Only two of 10 elected Davison County offices will be held by DemocratsDavison County has 4,298 registered Democrats and 5,378 registered Republicans.
By: Ross Dolan, The Daily Republic
Things aren’t as bad here as they were in 1870s Colorado when Alferd Packer — a Republican and accused cannibal — allegedly ate five of Hinsdale County’s seven Democrats.
But it’s getting tougher to find Democratic officeholders in Davison County.
Currently, Davison County has five Democrats in elected office: District 2 County Commissioner Jerry Fischer, District 3 Commissioner Gerald Weiss, Register of Deeds Debra Young, Sheriff Dave Miles and State’s Attorney Pat Smith.
By next month, Weiss and Young will be the only ones still in office. In fact, they’ll be the only two Democrats among the 10 elected positions at the Davison County level.
Fischer, who chose not to run for re-election in November, will leave after 12 years of service; Miles will retire Jan. 18 after 10 years of service; and Smith, with more than 14 years of service, will be sworn in today as a First Judicial Circuit judge.
Fischer’s seat will be filled by Randy Reider, a Republican who ran unopposed for the job; Smith’s job will be filled temporarily by Jim Miskimins, a Republican who was appointed by the County Commission; and Miles’ job will be filled temporarily with an appointment yet to be made by the County Commission. Miles recommended Chief Deputy Steve Brink, a Republican.
If Smith chooses to run for re-election for judge in two years, he will run, as do all judges, without party affiliation.
“Judicial positions are non-political,” Smith said, “but I also think that an awful lot of positions at the local level are less about the party and more about the person.”
Commissioner Weiss agreed on that point.
“Locally,” he said, “we can sit down and work things out. I don’t think it makes a difference on the commission, where we just try to do a good job for the people.”
But he has noticed the Democratic drop-off.
“We are going down one-by-one aren’t we?” he said with a chuckle.
That wasn’t always the case, said Register of Deeds Young.
When she was elected in 1995, she said, Treasurer Larry Griffith, Auditor John Oster, Sheriff Lyle Swenson and State’s Attorney Doug Papendick were all Democrats, as were commissioners Tom Greenway, Dan Cunningham and Gary Stadlman.
She thinks Democrats can win again, especially at the county level where voters tend to look at the person, but it will take finding good candidates who are willing to step up.
Weiss disclosed that national issues have him considering a defection to the GOP ranks, but right now, he’s ambivalent.
“I haven’t made up my mind yet,” he said. “It depends on what’s going on in Washington. I think we need a change, but I also think we need to forget about parties, because a lot of people are hurting.
“If people vote with their hearts, they’re going to vote for the people they feel will do the best job. The main thing is to think of the taxpayer and use common sense, because they’re the ones who are paying the bills.”
Dakota Wesleyan University Professor Dave Mitchell, Davison County Democratic Party chairman since the 1980s, says it’s getting tougher to find willing candidates.
“We need people willing to step up and take on some responsibilities,” he said. “It’s not that we haven’t made efforts, but leadership can’t create candidates out of thin air.”
One challenge is numbers. Davison County has 4,298 registered Democrats and 5,378 registered Republicans.
Incumbency is another factor, Mitchell said. “You don’t typically get incumbents unseated unless they’ve really screwed up on something.”
He admits that Democrats have missed some opportunities. They were unable to field a candidate when Fischer announced that he would not seek re-election. “We gave that office away,” Mitchell said.
Retirees often prefer to stay retired rather than run for office, Mitchell said, and it’s often tough to find younger people who are willing, or able, to fit public service into their lives. Either way, he said, the decision to run is a commitment.
“If you’re not in it for the long haul, you probably don’t want to get into it.”
Money, as always, is an issue when it comes to elections, Mitchell said, noting that the GOP has traditionally had deeper pockets.
“I suppose we could sell more raffle tickets,” Mitchell said. “The difference is that Democrats sell $5 raffle tickets and Republicans sell $25 raffle tickets.”