected with scandal and controversy over personal conduct among South Dakota state legislators forevermore.

1. Republican State Representative Roger Hunt
Prime sponsor of HB 1215. Prime fundraiser for yes on 6, and taking considerable heat for exploiting a legal loophole to transfer $750,000 that may or not be so legal, depending on your point of view.

He was very public and visible on this year’s #1 issue. In fact, if not for Roger, abortion would not have been our #1 issue. It drove a vast majority of this year’s South Dakota culture wars, and he is the man who made it happen.

He may not have won, but how often in South Dakota do you introduce a legislative measure with national implications?

Honorable Mentions

Senator Brock Greenfield - Not likely to get a "friend of public television" mug this year, Brock's measure to trim their surplus was a major volley in the conservative/liberal culture war among the GOP this year. And he's still standing.

Bruce Whalen - He didn't view himself as the sacrificial lamb against Herseth, and went against her with gusto, regardless of how steep the hill was that he had to climb. Learning that Wikipedia was only what people wanted it to be didn't do him any favors.

Isaac Latterell - Seemingly just a kid, his youthful exterior belied a very savvy and cagey political campaigner who knocked off a long-time incumbent Republican Senator all by his lonesome. And he only fell short in the general by just a few votes. Just like Arnold Schwartzenegger, watch for him to "be back."

Elli Schwiesow - Another giant killer who knocked off the biggest spender in State legislative history, Elli found herself subject to vilification in the media, and the vengeful spending of her primary opponent. And the best part? At the celebration party of her general election opponent, she walked up and shook his hand, congratulating him in front of God and everyone.

Sometimes winning isn't everything, but losing with honor and dignity is.

Matt McCaulley - Just how many ballot issues was Matt involved in this year? This former legislator was a busy guy behind the scenes working with Yes on 6 as well as another measure or two.

Bill Stegmeier - At the beginning of the year, he thumbed his nose at the legislature by refusing to answer questions about his ballot measure authored out of California. By the end of it, he was questioning how his ballot measure could have lost by the largest margin in South Dakota history. And he's already talking about bringing it back one more time. Ugh.

That's it. There's my picks.


Anonymous said…
Napoli is a whack job! You should bash Stan more.
Anonymous said…
What about Bob Sahr? He was all over in the press before those supposed "rumors" scared him out of political office. Many thought he'd been campaigning for re-election and eventual governorship before he dropped off the face of the political world.
Anonymous said…
Yes, Sahr must make mention somewhere. He was just hired by East River Electric as a legal counsel. Also Steve Kolbeck deserves mention for his somewhat surprising win as a state-wide Dem.
Anonymous said…
hunt is in the house, not the senate
Anonymous said…
Geez pp, once again ... the possessive form of "its" does NOT contain an apostrophe.

In No. 6 - "until HB 1215 reared it’s head ..."

And in No. 5 "With it’s committed troops ..."

In both examples, there should be NO apostrophe. If you don't believe me, ask a 5th grade English teacher.

And there's no "t" in Schwarzenegger.
PP said…
11:07 - doh! on my part. You're 100% correct.

And 11:12 - I'll go back and correct those when I get around to it.

Been one of those days.
Anonymous said…
How did Schoenbeck's involvement with those candidate's work out??? Don't forget his invovlement in the Sahr and Sutton matters as he attempts to solidify his stranglehold on the 2010 gov. nomination and the high moral ground...have you officially signed on yet PP? I'm sure you've been asked like nearly everyone else.
Anonymous said…
Also, Bruce Whalen doesn't even deserve a nod as honorable mention. 31%? Randy Frederick sure stirred debate in the party, why don't you switch the two of them out.
Anonymous said…
Jarrod Johnson? Are you kidding? To his credit, he wanted to run for the job nobody else wants. But ultimately the GOP bought the seat... that's what $100k will do in a down-ballot statewide race. Please PP, don't follow Joel into the Jarrd J. fan club. Should be fun to watch the kids he's hired though.
Anonymous said…
I suspect the reason you don't see Bob Sahr listed is because he decided to quietly step aside rather than fighting the rumors and media. From what I've heard, Bob is not guilty of anything other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I know some will say, "If he's innocent, why drop out". I guess the easy answer is that Dan Sutton says he's innocent - has that made the situation go away?

I will agree 10:29 and 11:00 that Bob is one of the top political personalities of 2006 - not because of the rumors, but because he chose to rise above the pettyness and nastiness that often goes along with politics.
Anonymous said…
I guess if you’re a democrat you have to grope someone to get mentioned on this list.
Anonymous said…
Elli a giant killer?

Come on PP, She has run for the legislature twice, and still isn't in.

To top that off, she lost to a nut job named Tom Katus.

The only thing Elli has proven to be is un-electable.
Anonymous said…
Stan should be #1 - based on the factors you listed.

Lee Schoenbeck should be lower - maybe not on the list at all. He is a know-it-all busybody and all his candidates LOST. Nobody really thinks that he has a prayer of being governor.

I agree Bob Sahr shoudl be around on there.
Anonymous said…
If it was not for one huge (questionable) donation, Leslee Unruh would have lost by 15 to 20 percent instead of 12. "Vote Yes" had many troops but a poor organization and very little political aptitude. I would not recommend duplicating it.
Tomar Highlands said…
Jarrod definatley deserves to be on there! Bryce Healy also received alot of money (T.D. hint hint), just not from the SDDP. The money issue is not the biggest reason Jarrod won. He went to every event in South Dakota he possibly could. Bryce had some signage at a couple parades, but Jarrod was there shaking hands from start to finish. Parades, Fairs, Arts Festivals, you name it, Jarrod was there. Bryce did spend a record for statewide race on media (correct me if I'm wrong) and that didn't seem to convince the majority. Jarrod spent his on 4x8 signs and the gas to put them up!
Anonymous said…
I will take a stab at who TD is. I did receive a nice personal contribution from Senator Daschle and very appreciative for it. The amount was $250.00. I am not sure if that is alot. Can not dispute any other claims.

Bryce Healy
Anonymous said…
hope matt macaulley had more success on the other stuff he worked on than he did on yes on 6.
Anonymous said…
PP you missed one big time.

Scott Heidepriem.

Socially moderate, progressive and fiscally conservative.

The new recipe for Dem success.

He'll be a US Senate or Gov candidate in '08.

The Rising has begun for Democrats in South Dakota and, just in time.
Anonymous said…
the amusing part of this list is that it includes several of the most notable "Koolaid Kids" (you know, lets go to Guyana with Jim Jones) on BOTH sides of the spectrum. the far lefties, the righteous right, the paranoid ex-cons supporting Jail For Judges, you name it.

Extremism is alive and well.
Tomar Highlands said…
Scott Heidepriem definatley was missed here! All of his campaign literature made me think is was still a republican. He took on a tough opponent and when in decisive fashion. He also got appointed to a leadership role in the senate right away.

t.d. not reference to tom daschle
Tomar Highlands said…
Forgot to mention Kolbeck as well. He worked his tail off and deserved to win. He'll do a good job.

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