District 9 is notable for two things: internment camps for shellfish-like aliens, and one of the more interesting primary races for South Dakota Legislature this year.
Incumbent Sen. Deb Peters, R-Hartford, is facing off a spirited challenge from Rep. Lora Hubbel, R-Sioux Falls, who decided to challenge Peters after being redistricted out of her old district.
The two candidates have thrown harsh words at each other, but most of the dirtiest work has been done by third-party groups, who can fill voters’ mailboxes with negative pamphlets without putting the name of the candidate they support on them (thus insulating those favored candidates from any backlash from voters upset at negative attacks).
(Note: this article has been updated to reflect new information, near the bottom.)
Let’s take a look at some of these attacks, and who’s making them.
Hubbel has slammed Peters for being “pro-abortion” and “anti-gun,” and anti-Peters postcards have taken a similar tack. Here’s five cards (some front-and-back of the same postcard) from the same group:
These are stamped, “Paid for by Conservatives United.”
Who is Conservatives United? They’ve got a page on Secretary of State Jason Gant’s new campaign finance system, though there’s not too much there.
Conservatives United is run by a Brian Wellhouse of Watertown. The political action committee hasn’t filed a pre-primary report (or it hasn’t been uploaded yet), so we can’t yet see who’s donated to Conservatives United or what they’ve spent their money on. Its mission statement is to “support conservatives in GOP primary elections.”
Another, slightly more transparent group has also sent out anti-Peters postcards:
Those postcards have a little more sophisticated design, but generally hit the same theme: Peters is an enemy on key conservative issues. This group, the Conservative Values PAC, focuses on health care rather than the abortion- and gun-focused cards Conservatives United sent out.
So who is Conservative Values PAC? It’s on the Secretary of State’s website, and it has a more notable name running it: former lawmaker and gubernatorial candidate Gordon Howie.
The stated mission of the PAC is “to support limited, responsible government and the principles of conservative fiscal & family values.”
The PAC lists a single $100 donation, below the threshold at which donors have to be disclosed, and a $100 donation to the Hubbel campaign. Presumably, the expenses for this postcard (and the money to raise it) happened after the reporting deadline for pre-primary campaign finance reports.
But Peters has an “ally” against this onslaught of postcards:
These postcards are paid for by a political action committee called “PAC’n Heat,” which evidences a sense of humor with its punny name.
So who is PAC’n Heat? To the Gant-machine!
The chair of the PAC is a certain Deborah Peters of Hartford, and lists its mission as “to elected responsible candidates.”
If you click through to PAC’n Heat’s pre-primary report, you can see it reported one donation — $1,000 from the Salt Lake City company Insure-Rite.
It also lists three other notable contributions: $421.41 from “Deb Peters for Senate repayment of cost of postcard,” $424.40 from “Steve Hickey for House repayment of cost of postcard,” and a $424.40 loan from “Bob Deelstra for House.”
Peters, obviously, is the incumbent senator in District 9 and the prime beneficiary of these attacks. Hickey and Deelstra are the incumbent House members from District 9.
Neither man is facing a primary challenge, so neither man has to file a pre-primary report with Gant’s office.
EDIT: Hickey writes to tell me that he and Deelstra didn’t have anything to do with the attack on Hubbel. The contributions from him and Deelstra reflect an earlier postcard the three incumbents sent out introducing them to voters, he said. He sent over an image of the mailer he said he and Deelstra helped pay for:
So while Hickey and Deelstra are definitely allied with and supporting Peters, this would suggest they weren’t involved in the attacks her PAC made on Hubbel.
I don’t know what the connection is between any of those people and Insure-Rite. Peters is a CPA, Hickey a pastor and Deelstra a “sales professional” for Northview Campers.
So that’s the postcard situation in District 9: Peters, under attack by third-party groups allied with her opponent Hubbel, forms her own group to punch back —
with the support from other, current members of the Legislature.
What do you think about the postcard wars in District 9? Is one side being nastier or less truthful than the other?