Subscriptions to South Dakota Magazine make great gifts!
Subscribe today — 1 year (6 issues) is just $25!
Post-Mortem: The Right-Winger Who Couldn't Take Flight
Apr 4, 2012
I enjoy making mischief for Republicans. I also have a pathological weakness for underdogs. How could I not have rooted for political absolute beginner Stephanie Strong to make the ballot and challenge Rep. Kristi Noem in the South Dakota Republican primary?
I should have known better.
Stephanie Strong announced out of nowhere in February that she wanted to replace her fellow Republican Noem in Congress. She had no name recognition, no visible connections or constituency, and no apparent background in politics. Her nascent website showed little technological or communicative savvy. Following her announcement, the only other press I saw her get was her own classified ad seeking paid petition circulators to help her get the 1,955 Republican signatures she needed to make the June ballot.
Much to my surprise, Strong managed to submit petitions with 2,018 signatures. Not quite to my surprise, Strong did not gather enough extra names for insurance against the inevitable invalid signatures. Secretary of State Jason Gant found 106 invalid signatures—under 6%, which is pretty good compared to a national average of 19% invalid signatures on initiative and referendum petitions—dropping Strong's signature total to 1,906, 49 too few to make the ballot.
I wrote some stiff criticism of Strong's failure. Strong contacted me with questions about election laws, and I was happy to point her toward the right information.
Alas, my help was for naught. Instead of demonstrating that she could focus on the practical business of either appealing the rejection of her petitions or retooling for an Independent candidacy and petition drive in which she would make sure she got complete information from each signer, Strong melted down in right-wing nuttiness:
I want to know how Barack Obama got on the South Dakota ballot without submitting the proper paperwork and nobody questions that. I am short 49 signatures and they are still Republican signatures, Republicans who don’t take government assistance, but make their own way and are not recognized because they do not have a physical street address. Are you kidding me? While our President cannot even prove that he is an American, something needs to change and we all should speak out as our elected representatives will not [Stephanie Strong, comment to C.A. Heidelberger, "Stephanie Strong Fails to Make GOP Ballot Against Noem," Madville Times, 2012.03.29].
Uff da. To be clear, President Obama submitted the proper paperwork to make the South Dakota ballot. The President has provided more documented proof that he is an American than anyone who signed Strong's petitions or Strong herself. And in her greatest rhetorical offense, Strong contends that if you receive food stamps, or unemployment insurance, or a public education, you aren't a full American. By that criterion, Strong is limiting herself to getting signatures from three mountain men living in yurts somewhere west of Rochford.
Even my affection for mischief and underdogs has its limits. I would like to have seen Rep. Noem suffer through a primary campaign against an unmoneyed but skilled conservative who could hold the Congresswoman accountable for a number of bad votes. Stephanie Strong showed with her birtherism and bias that she is incapable of rising to that challenge.
Cory Allen Heidelberger writes the Madville Times political blog. He grew up on the shores of Lake Herman. He studied math and history at SDSU and information systems at DSU, and is currently teaching French at Spearfish High School. A longtime country dweller, Cory is enjoying "urban" living with his family in Spearfish.