Home > SD 2014 Ballot, South Dakota > District 2 legislative candidates and State Treasurer candidate at the Brown County Democrats meeting in Aberdeen

District 2 legislative candidates and State Treasurer candidate at the Brown County Democrats meeting in Aberdeen

October 19, 2014

On October 17 the Brown County Democrats held their Dollar-a-Month club meeting at Pizza Ranch in Aberdeen. There were four guest speakers in attendance for this meeting. First there were the three legislative candidates for District 2: Chuck Welke (Senate), Natasha Noethlich (House), and John Graham (House). As a bonus the Democrat candidate for State Treasurer, Denny Pierson, was also able to attend and speak at the event. In this post I will pass on a few key points from what each speaker had to say. I’ve also included some brief words from Burt Elliott at the end of this post.

John Graham speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 10/17/14

John Graham speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 10/17/14

District 2 legislative candidate John Graham was up first. Graham kept his speech very short. During the intro given to him it was mentioned that he has been to Pierre lobbying on behalf of labor. I think that is something he should be talking about when before crowds like this. Graham talked briefly about funding. Graham would like to see a day where SD isn’t depending upon the federal government for funding. But until that day happens he said it is important to use the money that South Dakota gets from the federal government where it is needed. Graham finished off by saying he is there to represent labor in Pierre.

Chuck Welke speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 10/17/14

Chuck Welke speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 10/17/14

State Senator Chuck Welke was up next. Welke is in a very tight race defending against veteran Republican legislator Brock Greenfield. Welke started out by saying that if not for the Democrat minority in Pierre that the Republican majority in Pierre “would be doing a lot more stuff they shouldn’t be doing”. He said it is important to have the party that is out of power act as a watchdog party.

Welke noted that Democrats are outnumbered by Republicans in District 2. But he says that if a good GOTV effort is done in District 2, the independents and Democrats together outnumber the Republicans and it is possible to win. Personally I think his watchdog party talking point works well with independents.

There were a number of key issues that Welke mentioned are important to him. First he mentioned education. He spent thirty-five years in education himself. During that time he had thought about leaving education, partly due to pay. Last summer there was an education summer study that Welke was a part of. He heard from many ex-teachers during that time that had left the education system in order to make higher pay in the agribusiness industry. From that summer study it was determined there was a crisis, but Welke does not believe the Republicans in Pierre agreed that it was a crisis then. And now he says the crisis has gotten even worse.

Welke contends the state has not lived up to its obligations; which has caused a tax shift to the local level. He contends lack of support for education funding in Pierre has forced schools and counties to opt-out. These opt-outs are putting more burden upon the local taxpayers according to Welke. He says the state needs to do more.

This year Welke is a member of the summer study dealing with roads and bridges. He noted the federal stimulus package helped the state highways get into great condition. But he said something has to be done for all roads or they will have fallen apart in ten years.

EB-5 was Welke’s next subject. He contends that EB-5 would not even be a known issue if certain Democrats had not been pushing for a long time. Kathy Tyler and Susan Wismer are two people he noted as having been important trying to get more information about what happened with the EB-5 situation. Welke says some legislators have been trying to get something done regarding EB-5 for a year and a half. He noted this was not a partisan issue at first. But after Tyler started pushing legislation, the lack of balance in Pierre prevented any progress from being made.

Finally Welke said there needs to be balance and accountability in Pierre. He says there needs to be a strong minority party. Welke said that right now “what gets done in Pierre, gets done behind closed doors”. That was in reference to most legislation being decided in the Republican caucus, instead of out on the legislative floors. He was the Senate sponsor of a bill that tried to change that this year (HB 1172), but that was shot down in committee. He finished by saying there needs to be a competition of ideas in Pierre.

Natasha Noethlich speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 10/17/14

Natasha Noethlich speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 10/17/14

District 2 House candidate Natasha Noethlich was up after Welke. Noethlich said she is running in part because she has spoken to many people who feel they have no access to legislators. She says there is a feeling that current legislators are “there for their own purpose”.

Noethlich and her husband are first-generation farmers. Currently the legislature has only about 10% of its members active in the agriculture industry according to Noethlich. She stated there have been changes in farming. Noethlich didn’t actually say it, but I think she was trying to make the case she should be sent to Pierre to be a good representative of the new wave of farmers.

Going on, Noethlich talked about needing to help people. She has seen the struggles of old people in nursing homes. Many of those people she has spoken to in those nursing homes are having to dig into their life savings to pay for a nursing home. She also highlighted low-pay workers that are unable to have procedures because they cannot afford it and don’t have insurance.

Then Noethlich mentioned seeing a Daugaard commercial touting the fact he didn’t have to raise taxes in his first term. She claims that local tax districts had to raise taxes due to Daugaard’s administration refusing to raise taxes. Noethlich says that Pierre needs to be fixed so local taxes don’t need to be raised anymore.

Noethlich closed by saying that candidates need to be sent to Pierre to represent everyone. She stated that “we are not cookie cutter people”.

Denny Pierson speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 10/17/14

Denny Pierson speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 10/17/14

After Noethlich it was time for the Democrat candidate for State Treasurer, Denny Pierson. One thing Pierson spoke about when going through his history was his time spent as a teacher. He left teaching after eleven years because he needed better pay to support a family. That was building upon what Welke had been talking about earlier.

Pierson noted that he was a member of the SD Legislature from 93-94. Those years are notable because the Democrats enjoyed a majority in the State Senate. He noted that during that time Governor Mickelson had to work with Democrats to get things done. In order to get anything accomplished Mickelson had to seek out Democrat legislators. Pierson says that is needed again.

When talking about the ballot, Pierson said that to be considered viable it is important that Democrat Party not to leave seats open. Pierson said this is a critical point for the Democrat Party. He says the party cannot become a majority party again if candidates are not filled for each seat. This includes everything from county-level offices to constitutional offices. He also said the Democrat Party “needs to get rid of that defeatist attitude”. Then Pierson went on to talk about rebuilding the Democrat infrastructure through fundraising and education. I don’t think anyone in the room disagreed with what he was saying.

Pierson then talked briefly about the Treasurers office. He noted the Treasury Department is not likely involved directly with EB-5. But he would like to know why the press has not asked if the State Treasury was involved in cutting checks to those involved in the EB-5 program. Further, he would like to know how that money did get out to certain individuals. He acknowledges that some of those questions have been asked, but also that many have not been answered. Pierson then reiterated that the EB-5 fiasco would not have happened if the Democrats had a little bit more power for oversight in Pierre.

After speaking, Pierson was asked a question about whether the State Treasurer was still under a gag order. Pierson said he believes the gag order is still in effect. But he stated that as the Treasurer he would be willing to go to jail for speaking the truth.

Overall I think this was a good event for the Brown County Democrats to get local activists connected with candidates. I can’t say anything new really came from any of the candidates in these speeches. But then these type of events are more about exciting the base than actually getting information out.

%d bloggers like this: