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HALL: Why I won't run for the Legislature

By Rod Hall

The public and possible legislative candidates have a right to know that Rod Hall will not be a Democratic candidate for legislative office this year. The public has a right to know why. The Daily Republic was correct when it titled Hall’s column, “Hall: If Graves runs for office, so will I.” So in the months from Sept. 10, 2013, and Jan. 11, 2014, readers of The Daily Republic believed that Joe Graves would actually run this time.

Graves’ decade-long wish to become a South Dakota legislator now seems to be nothing more than that old railroaders’ comment which went like this: “Off again, on again, gone again, Flanagan.”

Graves was quoted in The Daily Republic as saying, “I consider reticence a virtue, and my reasons for not running are my own, so I’ll leave it at that.” Hall, on the other hand, long a person who believes in the people’s right to know, gives his reason for not running as: “Simply, I wanted to run against Graves and chase him from Ethan to Alpena.”

While time, age and physical well-being of candidates may be an issue, there is nothing to change that headline of The Daily Republic — if Graves runs, so will I. There is scarce chance of such a race in the future. The Mitchell Board of Education should, at this time, establish a policy that states what will occur should any employee of the Mitchell School District get elected to the Legislature. Graves and the rest of us know that all employees have the right to run. Absences caused by election are another issue that should be established by board policy.

Non-political school boards and partisan political campaigns should be kept completely separate. It is most improper and unprofessional for a partisan political candidate, Republican, Democrat, independent or other, to ask a non-political school board for “permission to run.” Running for office is a right in our democracy, guaranteed by the fighting men and women, including Joe Graves’ father in World War II. So is the right to attend and participate in religious activities of your choice.

The Daily Republic has been very open about Graves’ possible legislative campaigns. Graves’ employment as superintendent of schools casts a different light on the past races of Ed Olson and Mel Olson. True, both of them were employees of the district, one an elementary principal and the other a high school teacher.

The Daily Republic during those years had different leadership. To its credit, during Graves’ aborted campaigns, The Daily Republic has twice editorially opposed such a long absence for the superintendent. Also that paper has published op-eds in which opinions in opposition to the school superintendent’s long absence were expressed.

Now with Graves’ attempts to become a legislator having run their course over the last 10 years or so, it is time to have the Mitchell school board establish a legal policy for its employees. It should be all-inclusive and never be established for the benefit of an individual candidate. The board should seek legal advice so no board member or future board member should face legal action by trying to deny an employee the right to run. Being elected is a different matter.

Finally, it should be reported here that Dave Mitchell, chairman of the Davison County Democrats, suggested that if Graves runs, then Hall should run as an independent so another Democratic candidate could also enter the race.

Again, because Graves has dropped his election efforts, Hall will not be an independent candidate, either.

- Rod Hall, of Mitchell, is a former legislator and school board member.