Cory Heidelberger sees the South Dakota Democratic Party lining up behind Susan Wismer’s gubernatorial campaign over rival Joe Lowe’s.
The party insists it’s neutral and welcomes the competition.
A few notes for people trying to make up their minds.
First, here’s how the party responded to each candidate’s entrance to the race.
Executive director Zach Crago on Lowe:
Democrats are very excited to have a good, well-qualified candidate to run against Gov. Dennis Daugaard.
(When asked whether more candidates might enter the race:)
I think it’s possible. I don’t speak for all the Democrats who have expressed an interest in the race. I’m sure as more and more people learn about Gov. Daugaard’s agenda and his history of slashing education funding and pushing corporate welfare projects, more and more Democrats are going to be interested in running for that race as well
Party chair Deb Knecht on Wismer:
A small town businesswoman and senior appropriations member, Rep. Susan Wismer understands that the governor’s budget is a moral document with real impacts across the state. She’ll see to it that our state’s policies reflect our values of opportunity, equality, and community.
We look forward to a spirited primary between Joe Lowe and Rep. Susan Wismer with all attention on the future of our state.
Now, to a certain extent, that’s apples and oranges. It’s a statement in an interview vs. a prepared statement. It’s not surprising that a prepared statement would be more effusive than an off-the-cuff remark. But that in and of itself says something — the SDDP released a statement on Wismer’s entry into the race but not, that I can find, on Lowe’s.
The tone also seems pretty clearly more positive for Wismer, praising her in specific terms vs. generalities.
Parsing statements aside, Wismer got explicit support from just about the entire Democratic legislative caucus. House Democratic Leader Bernie Hunhoff said he and many other lawmakers backed Wismer because they’ve known and respected her for years.
"Susan, she’s earned our support," Hunhoff said. "She’s earned it through her years of just tirelessly fighting the fight for South Dakotans… She’s just an exceptional candidate. Certainly no disrespect to Mr. Lowe, but just a profound respect for Susan."
Of course, one key difference between Wismer and Lowe is that Wismer is a longtime Democrat who has worked with party leaders both in and out of the Legislature. Lowe is a former Republican who registered as a Democrat only recently, though no one of either party has anything bad to say about Lowe’s work as state wildfire chief.
This next bit is an unsubstantiated comparison, but potentially interesting. In 2010, after Rep. Kristi Noem won the Republican primary over then-Secretary of State Chris Nelson, Nelson talked to me about one reason (aside from his awful fundraising) why voters rejected him in favor of Noem:
“The last three weeks of the campaign, I just heard repeatedly from Republicans that they really felt we needed a female candidate,” said Nelson.
And some experts have argued Republicans were right to feel that way, that Noem, as a woman, was a stronger candidate against Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin.
Do Democrats feel the same way? Or are they just more comfortable with and excited about Wismer, someone with long experience working with the party and its leaders?