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Hanging With My Political Neighbors

Apr 30, 2014

Now I know why Rick Weiland is smiling.

I had the pleasure of touring South Dakota last week and talking politics with a wide array of my neighbors. It was a blast.

After charging up with a sunny morning run up Lookout Mountain, I started my political tour in Rapid City, where I interviewed Gordon Howie, our newly certified Independent candidate for U.S. Senate. We talked about EB-5, the federal budget, abortion and guns. Gordon threatened to shoot me, and I threatened to run, further supporting my argument that guns don't offer nearly as much utility as a good pair of sneakers. We smiled and laughed through arguments and agreements alike.

Later in the week I headed for friendlier turf, the Sioux Falls Democratic Forum. I listened to aspiring pol Cody Hausman discourse and field lots of questions on how Democrats can draw the youth vote (emphasize ideals over wonkishness; talk global economy, diversity, and civil rights). I watched Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joe Lowe wind Dem stems with a passionate campaign speech. And I shook hands and chatted up all sorts of fellow hopeful Dems.

That afternoon I sat down for coffee with Independent gubernatorial candidate Mike Myers. Once we got past his initial ire at my past blog critique of his political theater, we had a good hour-long conversation about the policies he'd like to discuss with South Dakota and the problems he'd like to fix.

Then I raced up to Brookings to join my friend and co-blogger Toby Uecker for a Corinna Robinson fundraiser at former state senator Pam Merchant's house. We chatted up our Brookings neighbors, Corinna's staff, and Corinna herself about issues and campaign tactics. Toby and I then spent the rest of the evening evaluating the event and plotting Dem revolution (over a hot Greek Supreme loaded with gyro meat at George's, one of the best pizzas on the prairie).

Toby and I continued our political analysis over breakfast at Cottonwood Café (bagels, oatmeal, and political discourse downtown — a fine Saturday morning) before I chased a spring dust storm east to Pierre and sailed on to Sturgis, where friends of the blog invited me for afternoon tea and more political conversation. We talked the Rally, road construction, campaign finance ... just the sort of weekend conversation you'd expect from your neighbors, right?

I was going to cap my tour off by putting my feet up at the Franklin Hotel. But then I got a text telling me to get up to the Lincoln Day Dinner in Spearfish, so up Highway 85 and through the I-90 obstacle course I went. I stationed myself discreetly at the back of the hall, tweeting the speeches. Even as I tweeted, my Republican neighbors greeted me warmly. I enjoyed pleasant conversations with Larry Rhoden and his wife Sandy, Pat Miller and her husband Walter Dale, Stace Nelson and his much prettier, quieter, better half Aiza. I got an unexpected and hilarious ribbing from Shantel Krebs. I lassoed a Tea Party activist and made progress in changing his mind on Keystone XL (two words: eminent domain). In a Republican room where a casual observer might think a liberal blogger would get tarred and feathered, I received almost nothing but warm handshakes and rational conversation from neighbors who share my keen interest in good policy for South Dakota.

South Dakotans are a friendly political bunch, even the ones with whom I disagree. My week hanging out with them and talking politics was a week well spent.

Editor's Note: Cory Heidelberger is our political columnist from the left. For a conservative perspective on politics, please look for columns by Dr. Ken Blanchard on this site.

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 has taught math, English, speech, and French at high schools East and West River.


09:47 am - Thu, May 1 2014
Roger Holtzmann said:
Wonderful article. Good for you and all the folks you met.
03:34 pm - Thu, May 1 2014
dave tunge said:
Ditto Rog..........if I didn't know better I would have thought Bernie wrote it.
09:20 am - Fri, May 2 2014
Thanks, guys! Dave, I take that Bernie comment as particularly high praise. I take his example as a South Dakota writer and politician very seriously.

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