Home > SD 2014 Ballot, South Dakota > OLC candidate forum part 3: the US Senate and US House candidates

OLC candidate forum part 3: the US Senate and US House candidates

May 19, 2014


US Senate and US House candidates at OLC forum

US Senate and US House candidates at OLC forum

Friday, May 16, the the Oglala Lakota College (OLC) hosted a South Dakota Congressional, Senatorial and Gubernatorial Candidates forum. I’ve already posted a small recap of the event and a look at the SD gubernatorial candidates portion of the forum. Now it is time to look at the US Senate and US House portion of the forum. 

On the US Senate side there were only two of the eight total candidates in attendance. The two Senate candidates that came to the event were Stace Nelson (R) and Jason Ravnsborg (R). The candidates that declined to attend were Larry Rhoden (R), Rick Weiland (D), Larry Pressler (I), and Gordon Howie (I). I’m not surprised Howie declined, he isn’t really in the race unless Nelson loses the primary (an approach I don’t like). I was somewhat surprised at Rhoden declining since he comes from the west side of the state. I was also surprised Weiland didn’t try attending; he has been doing a good job of reaching out to every portion of the state possible. I’m told Pressler did offer to engage the event in other means, but could not attend in person. There are two candidates missing that need to be called out. These two are Mike Rounds (R) and Clayton Walker (I). These two candidates didn’t even have the courtesy to decline attending. It is quite disrespectful to the whole election process to not even acknowledge when constituents are reaching out to them. You might also notice Annette Bosworth is missing from the list. Her name didn’t make the final printed document for the event, which I believe was a mistake. But since I don’t think she should legally (or morally) be on the ballot I will just say that maybe its better her name was overlooked…

With only two candidates in the race, the US House battle is much smaller. The only US House candidate to show up was Corinna Robinson (D). Kristi Noem (R) declined to attend. Since there were only two US Senate candidates and one US House candidate, the three candidates were put together into one forum. This actually worked out pretty good. It allowed more balance in the forum since there were perspectives from more than one party.

As with the gubernatorial post, I will write this post in ‘note dump’ fashion. I will highlight certain parts of each candidates answer to a question and add any thoughts I have from my perspective (I don’t pretend to be non-biased).

For anyone that wishes to listen to the senatorial and house candidates I’ve embedded the audio below. You can also download the MP3 file by clicking this link: US Congressional Candidates Forum. The file is 82 minutes long and has a download size of 75 MB.

Here are my notes/thoughts on the US Senate and US House candidates forum:

  • Opening Statements – Each candidate was allowed an opening statement. 
    • Jason Ravnsborg (R) – Ravnsborg came out mentioning meeting with the tribes already this year, including President Brewer. He mentioned more events like this has to happen, and said if elected he would actually travel the state to meet with every county. Ravnsborg says the US has a debt problem and part of the jobs problem could be relieved by cutting corporate tax rates. Then he mentioned the Penny Plan to reduce the federal defict and balance it in 6 years. To best sum Jason: he wants to focus on solutions and not problems.
    • Stace Nelson (R) – Nelson focused upon the fact he will represent all South Dakotan’s, regardless of what party they belong to. He highlighted his long military and NCIS career he spent as a public servant. Nelson did take a dig at Rounds for missing a lot of forums and/or debates such as the one at OLC. He mentioned Rhoden (who lives in that area) has also missed a good number of forums/debates. Nelson tried to make the case a true public servant will come to as many of these events as they can, because elected officials serve all constituents; and not just ones they agree with ideologically.
    • Corinna Robinson (D) – Robinson mentioned she has also been visiting with the tribes, and President Brewer. She also mentioned receiving an endorsement from the tribal nation in South Dakota. Robinson mentioned being deployed in Iraq where she was able to travel with congressional delegations ( she mentioned Senator McCain, Senator Obama). She told the story of how intrigued she was by what they did and decided she wanted to do that in the future. Later in her opening statement she mentioned she ‘needed’ to move back to SD so she could run for office. I have tried HARD to avoid calling Robinson a carpetbagger because I feel the term has been over-used and I wanted to give her a fair shot. But honestly, this is almost a textbook case of someone acting like a carpetbagger. Robinson did mention she will work hard to protect the sovereignty of the tribes.
    • My Thoughts – It is interesting to note that all three of the candidates that bothered showing up are veterans (Nelson, Robinson) or currently serving in the US Army Reserve (Ravnsborg).
  • Question about healthcare for Indian country. The moderator mentioned treaties between the tribes and the federal government that are not being held up due to lack of enough money to provide healthcare for the tribes.
    • Nelson – Nelson came out mentioning the 10% across-the-board cuts made in 2010 that were caused by excessive spending of former-Governor Mike Rounds. Stace said Rounds exploded government for things like crony-capitalism programs. Nelson also mentioned the millions lost by SD taxpayers in the EB-5 corruption. He then noted that things such as education and other services were cut, but not areas that could have been cut first. Nelson was basically saying that government spending has to be done, but it has to be done smartly so it doesn’t negatively impact people.
    • Ravsnborg – Ravnsborg mentions Coburns Wastebook and noted that DC doesn’t currently have any true priorities when cutting spending. Ravnsborg mentions the debt has doubled under the Obama administration. He also said the treaty obligations are important and something needs to be done to rectify problems that exist.
    • Robinson – Robinson mentioned three of poorest counties in the US are in SD. She also highlighted how the Indian Health Services (IHS) gets very little money compared to government programs of its type.
    • My Thoughts – I think all three had good input on the subject. I’ll maybe give Ravnsborg a little edge in answering this question because he directly acknowledged the treaty obligations and a failure to follow through with them.
  • Question about bringing sense to Congress. It was brought up the House is Republican controlled and won’t even let certain legislation (such as Senate passed Immigration bill) make it out onto the floor. This question was aimed at Robinson asa US House candidate.
    • Robinson – Robinson said there needs to be prioritizations, risk assessments, and then follow through with a decision. She said doing so might mean not getting re-elected, but it would be the right thing to do.
    • My Thoughts – I agree with moderator. Boehner in the House has not been doing the right thing. I would however add that Senator Reid has run the Democrat controlled Senate the exact same way.
  • Question about Senate going back to Republican control. The two Senate candidates were asked if it should scare people if the Senate goes back to Republican control; since there is at least some balance in DC with each party controlling one of the houses.
    • Ravnsborg – Ravnsborg mentions there needs to be a balancing act and that both chambers need to allow votes on more bills. Ravnsborg says DC pols need to start focusing on issues where there is some commonality. He would focus on finding solutions instead of trying to keep the other side from getting a victory. He also threw a dig at Rounds by saying we need to stop sending career politicians to DC.
    • Nelson – Nelson mentions working with everyone in the SD state legislature, including Democrats. He told the story of working with Democrats to fix Native ID problem’s a few years back. Nelson reiterated that he was “uninvited from caucus” because he wasn’t afraid to take on Republican leadership.
    • My Thoughts – I don’t think either one really answered the question. But they gave some good statements.
  • Question about human trafficking. The kidnapped girls in Nigeria was mentioned, and the human trafficking that occurs in the US (including SD).
    • Ravnsborg – Ravnsborg mentions Nigeria has a federalism crisis. This crisis is allowing AlQueda to fill the power vacuum. Jason spoke about the Nigeria situation with confidence (someone has been studying up on the issues). He also ties the Nigeria situation into oil money, and says that is why the US (and SD) needs to utilize more of its own oil.
    • Nelson – Nelson mentioned he worked this kind of case while working for NCIS. He said “we are not the police force for the world”. He says it is not cold and harsh to say we need to stay away from such situation, this is because as a country we put our young soldiers in harm’s way while we have domestic problems are not being attended to. Nelson also mentioned illegal immigration is allowing such exploitation to happen in the US (and SD).
    • Robinson – Robinson said as a Congresswoman she would want to be more involved domestically (echoing Stace), but also more internationally as well. She also said she almost has her doctorate in Homeland Security completed (wow, maybe that is why the libertarian portion of me is wary of her).
    • My Thoughts – Robinson sounds like she wants more interventionism domestically and internationally. This is an answer I have to give to Nelson. From my perspective the US needs to stop being so interventionist in the international scene.
  • Question about KXL. What is being sacrificed environmentally to get more domestic oil. Do the benefits outweigh the negatives?
    • Robinson – Robinson says she does not support the Trans-Canada Pipeline. She brings up there aren’t many benefits for SD. Robinson also mentions uranium mining that will permanently damage areas of the environment. I was also glad to hear her say we need to use caution with eminent domain.
    • Ravnsborg – Ravnsborg said we need an energy policy in the country. He mentioned that Nelson and Rhoden both voted for a bill in the state legislature that took authority away from the state and gave more authority to the EPA. Ravnsborg also mentions the security risks of sending weaponizable resources such as uranium to China. He also mentioned the war on coal that is causing energy rates to go up for people.
    • Nelson – Nelson also mentions the war on coal. He believes the Obama administration has over-regulated coal to where energy can no longer be afforded by the consumer. Then the coal the US is not allowed to use is sent to China; China then burns it less efficiently than the US does. Nelson does support clean energy, but affordability has to also be looked at. Nelson said we have to be “good stewards of the land”. He also is very concerned about eminent domain being used to implement a pipeline for a foreign company.
    • My Thoughts – I think all three candidates had good points on this issue. I definitely agree with Nelson and Ravnsborg that the war on coal has created more problems than it supposedly was intended to fix.
  • Question about balancing civil rights and government power. This is especially for Indian country,where there is a huge trust issue.
    • Ravnsborg – Ravnsborg said we need to start sending people to DC that actually care, instead of caring about being elected. He said there need to be term limits across the country so we can get more fresh blood. Ravnsborg again said more forums like this are needed, to get people involved. Now here is an interesting part from Ravnsborg: he wants voters on the reservation to switch their registration to Republican so they can choose between better candidates this fall and maximize their votes.
    • Nelson – Nelson said people of all political viewpoints say “government is too much”. Nelson mentioned the many freedoms that have been lost over time due to over-regulation. Nelson mentioned the government has routinely trampled civil rights, things the Bill of Rights was created to protect.
    • Robinson – Robinson mentions she was called “gunslinger” while working in the Pentagon. Robinson says there are not enough folks in DC that will pay attention to constituents. She also took a shot at Noem by asking why anyone would vote to cut SNAP and vote to shut down the government.
    • My Thoughts – Robinson didn’t even address the question. Ravnsborg and Nelson kinda skirted the question, but I don’t think either one really answered it either. Too bad, I like the question.
  • Question about dropout rates and youth suicides. Both in the US and even more so in Pine Ridge. Asked how would the candidates relate to such issues in DC.
    • Robinson – Robinson says “we all lead our own lives”. I’m not really sure where she went with her answer. She confused it even further by mentioning how bad it is overseas, and that the US isn’t honest. She had a good heartfelt answer, but I’m just not sure what that answer was.
    • Nelson – Nelson says he has been in poorest of poorest countries in the world.  He said children there would give their left arm for US opportunities. Nelson said he is not making light of issues of poor people in the US, but there are opportunities that don’t exist in other countries. I think that is what Robinson was trying to say before, but I just didn’t hear it that way. Finally Nelson said government cannot fix what is wrong with the communities and our children. He says government cannot provide a fix. Instead personal responsibility is the answer.
    • Ravnsborg – Ravnsborg received a good audience response by saying he wants Indian foster programs taken out of the hands of SD DSS; and put that responsibility in the hands of the tribes. Ravnsborg mirrored what was said by Stace by saying he has been in countries where poor kids would be happy for a single piece of paper.
    • My Thoughts – This was a hard question. I think all three gave heart-felt answers. It’s hard to rate answers to this question.
  • Closing Statements. Each candidate had five minutes for a closing statement.
    • Nelson – Nelson reiterated he will work hard for all South Dakotans and that the voters of SD deserve an honest person in DC. Nelson took another chance to call out Rounds for once again not having the courage to show up for a forum/debate. Nelson said he’s running because he feels it is his duty and asked if voters want to send a public servant to DC; or if they want to send someone already paid for with DC money.
    • Robinson – Robinson came out swinging at Noem with her closing statement. Robinson says she will be present and engaged in every committee meeting. She also says she will not come back to a farm when in recess. Instead she will travel the state talking to people.
    • Ravnsborg – Ravnsborg wants there to be a debate on reservation in the general election. I AGREE! This candidate forum was great and I personally think it is important for the tribes and the rest of the state to work together. Ravnsborg reiterated his talking point that DC needs to work on solutions, instead of focusing on problems. Jason also said it is appalling that politicians such as Rounds have avoided visiting Pine Ridge.
    • My Thoughts – The closing round allowed the candidates to call out their competition (Rounds and Noem).

I think all three of these candidates did a pretty job during this forum. Ideologically I align closer with Nelson and Ravnsborg on most issues. I think both Republican Senatorial candidates hit some important talking points. I’ll give those two a tie in this event.

Now Corinna Robinson I’m going to be a bit tougher on. She is the only person in this race against incumbent Republican Kristi Noem. As such she has to be a strong candidate that voters can relate to and believe would do a better job for South Dakota than Noem. The problem is Robinson doesn’t seem to be too connected with South Dakota. I expect the carpetbagger term will be thrown at her throughout the campaign. If the Democrats really want to win this race they need to turn Robinson into a much stronger candidate. I’m not big fan of Noem, but honestly at this point I don’t see Robinson unseating Noem based upon what I know so far about her as a candidate. Democrats often say Republicans are the ‘Party of No’, and contend that is a bad way to run policy. I would say the same is true for candidates. “I’m not Noem” is not enough to win a campaign; especially when combined with “I want to be a DC politician because its my dream”.

That concludes this post. Tomorrow I will complete part 4 of this series, which focuses on the QA session.

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