Opinion: Stories from South Dakota will continue throughout '09
After a year writing once a week about South Dakota's representatives on Capitol Hill and their election campaigns, it's remarkable how much news our smallest of congressional delegations has made. Here's a look at my pick for news made during 20...
After a year writing once a week about South Dakota's representatives on Capitol Hill and their election campaigns, it's remarkable how much news our smallest of congressional delegations has made. Here's a look at my pick for news made during 2008 that will stay with us throughout 2009.
- Tom Daschle tapped as HHS secretary. The former U.S. senator spent much of 2008 promoting his book, "Critical: What We Can Do About the Healthcare Crisis," which outlines his ideas to cure what ails America's health care system. In 2008, he was named as president-elect Obama's pick to head the Health and Human Services Department. In 2009, he'll have the unenviable task of trying to make his plan reality. Whether he finds victory or defeat, Daschle's 2009 will be very consequential indeed.
- Stephanie Herseth Sandlin tapped as Blue Dogs Coalition leader. The ranks of the U.S. House's conservative Democratic coalition continue to swell, and now South Dakota's lone House member is one of three top leaders of the pack. Her job is to meet with the White House and congressional leaders on behalf of the Blue Dogs. It's hard to see how promoting fiscal responsibility would be anything but a winner for her.
- Sen. John Thune rises to GOP leadership ranks. His title is vice chairman of the Senate's Republican Conference. Because his new job requires him to deliver the GOP's message to the nation, he has a huge stage from which to project his increasingly serious -- while still maintaining his long-standing aw-shucks charm -- persona. With a GOP in turmoil, the opportunity for a new party standard bearer hasn't been so ripe for a long time.
- Gov. Mike Rounds declines Senate bid. In 2008, this meant Sen. Tim Johnson cruised to an easy victory despite his continuing recovery from a brain injury. In 2009, it means South Dakota's congressional delegation still has a 2-1 Democratic tilt. Beyond 2009 it means that Lt. Gov. Dennis Daugaard won't ascend to the top state job before his 2010 gubernatorial campaign, which makes for an easier run for his Democratic challenger, who could be Herseth Sandlin.
- Democrats dominate congressional campaign trail. In this red state, two Republican challengers were unable to mount serious challenges to Democratic incumbents. (See above.) It wasn't for lack of hard work, as Senate challenger Joel Dykstra and House challenger Chris Lien hit the trail much harder than did their opponents. There won't be many headlines about this in the coming year, but South Dakota's GOP should be working diligently to understand what happened and why.
- Brendan Johnson eyes appointment. Brendan Johnson, son of Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., probably wants to be the next U.S. attorney for South Dakota. He sent out all the signals in 2008, and critics began sharpening their knives. Should he go all in during 2009, both Johnsons would have to run the gauntlet, leaving both bruised no matter the outcome. This wouldn't be all bad, especially for the ambitious Brendan. It would raise his name ID and give him a campaign-like test without him having to run for anything. And at the end of it all, he'd most likely emerge as the state's best-known U.S. Attorney in decades.
- Country-of-origin meat labeling in the farm bill. This seems to have been Sen. Tim Johnson's loudest battle cry over the past decade. After being cut off at the pass more than once, COOL finally found favor in the 2008 farm bill, and USDA finally had to advance the law into practice. Now Canada and Mexico are rattling lawsuit sabers under international trade agreements, while labeled meet has started showing up on grocery shelves -- but often in an ambiguous way that makes American ranchers unhappy. In keeping with tradition, COOL will most likely keep those involved less than cool for another year.
Denise Ross publishes Hoghouseblog.com from Rapid City. Write to her at email@example.com