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SD Senate race: Democrat calls for no-shutdown pledge; Republicans disagree

The lone Democrat in South Dakota’s 2014 U.S. Senate race calls Republican tactics that led to the federal government shutdown “foolish and irresponsible.” The four Republicans in the race don’t agree, and one believes the shutdown was a fight worth having.

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Last week, Weiland called on all candidates for Congress to sign a pledge promising to never vote for a government shutdown, no matter what issues are in play.

“Our democracy will not survive if radical minorities can shut it down every time they don’t get their way,” Weiland wrote in an email asking supporters to seek the pledge from candidates. His call to action came eight days into the government shutdown.

On the campaign trail, Weiland said he has heard nearly universal frustration over the shutdown.

“People are pretty disgusted. I’ve seen some anger, some of, ‘It’s so broken we need to start over. Throw everybody out,’ ” Weiland said.

Weiland said he has not heard voters speaking out against the so-called “Obamacare” health care law that sparked the crisis.

While the impetus for the shutdown was Republican opposition to President Obama’s health care reform, the Affordable Care Act, that issue seems to have moved off center stage.

Still, candidate Annette Bosworth, a Sioux Falls physician, said prior to the shutdown deal reached Wednesday that she hoped for some rollback of the program.

“This is worth fighting for. There are some things worth putting a line in the sand for. This is liberty,” Bosworth said. “It is not OK that our government calls this a health reform bill. It should be called, ‘Give your information to the IRS and charge a lot more money than anybody’s talking about.’ ”

While she acknowledges the shutdown had negative effects, Bosworth said the debate it generated is healthy for American democracy.

“If there is any silver lining, it is the awareness of how dysfunctional Washington has become. It’s crystal clear,” she said.

Former governor and Republican candidate Mike Rounds said he believes the debate over federal deficit spending is a good one to have.

“Shutting the government down is not my first choice, but it certainly appears to be one tool for use in extreme circumstances,” Rounds said. “We can’t continue $1 trillion deficits and expect our kids to pay the bill.”

Republican state legislator Stace Nelson, of Fulton, did not defend the shutdown but wouldn’t accept Weiland’s premise that Republicans caused the shuttering of government offices.

“The president allowing the government to be shut down is a distinct choice on his part,” Nelson said. “I believe it lies directly at Obama’s feet. It is a cataclysmic failure of leadership, and we need to put the blame squarely where it belongs.”

Nelson said he would not sign on to Weiland’s pledge.

“It’s not a yes or no question. For him to pose it as such, it’s dishonest or it shows he doesn’t understand how our Congress actually works,” Nelson said. “I do not support the shutdown of our federal government, but to say it’s an up or down vote, a yes or no, I don’t accept that.”

Republican candidate and state lawmaker Larry Rhoden, a rancher from Union Center, has been busy responding to the catastrophic loss of livestock following the Oct. 4 blizzard, but he sent a written statement.

“It is disappointing that the federal government shut down. Once again, the failed leadership of President Obama, Harry Reid and the Washington Democrats is causing tremendous damage to our country’s future,” Rhoden wrote. “Instead of admitting that Obamacare is a mistake and working to balance the budget, Obama, Reid and the Democrats continue the same old political games that have plagued Washington for years. As South Dakota’s next U.S. senator, I will support a responsible budget that funds the federal government without funding Obamacare.”

The five candidates in the Senate race are running for the seat that will be vacated by retiring Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D. The Republicans will meet in a primary election in June, and the general election will be in November 2014.