KATIE ZERR: No stars shining during senate debate


South Dakotans are in for quite a ride when it comes to their choice for candidates who are seeking Tim Johnson’s U.S. Senate seat.

I had the honor and the privilege of being one of three journalists chosen to ask questions at the South Dakota Newspaper Association’s U.S. Senate candidate debate held in Pierre this weekend. After being a part of the Saturday debate, I can tell you there are certainly a variety of personalities, different levels of experience and one common thread; a tremendous dislike for the current president.

I knew a lot of what I witnessed going into the debate. As an Independent voter, I am keeping an open mind about the candidates and looking for one in which I am confident in casting a ballot.

I found out there are four people that I am definitely not interested in.

What I learned from this debate is that Annette Bosworth seems to be a nice person, but she is in no way, shape or form ready for politics.

Stace Nelson isn’t afraid to call people on the carpet or stand up to convention when it comes to politics, but he may be just a bit to rough around the edges to get anything done in Congress.

I was leaning a bit toward Larry Rhoden, but his closing statement ruined it for me. If elected to the Senate, he said, he was going to make the next two years of President Obama’s presidency the worst of his life. We have been hearing that for six years. The same old Republican song and dance hasn’t worked and it won’t work.

We don’t need more separation. That is what has made the last six years in Congress one of the least productive in history and kept this country from really breaking out of the recession. The current crop of politicians have chosen to make the president and his party look bad rather than save the country from economic hardships. We do not need more of that.

I left the debate thinking Jason Ravnsborg, a lawyer from Yankton, was the most statesmen-like in his answers, answered the questions as they were asked and actually had solutions rather than party-line rhetoric. He thought about the questions and for the most part, answered what was asked. That didn’t happen often during the more than an hour-long event.

Mike Rounds is the only candidate for whom I would not have considered casting my vote. I remember the explosion of government during his administration. I remember the 10 percent across the board cuts Gov. Daugaard had to make to clean up the mess in which Rounds left this state. I remember no money for education, plenty of money when it was one of his pet projects.

During the debate, he dodged questions by repeating the mantra “Republicans need to take back the Senate,” over and over again. I don’t remember any of the three journalists asking who needs to control the Senate.

He artfully dodged the questions using words like “South Dakota common sense in Washington” and “we balance our budget here in South Dakota.”

It was a lot of hot air and little substance.

Nelson called Rounds on the carpet a number of times during the debate, bringing up many of the issues previously discussed, but like the dodge ball champion he is, Rounds’ answers weren’t really answers.

The questions that were asked during the debate were targeted on issues of the day and needed to be answered. Some of the candidates took those issue head-on, others danced their way around the questions. No amount of smiling into the crowd and reciting things we have all heard from around news network round tables could make an Independent voter want to back a candidate.

South Dakota needs representation for South Dakota, not someone who will be satisfied being the little fish in a big pond. We don’t need someone who will be tolerate being patted on the head like a good party lapdog when he or she casts their vote the way the party leaders tell them.

We need someone who will stand up for South Dakota. We need someone who doesn’t shout that compromise is not a word and who has the guts to say no when casting a vote a certain way will hurt the people back home.

I pray that we are not as ignorant as most politicians would like us to be. I hope that we elect a statesmen and not just an empty suit to occupy a seat in the U.S. Senate.

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