Home > SD 2014 Ballot, South Dakota > Aberdeen Candidate Forum part I: District 3 legislative candidates

Aberdeen Candidate Forum part I: District 3 legislative candidates

September 28, 2014

On Saturday, September 27, the League of Women Voters Aberdeen Area and the Aberdeen Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a candidate forum at the Hub Area Multi District Vocational Center. The first part of this candidate forum included all of the legislative candidates running for office in SD District 3. Running for the Senate seat are David Novstrup (R) and Mark Remily (D). Trying for the two House seats are Dan Kaiser (R), David Novstrup (R), Burt Elliott (D) and Pat Hale (D). The rules for this forum were simple, each candidate was given a three-minute opening statement and each candidate would have a minute to answer each question.

As usual for posts of this type, I will pass on the parts of what candidates said that I find interesting. I will also add my own thoughts.

Al Novstrup, Dan Kaiser, Pat Hale, Mark Remily, David Novstrup and Burt Elliot at a Candidate Forum in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema.

Al Novstrup, Dan Kaiser, Pat Hale, Mark Remily, David Novstrup and Burt Elliott at a Candidate Forum in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema.

Opening Remarks – Each candidate was given three minutes to give some opening remarks. Most of their opening remarks was filled with biographical stuff, I generally avoid that and will only point out anything I find interesting.

David Novstrup – David says he is running so he can “continue to make a positive difference in people’s lives” for those living in South Dakota. Novstrup noted there are several important issues coming up in the 2015 session. Some examples he listed were: recruit and retain workers in SD, keeping taxes low, provide quality education, keeping government small, holding state government accountable for how it spends money, promoting economic development, keep regulations to a level that is only necessary, and energy independence. David actually had a lot in there. Many of the talking points are important to both parties, he is definitely going into the State Senate race looking to get all votes.

Mark Remily – Mark says the main reason for him running in this race is “the need for accountability in state government”. He said this includes the legislative, judicial and executive branches. Currently Mark says the balance of power in Pierre is one-sided and a “healthy minority” is needed. This is the talking point I think Democrats such as Remily are smart running on. Republicans in SD do enjoy a super-majority in Pierre. Remily then went on to mention the issues he finds important: Medicaid expansion, funding education at a “responsible level”, defending civil rights, EB-5, infrastructure, XL pipeline, low wages, and human trafficking. Excluding Medicaid expansion, I think Remily came up with a good list of issues.

Burt Elliott – Burt came out saying he is running for “re-election” in District 3 because that is the seat he held “two gerrymanderings ago”. He noted he has two residences. One in District 2, and now a basement apartment in District 3 due to “family issues”. He said the basement apartment was necessary because a one level house “without so many steps” was needed. I would like to point out he has taken some heat from Republicans over the issue. His voter and occupancy records show he lives in District 2, but he is being accused of using an address in District 3 so he can get elected. Burt knew this was going to be an issue, so he brought it up right away hoping to head off any controversy. This does come up more than once in the rest of the forum. Burt said he is running because he is tired of being retired and believes in a participatory citizenship. I like Burt, but I have to give him a fail on his opening remarks, since he didn’t talk about one issue it means the focus of his opening remarks was on his residency. That might backfire on him since that will be what people remember him for when voting.

Pat Hale – Pat focused on his three-part platform of leadership, balance, and integrity. For leadership he listed relevant parts of his resume. On balance he said the current political system was based on a two-party system, and that state government has gone too far right. Pat says the current legislators are focused on things such as texting and dog breed bans instead of working on government transparency. I wish Hale had expanded more upon transparency. It is an issue I think works particularly well in District 3 after the beef plant debacle.

Dan Kaiser – There is one part of Dan’s bio I think is relevant to the issues. He noted his wife used to work for DCI focused on Medicaid fraud. This is notable because there is so much fraud relating to Medicaid that the State of SD has to have a DCI agent dedicated to such cases. In a year where Democrats are running on Medicaid expansion I think his wife’s insights have given him more reason to run against Medicaid expansion. Going on, to show he is sincere about transparency, Dan noted he has used social media at the end of each legislative day to inform constituents about how he voted on every floor vote (just like US Congressman Justin Amash). Kaiser believes in true transparency at all levels, especially at the level of elected officials. Dan pointed out he had success in his first term by supporting legislation passed so that platonic relationships would not be treated as domestic in abuse cases (2014: SB7). Finally Kaiser noted he is running because he does not want the cost of government to be placed on his sons generation.

Al Novstrup – Al noted he has worked and passed legislation “that forces government officials to produce documents requested by citizens” (2011: SB101). Before SB101, Al says there was no penalty for secrecy in government. For passing that bill, Al was awarded the 2012 Eagle Award by the South Dakota Newspaper Association. I think Al knows transparency is a winning issues in District 3 and is showing he has tried to work towards open government. Novstrup noted he has gotten 27 bills pass during his tenure in Pierre. He says these bills cover a wide variety of topics. These topics include: open, transparency, and honest government; fair taxes; helping local governments prevent fraud; helping law enforcement catch drug dealers; and helping small businesses. Al has worked on a wide variety of bills, most I think are good (transparency, local control), and a few not so good (drug war). But then he brought up Burt Elliott’s record. He noted Elliott worked to get a bill passed that would allow trust funds to be setup for domestic animals (2005: HB1138 failed, 2006: HB1178 passed).  Al says the bill passed by Elliott would allow wealthy people to set up a trust fund for their dog or cat and avoid taxes. Novstrup brought this up to run on his record against Elliott’s record. It is definitely clear Al is trying to make sure District 3 has reasons to vote for him over Elliott.

Education and teacher vacancies – A question was asked about whether there is adequate state support for education and what should be done to fill teacher vacancies.

Mark Remily – Remily feels the current support for education in SD in inadequate. He says there is plenty of money out there and says money should be taken from reserves to give education (that talking point will come up later). He also noted there are other revenue streams available to the state such as legalizing industrial hemp and medical marijuana. Remily found a talking point on which I can agree with him. Legalizing industrial hemp would be a huge boom to the SD economy and bring in a lot of tax revenue. On medical marijuana it would do a lot to ease the suffering of certain patients suffering from chronic ailments. Remily said there are plenty of sources of revenue to pay teachers a respectable salary.

Burt Elliott – Elliott said that since SD is 51st in the nation for teacher pay he would think the answer is NO to South Dakota supporting education. On teacher vacancies he said “money is always nice”, but there is more to the issue than that. Burt said things such as authority and respect are also important. While talking about this Burt brought up the fact teachers in SD do not have tenure, and instead have what is called continuing contract. I understand why Burt mentioned this. Republicans often invoke tenure when talking about teacher issues, I think Elliott was just trying to point out the topic of tenure is irrelevant in SD. Due to lack of time I’m not sure he made that clear.

Pat Hale – Hale noted teachers are being lost at an alarming rate in SD. He noted teachers can go to some other states and start ten thousand dollars higher. Pat said education seems to be a “bad word in Pierre” because bills are not passed supporting education. Along those lines, Pat also noted the Governor didn’t want any new taxes passed before the election. It should be noted that during the re-election, Governor Daugaard is NOT promising no new taxes…

Dan Kaiser – Kaiser noted that his record over the last two years shows he supports bills pertaining to K-12 funding. But he went on to mention that many factors are taken into account with teacher pay. He pointed out that the state legislature does not set teacher pay. He also noted that studies looking at teacher pay does not look at taxes in other states; such as property, sales, and income taxes. Also, Kaiser noted there are many benefits within SD that keep people here which have nothing to do with pay. Finally, Kaiser noted teacher pay is a local control issue that the state legislature should not be involved with. I agree with Dan on that last talking point. If the SD legislature would decide to try imposing teacher pay amounts on School Districts I believe many local control advocates (such as myself) would fight against such legislation. Personally I think anyone worried about teacher pay should be pressuring the legislature to give more money to education and to their school board to better utilize that money.

Al Novstrup – Al noted he is on the appropriations committee, so he comes at this from a perspective of balance. Novstrup agreed education needs more money; but he also noted areas such as infrastructure, counties, Aspire, etc… But he said wanting more money for areas has to come from somewhere because the State budget needs to balance. Novstrup also mentioned going into reserves to pay education (brought up by Remily at the beginning of this round). Al would rather not take money away from future generations for use now. He said the voters of SD had the opportunity to vote on this and overwhelmingly chose not to touch that money. I think most people agree with Al on the issue of leaving the reserves alone. Novstrup also noted he would be opposed to legalizing marijuana. That might not be a winning topic for him long-term. There is a lot more support for medical marijuana in particular. Finally, Al did say there are other sources of revenue the state has potential access to. He said allowing two pipelines through South Dakota would raise another $40 million in tax revenue that could be used for education.

David Novstrup – David noted that 46% of the budget in SD goes to education (including higher education), and that no other State agency receives as much money. Novstrup says legislatures need to talk with teachers and superintendents and see what can be done. He said a proposal a couple of years ago had some good solutions. This is in reference to HB1234 of the 2012 session, which was sent to voters as Referred Law 16 on the 2012 ballot (I blogged against it here). As David notes, that law maybe tried to do too much and was rejected by the voters. David said he will continue to work on solutions such as the ones contained within Referred Law 16. I would have preferred it if David had included a couple of pieces of Referred Law 16 that he thinks are good. That would have been good for voters to know.

EB-5 – What should be done to verify the status of the economic development EB-5 money. Ya know there had to be an EB-5 question in Aberdeen!

Burt Elliott – Elliott noted that South Dakota has been rated by many sources as one of the most corrupt states in the US. Burt says “executive and legislative accountability has to be established”.  Further, he says there needs to be more open information and ethics enforcement ability. Instead of going down the route of a special prosecutor, Burt says there should be more action and “moral responsibility on the part of people who are supposed to be looking into this.” I think the implication here is that the legislature has not done enough in its oversight duties. I would agree! It does appear the legislature as a whole is not very interested in really finding out what happened or holding anyone accountable.

Pat Hale – Pat thinks some restrictions need to be placed upon the economic development money in which the Governor has total control. I would agree with that as well. He should have expanded upon that thought. Right now there isn’t just an imbalance of power in Pierre between the two parties. There is actually an imbalance between the legislative and executive branches. Too much power currently resides within the executive branch with little oversight from the legislative branch. I think all legislative candidates (both parties) should be bringing that up.

Dan Kaiser – Dan mentioned HB1224 during the 2014 session that a Democrat tried to pass in order to look into the issue more. Kaiser noted he was one of the Republicans to sign onto that bill. He noted the best way to solve anything related to EB-5 is to look into it more. Kaiser also noted the US Attorneys Office (Brenden Johnson) should be looking into this and will not comment on it. Kaiser finds it suspicious that Johnson’s office won’t at least say there is an ongoing investigation, if there is one. Finally, he mentioned that EB-5 programs are crony capitalism (corporate welfare). He says these programs where the government and private industry get in bed with each other is a way to tax the poor and give wealthy people more money. Instead Kaiser supports free-market principles.

Al Novstrup – Al noted there have been seven or eight audits done already, but that hasn’t been enough. Novstrup would actually assign a special prosecutor and give them tools to get to the bottom of what happened. In particular he would recommend a Democrat prosecutor such as Brenden Johnson to make sure it gets done. Al has an interesting idea there, if Brenden comes up with nothing it cannot be blamed on Republicans trying to hide anything.

David Novstrup – David also feels there are a lot of questions that haven’t been answered. He also noted there have been, and will continue to be a lot of meetings about the topic. But he also noted EB-5 is a federal program, and that the US Attorney should enforce federal law. Novstrup is interesting in finding out what the US Attorney has found out.

Mark Remily – Remily went through many of the numbers involved with Aberdeen Beef Plant and how much money was sunk into the plant. Mark noted Aberdeen lost $1,481,361 (Remily is an Aberdeen City Council member). Remily says the corruption of EB-5 goes all the way top; and there needs to be more accountability in state government. Remily highlighted a lot numbers, which I think is good. But if they had bothered, anyone promoting EB-5 could refute those numbers because some of them have nothing to do directly with EB-5; they were part of the Aberdeen Beef Plant debacle. That is why this topic hasn’t been as big of a winner as Democrats had hoped in this election cycle. The topic is simply too big and too many involved areas for easy campaign messages.

Infrastructure – Would you support user fees, higher gas taxes, or license fees to finance South Dakota highways.

Pat Hale – Hale basically said he would support anything that would get more money for roads.

Dan Kaiser – Dan noted that increased gas taxes would negatively impact the poor more than the rich. Poor people tend to have older vehicles which are not as fuel-efficient. They would carry a heavier burden in increased gas taxes. Kaiser noted that he and David Novstrup both supported efforts for road districts. I like Dan’s answer here. He is focusing on local control solutions.

Al Novstrup – Al noted he would be supportive of making sure the infrastructure is high quality. He said that if that means new taxes then he is ready for that debate. I will note that Al never really said if he would support any of the proposed tax increased; just that he would support having the debate about it.

David Novstrup – David focused more upon how high each tax increase was, to make sure it wasn’t too high. He also noted counties and townships are struggling to maintain their infrastructure. Finally, Novstrup said he would probably be supportive of the proposed revenue increases, but would have to see the details first.

Mark Remily – Remily noted the roads need help. He says he doesn’t know the answer, but user taxes are maybe the way to go. I really thought a current Aberdeen City Council member would come prepared with a better answer to an infrastructure question.

Burt Elliott – “The answer obviously is yes”. He noted there is currently a legislative summer study on the issue (here is my post on the hearing in Aberdeen). He said “user fees have to be part of the equation”. This is an area I’m going to have to disagree with Elliott on. He seems to be of the same mindset as Senator Vehle during the transportation portion of the SD Ag Summit: that it is right to push for new taxes before the study is done. User fees may be an answer out of that study, but Elliott seems to be in the mindset that user fees will be an answer no matter what the study says. I just can’t understand that viewpoint.

Medicaid Expansion – Do you support Medicaid expansion, why or why not.

Dan Kaiser – No. First, Dan says more money coming from the federal government devalues the monetary supply. In order to give that money to the states, more money is printed. Kaiser noted that when the value of people’s money is lowered, the poorest among us suffer the most. Dan would rather help the poor by leveling the playing field so poor can have a chance to do better for themselves. Finally, Dan noted the fraud, waste, and abuse of the Medicaid system. He noted that the state only goes after Medicaid fraud to a certain extent, because the state is on the hook for a portion of that. It is an odd situation, I may have to speak with Kaiser’s wife to learn more about it.

Al Novstrup – Al says the real question is whether taxpayers should be asked to pick up the tab for other people’s healthcare at a time when most are struggling to pay their own. So he says the answer is no. He also wonders where the federal government will get the money. Novstrup said the two ways to do that is for the federal government to print more money or ask the taxpayers for more money; both of which he says are harmful. Overall I think Dan and Al rocked at answering this one.

David Novstrup – David pointed out that Medicaid expansion is not free to the State of SD. It would cost the state $100 million in administrative costs over the next decade. That money would either have to be taken from existing programs such as education or infrastructure, or that money would have to come from higher taxes. He also noted SD had asked the federal government for a waiver to focus on a SD solution. Personally I didn’t like the waiver Governor Daugaard was asking for, but it did show the federal government is not willing to work with states on localized solutions.

Mark Remily – Remily would support full Medicaid expansion. Mark mentioned that Arizona (a similar political state to SD) implemented Medicaid expansion with few problems. Remily also pointed out Governor Daugaard knew the waiver wouldn’t work.

Burt Elliott – Elliott would support Medicaid expansion. He noted that as a Brown County Commissioner that he was able to see first hand that we are already paying healthcare for the uninsured. He said Medicaid expansion would expand out the burden of helping those without insurance. Burt contends the only reason Medicaid expansion didn’t pass in SD is because a Democrat President was behind it. I think there is some truth behind Elliott mentioning partisan reasons for some Republicans not wanting to expand Medicaid.

Pat Hale – Hale supports Medicaid expansion. He highlighted SD giving up $280 million for Medicaid expansion, but at the same time SD accepted $1.7 billion dollars in other federal dollars. Actually Hale has a point, SD does get a lot of federal dollars.

Residency – One last question directed at Burt Elliott about his residence.

Burt Elliott – First Elliott mentioned a similar situation with a Republican legislator from Spearfish while Elliott served before. But if this is the legislator I believe he is talking about (Christopher Madsen), that was a case of someone moving after they got elected because of a new job in Sioux Falls. It isn’t really analogous. Burt says he doesn’t know what the big deal is. He said election cycles don’t always fit with family timelines. So he got a basement apartment in town. He also noted if it weren’t for gerrymandering he would still be in District 3. I would stop mixing the gerrymandering answer with the family reasons answer. I think that confuses his answers.

Closing Remarks – Mostly fluff again. If they said anything worthy I’ll post it. If not these are my final thoughts on the candidates.

Al Novstrup – Al did ask about Elliott needing a house with one level (to reduce stairs). Al noted his basement isn’t on one level, its down a level. So he thinks Elliott should expand on that. Al also noted Elaine Elliott appears to still live in District 2. Overall I think Al did a good job of highlighting himself during this forum. He also made sure everyone understood there are potential issues with Elliott’s address.

David Novstrup – David focused on early voting. Actually this is a year I would urge people to refrain from early voting. There are too many potential questions with at least one statewide office. I think voters should wait until the last possible day to vote, that way any potential scandals don’t blow up and cause people to regret their votes. Overall David did fair in this forum. I don’t think he stood out at all. But I also don’t think he pushed anyone away.

Mark Remily – Remily focused on people registering to vote. I think that was a good area for a Democrat to highlight, since they have dramatically falling registration numbers. I question how good Remily would be as a legislator, mostly due to the infrastructure questions. I really felt a current Aberdeen City Council member should have been able to come better prepared with road solutions.

Burt Elliott – Burt invoked glass houses. I believe that was directed at Al, because Novstrup spends part of the year in Sioux Falls. Again, I think Burt is using a Republican situation that is not quite analogous. Overall I think Burt did good interacting with the audience, he always does. Burt is a great guy that people love to hear stories from. However he seemed to have the least to actually say about issues, and instead focused on his stories. That combined with his residency issues may hurt him getting votes from constituents that research the candidates.

Pat Hale – Hale mentioned his support for the minimum wage ballot issue. He urged everyone to vote for that on the ballot. Overall I would say Hale was overshadowed by the experience of everyone else participating in the forum. All of the other candidates either currently do or have served public office. That gave him a huge disadvantage when talking about certain issues. His main hope this election cycle is if the Democrats have a great GOTV effort going into Election Day.

Dan Kaiser – Dan did take a moment to speak about Elliott’s residency issue. He noted that when someone runs for office, that person signs a document under threat of perjury that they plan to stay at that residence for the foreseeable future. I looked on a nominating petition and here is part of what a candidate declares under oath: “I reside in the district from which I am a candidate.” Kaiser would recommend Elliott plead the fifth after signing that document and coming here and saying he is looking for a new residence. Moving on, I think Dan did great in this event. Kaiser had a great mixture of stances that happen to align with my political beliefs.

  1. Merlyn Schutterle
    September 28, 2014 at 6:30 pm

    With what we have with technology these days, a better education could be had for a fourth of the cost. But education is the sacred cow and cannot be challenged.

    • September 29, 2014 at 8:29 am

      Agreed. Even most private schools are not changing how education fundamentally is done.

  2. Drew Dennert
    September 28, 2014 at 7:38 pm

    I like Kaiser’s line against an increase in the gas tax. Kaiser’s policies will do much more for the poor and middle class than the Democrats plan to increase the minimum wage.

    • September 29, 2014 at 8:30 am

      Exactly! I’m actually curious as to how the min wage will do on the ballot.

      • Drew Dennert
        September 29, 2014 at 12:14 pm

        Unfortunately it will probably pass, I think we still have a chance to kill it but it isn’t looking good right now.

  3. Norbe barrie
    September 29, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    Will you have some comments on D 2 candidates?

    • September 29, 2014 at 2:53 pm

      Yep. Posted it just a little while ago

  4. October 8, 2014 at 7:09 am

    相手はお前の事を友達とは思ってないぞ。 でないと>>1みたいな事を言い出す
    とよく聞くが、3万も5万も思いっきり偶数だよなあ。
    そういうときはものすごく残念だけど、その人がうまくいくといいなと思うし、 カルティエ結婚指輪 ランキング

    披露宴によばれたら例え気持ちはなくともお金は出さんとあかん。
    平和というか、おまんきこは基地害だから別として田尾田尾は全くの草食系だ。 25 歳 結婚 早い
    体調不良のためご返信に少しお時間下さい。よろしくお願いします。 祝ったり見送ったりした方がいい。

  5. Peter
    November 4, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    I’m in business. I know that if you want the best employees, you have to offer salaries that attract them. Why does anyone think teachers aren’t the same as anyone else? Can anyone really argue that if there is a job that pays higher in Minnesota, Nebraska, or elsewhere that a teacher would take the same job in SD over it? If we were willing to pay for it, we could have the best teachers in the US.

    • Merlyn Schutterle
      November 4, 2014 at 4:54 pm

      That is irrational thinking. Hopefully we already hire the best teachers available. Not every person who has a degree in education gets hired. It doesn’t matter because we still have to fish from the same pool. Those are the only fish available.

    • Merlyn Schutterle
      November 4, 2014 at 5:00 pm

      And I forgot to say that the BIA on Indian reservations have very good salaries but have some of the worst teachers out there, I know because I used to teach there and was a principal, Look at the test scores.

  1. September 29, 2014 at 12:56 pm
  2. October 6, 2014 at 9:47 am
  3. October 6, 2014 at 10:39 am
  4. October 19, 2014 at 4:52 pm
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