Dusty Johnson: SD could teach DC lessons in effective governmentSouth Dakota officials are cutting regulations and working to create jobs, he said, while Congress and President Obama are passing laws that are hundreds of pages thick and halting progress on hiring people in private-sector jobs, such as the Keystone XL pipeline.
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
Dusty Johnson isn’t a candidate for anything — right now, anyway — but he was the featured attraction at a Republican Party event in Mitchell Thursday night.
Johnson was the main speaker at the Davison-Hanson County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner, held at the Wesleyan Church in Mitchell Thursday night. He was sharply critical of Washington, D.C., and said working in Pierre has shown him the difference between an effective and efficient state government and a wasteful and disorganized federal system.
“I do get that angry,” Johnson said. “I do get that frustrated.”
South Dakota officials are cutting regulations and working to create jobs, he said, while Congress and President Obama are passing laws that are hundreds of pages thick and halting progress on hiring people in private-sector jobs, such as the Keystone XL pipeline.
“That’s a big difference between Pierre and D.C.,” Johnson said.
About 100 Republicans attended, including candidates for city, county and state office. All were given a chance to make a brief statement before Johnson spoke.
He had high praise for Gov. Dennis Daugaard, Sen. John Thune and Rep. Kristi Noem, all Republican officials.
Daugaard has been a strong leader as governor, he said, guiding the state to a good economy while cutting the budget as needed and reducing unneeded regulation.
“South Dakota is growing jobs, 5,300 in the last 16 months,” he said. “But it’s not because of the federal government. It’s in spite of it.”
When Thune ran against Sen. Tom Daschle in 2004, critics said Daschle was a national figure and presidential timber. The state couldn’t afford to lose him, Johnson recalled hearing.
“I think we’ve all seen how wrong that is,” he said.
Thune is considered a future candidate for the White House and many people wish he was running this year. And he now holds the No. 3 GOP leadership position in the Senate.
Noem has had an “amazing” start to her congressional career, Johnson said.
“She is at the table at meetings when decisions are made,” he said. “She is having a big impact.”
Johnson, a Mitchell resident, is Daugaard’s chief of staff. He said he was asked to speak at the event only because the governor was in Afghanistan, visiting American soldiers.
“It’s like you invited Marilyn Monroe and Barney Fife showed up,” the slender Johnson said, drawing laughter from the crowd.
The state Republican Party prefers to have Daugaard, Thune or Noem speak at such dinners, Johnson said.
When none are available, other Republican officials step forward, he said.
Johnson said he spoke at one such dinner last year, but has been the speaker at several this year.
That shouldn’t mean he is contemplating a run for office, he said. Johnson was twice elected to the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, but resigned from the PUC days after winning re-election in 2010.
He then took the appointment to work for Daugaard. Johnson, married with young children, said he spends four days but only two nights a week on average in Pierre.
He said he is in Pierre Mondays and Tuesdays and returns home on Tuesday nights. Johnson then “telecommutes” on Wednesdays before returning to the capital on Thursdays and Fridays.
“It means I get up at 5 a.m.,” he said. “But that way I get to be home.”
Johnson rents a basement apartment from a friend, Cody Byrum, the deputy commissioner of the South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development. It’s an arrangement that worked well when he was in the PUC, he said, and continues to serve him well.
Johnson said while he’s out on the mashed-potato circuit more often this year, that doesn’t mean he’s thinking about another run for office.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “It’s not out of the question.”
Johnson said he has to focus on his work as chief of staff and can’t allow himself to spend time considering his political future.
“And frankly, I owe it to the governor,” he said.