This is the third of a three-part series looking at the Republican and Democratic candidates in the 2018 election to replace Rep. Kristi Noem in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Tim Bjorkman will be the Democratic nominee running for South Dakota's lone congressional seat in November. His task is Herculean, maybe Quixotic, given the history of Republican domination of state politics during the last few election cycles. But the retired circuit court judge seems undaunted.
The state Republican registration advantage over Democrats, 46 to 34 percent, is so wide that calling it an "edge" is an understatement. No doubt the 20 percent of voters unaffiliated with either party can be a rich source of potential support for Bjorkman, but Donald Trump's 62 percent share of South Dakota voters in 2016 makes a convincing case for the GOP's ability to gobble up a lion's share of unaffiliated voters here.
Given that built-in handicap, Bjorkman has effectively acknowledged that he'll have to run against Donald Trump and the Republican nominee, likely either Shantel Krebs or Dusty Johnson. I say "effectively" because Bjorkman's website (refreshingly loaded with positions on specific issues, unlike the me-saturated, policy-devoid versions of his opponents) contains a long, regularly updated list of his takes on the legislative topics of the day, including health care, net neutrality, Muslim registry, taxes and DACA.
Bjorkman's commentaries (with one big exception) don't take aim at his GOP opponents but focus on each issue, underscoring the impression that he's running against Republicanism and its local minions in general.
The exception on that list is titled "Shantel Krebs' Muslim Registry." Bjorkman unequivocally slams Krebs for "appealing to our lowest based fear instincts rather than our highest ideals." Considering that a resurrection of Bush-era plans for a Muslim registry is a Donald Trump brainstorm that probably has a fair amount of support among the huge majority of Trump's South Dakota voters, Bjorkman's unqualified condemnation of it is some serious risk-taking.
On other issues Bjorkman similarly doesn't stray far from basic Democratic ideals. When he can, Bjorkman stakes out positions that also have some conservative, if not Republican (yes, there is a difference), support.
For example on health care, Bjorkman cites the conservative-leaning Forbes magazine, noting that "Forbes has shown that if we enact sensible universal health care we will not only save money, we can actually balance our budget." Note the keyword "universal," a bulwark of Democratic health care policy. Provocative as the concept of universal health care can be to Republicans, it doesn't hurt to have Forbes going to bat for you as a teammate. Bjorkman can push the right buttons.
On other matters, it's buttons be hanged. He gets really worked up on net neutrality, the principle that internet service providers must give all content the same delivery, speed and access, a principle that Bjorkman says our existing GOP congressional delegation "sadly" opposes. He pledges to support legislation "that will statutorily enforce net neutrality."
You can go to his website to find a longer list of Bjorkman's positions, which are clear, unequivocal — and risky as all get out in this red state of ours. It'll indeed take a mash-up of Hercules and Don Quixote to accomplish what Bjorkman is trying to do. So far, he seems up to the task. We'll see.