Rounds files nominating petitions

Gov. Mike Rounds became the fourth U.S. Senate candidate to file his nominating petitions this cycle today, according to his campaign.

Rounds filed more than 7,000 signatures, well over the 1,955 signatures a Republican needs to make the ballot for a statewide office.

Republican state Rep. Stace Nelson was the first Senate candidate to fill petitions, followed by Republican state Sen. Larry Rhoden. Both of their petitions have been approved by Secretary of State Jason Gant, as have those of independent candidate Larry Pressler.

Democrat Rick Weiland and Republicans Annette Bosworth and Jason Ravnsborg, among announced candidates, have yet to file their petitions.

Weiland needs 1,221 valid signatures to make the ballot.

Typically candidates turn in a number of extra signatures as a buffer against some signatures being ruled invalid.

Under the radar, Rep. Kristi Noem has also filed her petitions for reelection. Gant approved them on Friday.

Noem’s Democratic opponent, Corinna Robinson, will be filing her petitions today.

Candidates have until next Tuesday, March 25, to turn in their petitions.

The satirical newspaper The Onion featured South Dakota Rep. Kristi Noem in the center of a photoshopped image for its story today, “Live Cow Lowered Onto Floor Of U.S. House Of Representatives.”

The satirical newspaper The Onion featured South Dakota Rep. Kristi Noem in the center of a photoshopped image for its story today, “Live Cow Lowered Onto Floor Of U.S. House Of Representatives.”

State of the Union reactions

Here’s the reactions that have flowed into my inbox last night and this morning to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address last night:

Sen. Tim Johnson:

I believe the tone of the President’s speech, one of optimism for the nation as the economy continues to recover, is the right one.  He laid out solid proposals for helping the middle class including more investment in high-tech manufacturing, universal early childhood education, and job training that the country needs.  I hope Congress will work to pass many of these proposals to provide more economic opportunity for South Dakotans and the American people.

Rep. Kristi Noem:

I have always believed the responsibility of government is to empower its people to get ahead regardless of where they started.  That’s what we do in South Dakota.  We do it by keeping taxes low, our fiscal house in order and regulations at a minimum.   The strategy has worked, so I was disappointed that I didn’t hear similar ideas in the President’s speech this evening.

The House has already passed dozens of bills that encourage job creation and help make sure the American workforce is equipped with the training and skills needed to fill higher-paying positions.  They are smart, field-tested policies that lead to strong economies and higher salaries.  They should be taken into consideration and included in the debate as we work together to move the country forward.  I urge the President to put the pen aside, take a look at the proven policies the House has already drafted and work with us.  That’s a better starting point than an executive order.

 Sen. John Thune:

The president has called for a year of action, yet tonight he failed to mention common-sense, bipartisan measures thatwould actually make it easier and less expensive to create jobs, like approving the Keystone pipeline, repealing the job-killing ObamaCare medical device tax, or stopping the EPA’s backdoor energy tax. The only way to give Americans real opportunity and prosperity is to give them access to jobs. A year of action should be about creating jobs to lead to a better, brighter future for middle-class families.

I’ll post more if I get them.

Lawsuit against Noem dismissed

A lawsuit accusing Rep. Kristi Noem of breaking her campaign promises was dismissed last week.

Charles Haan, of Watertown, had sued Noem for not following through on her campaign promises to defund Planned Parenthood and “stop the implementation” of the Affordable Care Act, and violating her oath of office by voting to raise the debt ceiling.

Tony Mangan of KCCR reports that Judge Charles Kornmann said Noem’s votes are “purely legislative activity” that is immune from civil lawsuits, and that Noem as a member of Congress is also protected by the government’s “sovereign immunity” from lawsuits.

Haan, according to the judge, had failed to respond substantively to any of Noem’s arguments about why the case should be dismissed. Kornmann wrote that Haan’s case lacked merit and that the court did not have the authority to remove a member of Congress from office.

Kornmann also ordered court costs, such as the filing fees but not the legal fees, be paid by Haan.

The Absaroka difference

News that some rural Colorado counties are trying to secede from their increasingly urban and liberal state has revived talk of a historical curiosity: the attempt, during the Great Depression, to create a new state out of parts of northern Wyoming, western South Dakota and southern Montana.

The name of the state, which would have been America’s 49th, was proposed to be Absaroka.

Here’s what it would have looked like:

I’m not concerned here with discussing the wisdom of secession, or the practicalities thereof. What got me curious today was a simpler question: what would South Dakota’s politics be like if these counties, some of the most reliably Republican in the state, weren’t part of the South Dakota electorate?

An Absaroka-less South Dakota would be more Democratic than the current Mount Rushmore state — but only to a degree.

One quick shorthand method for calculating the partisan lean of a state is the Cook Partisan Voting Index. Basically it looks at shares of the presidential vote to calculate how much more Democratic or Republican a state is than the country as a whole.

Real South Dakota (RSD), for example, has a PVI of “R+10,” meaning it’s 10 percentage points more Republican than the country. California is D+9, meaning it’s 9 percentage points more Democratic than the country. Virginia is dead even, meaning its partisan lean exactly matches the country.

Fortunately, Absaroka would have split along county boundaries, so it’s relatively easy to calculate the PVI for Alternate South Dakota. In the 2008 presidential election, John McCain would have won 52.4 percent of the two-party vote (he actually got 54.2 percent of the two-party vote). In the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney would have won 57.5 percent (he really won 59.2 percent). Comparing that average, 55 percent Republican, to the national Republican share of 47.1 percent, Alternate South Dakota ends up as an R+7.8.

In real life, South Dakota is R+10, so losing Absaroka would have made South Dakota about two percentage points more Democratic.

That’s not a ton. South Carolina is an R+8 state. Montana is an R+7. Both are solidly red states at the presidential level. (Georgia, at R+6, is the bluest state right now with two Republican senators.)

But small shifts can make the difference in close elections.

For example, in 2010, Kristi Noem beat Stephanie Herseth Sandlin by around 7,000 votes. But in Alternate South Dakota, without Noem’s Black Hills electoral strongholds, Herseth Sandlin narrowly wins re-election by 6,700 votes — a near inversion of the actual result. (Another potential boost for Herseth Sandlin: if Custer County were in a different state, independent B. Thomas Marking wouldn’t have been a candidate in the race.)

And Tom Daschle would have broken the Curse of Karl Mundt in 2004 if western South Dakota had gone to play in Absaroka. In real life, Thune beat Daschle by 4,500 votes. Alternate South Dakota would have voted for Daschle by a 9,300-vote margin.

(Big caveat: this is a scenario in which one assumes all other factors remain the same. In fact, a South Dakota without its western portion would have different politics. Different issues would be dominant. Candidates might take different positions, responding to different pressures from their constituents. Campaigning patterns would unfold differently.)

This only goes so far. For example, Scott Heidepriem can draw little consolation from this counter-factual. In real life Dennis Daugaard won by 23 points and 73,000 votes. Alternate South Dakota would have voted for Daugaard by the only slightly less overwhelming total of 21 points and 52,000 votes.

What to take away? Geography matters. South Dakota is Republican through and through, and would remain so even if the most Republican part of the state were sliced off. But the slight shift toward the political center could have had big impacts in the state’s recent close elections.

Miscellaneous things I am pondering: 

  • What would the smaller South Dakota’s nickname be? Still the Sunshine State? Or something different?
  • If the tourist hordes heading to the Black Hills were heading to another state, do you think Alternate South Dakota would have put tollbooths up on I-90?
  • Would Pierre still be the capital? The physical investment in government infrastructure would be expensive to duplicate. But while Pierre is geographically central to South Dakota and has major population centers to its west in the Black Hills, in Alternate South Dakota there’s very little to the west of Pierre.
  • UPDATE: In January, a Wyoming sportswriter took a look at a similar question: what would the high school sports conferences look like in Absaroka? If you like sports, give it a read.

Thune, Johnson vote yes to shutdown deal; Noem a no

South Dakota’s two senators both voted for the deal to end the government shutdown and lift the debt ceiling, while Rep. Kristi Noem voted no.

Here are their statements:

Sen. Tim Johnson, yes:

“I am glad the Senate leadership came together in a bipartisan fashion to find a way out of the mess we are in now, open up the government, and pay the nation’s bills.  This compromise will help keep our economic recovery on track by sending a strong signal to consumers and businesses.

By holding firm in opposition to the House attempts at extortion, I hope that President Obama has permanently closed the door to the possibility of government default by either Republicans or Democrats. 

A key piece of the agreement is jump starting a constructive budget process to find real solutions to address our deficit in a setting free of hostage taking.”

Sen. John Thune, yes:

“We fought hard to protect as many Americans as possible from ObamaCare, and that fight doesn’t end today, but we’re now 16 days into a shutdown and risking a possible default, and Congress needs to end this impasse. This isn’t a perfect proposal, it’s far from it, but it will ensure that we don’t blow past the default date that’s been set by the Treasury, and it will force Congress to have a broad debate about Washington’s dangerous levels of spending and debt, which are hamstringing the economy and mortgaging our children’s futures. This debate should be an opportunity to focus on fiscal policies that will actually grow the economy and strengthen the middle class.”

Rep. Kristi Noem, no:

“This agreement will reopen the government and stop any talk of a default, which are both good things.  However, I could not support this bill because it didn’t do anything to address our continued deficit spending, which has resulted in a $17 trillion debt.”

Democratic Army vet planning Noem 2014 challenge

My colleague Jonathan Ellis reports that Corinna Robinson, a 25-year army veteran, plans to run for U.S. House next year against Republican incumbent Rep. Kristi Noem.

Robinson, 48, is a political newcomer who has also worked in national security roles at the Pentagon.

As far as potential Democratic recruits go for the U.S. House, Robinson seems like a pretty good catch. That’s not to say she’ll win (plenty of candidates who are impressive on paper end up flopping) but she has a pretty impressive resume.

What are your thoughts?

Noem raised $300K this quarter

Rep. Kristi Noem raised “more than $300,000” in the third quarter of the year, her campaign said Tuesday afternoon.

That’s a small step back from the second quarter, when Noem took in $381,000. But it’s better than she raised in the first part of the year, or the end of last year.

The third quarter was the first full quarter since Noem’s announcement that she wouldn’t run for the U.S. Senate.

She now has almost $700,000 in her campaign war chest.

No Democrats have yet declared their intention to challenge Noem.

Noem expected to help craft farm bill compromise

By Christopher Doering, Gannett Washington Bureau

Republican Rep. Kristi Noem of South Dakota is expected to be among lawmakers chosen to work on a House-Senate conference committee crafting a farm bill.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, will name the House conferees Friday. The Senate conferees already have been announced. The joint panel is tasked with merging the House and Senate farm bills into a final version to be voted on by both chambers.

Noem, the state’s lone representative in the House, was hesitant to acknowledge reports of her involvement.

“I think some of those lists are fairly accurate, but we’ll have to see what the official list is tomorrow when we hear from the speaker’s office,” Noem told reporters. “I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize my potential involvement in being part of the ongoing discussions.”

South Dakota has not had a House member be on the farm bill conference committee since then-Rep. Tim Johnson in 1996.  South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle, who was majority leader, was on the panel in 2002.

“Rep. Noem has worked very hard to get the farm bill to this point and has made it clear to the speaker that she wants to stay closely involved going forward,” said Jordan Stoick, Noem’s chief of staff. “I think South Dakota’s agriculture producers will feel they are well represented as this process continues.”

Noem, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, said lawmakers in Washington need to keep pushing for a five-year farm bill. The need was heightened following the storm that dumped nearly four feet of snow in some parts of western South Dakota earlier this month. The record-breaking storm left thousands without power, and ranchers are now bracing for a major loss in their cattle herds.

The USDA was given authority to operate livestock disaster assistance programs in the 2008 farm bill, but the authority expired on Sept. 30, 2011. A new farm bill would have to be signed into law to restore that assistance.

The most recent farm bill expired on Sept. 30, ending several food aid, rural development and agricultural programs, among others. Popular programs for food stamps, subsidy payments and crop insurance remain in place.

The more pressing deadline comes on Jan. 1 when a 1949 farm law requires that subsidy prices begin to increase, starting with dairy payments. That could double the price consumers pay for milk to $7 a gallon. Wheat and other commodities would be affected later in 2014.

The biggest divide between the House and Senate is on funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the food stamp program. In June, the Democrat-controlled Senate approved a reduction of $4.5 billion over a decade, while the Republican-led House recently passed a reduction of $40 billion.

Noem: Boehner will appoint farm bill conference committee

Even as Congress is deadlocked over the government shutdown and the debt ceiling, it may be moving forward on a long-delayed piece of policy: a farm bill.

Rep. Kristi Noem announced Tuesday afternoon that House Speaker John Boehner gave her personal assurances he’d appoint a conference committee next week to negotiate a final farm bill with the Senate.

The Senate passed its farm bill in June. A few weeks later, the House of Representatives rejected a full farm bill. GOP leaders then split the farm bill in two, passing a farm-only portion in July and a nutrition bill in September that contained steep cuts to the food stamp program.

Noem opposed splitting the bill in two, but has said she expects the conference committee to negotiate a compromise farm bill between the two chambers’ positions.

The big question was whether, and when, such a conference committee would be appointed.

Now Noem says that’ll be soon. A statement from the congresswoman:

I spoke this morning at our weekly Republican meeting and described to my colleagues the devastation in western South Dakota that has resulted from the weekend storm. The lack of a comprehensive Farm Bill leaves all of our producers without the certainty they need.  This is especially true for our livestock producers who are currently without the protection of a livestock disaster program. After further conversations with the Speaker today, I appreciate him confirming that he plans to move forward and appoint conferees within the next week.  We need to move quickly to get a five-year Farm Bill completed.

The announcement comes just a few hours after Sen. John Thune, in a somewhat unusual move, publicly called on his fellow Republican leader, House Speaker John Boehner, to appoint a farm bill conference committee

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