Last week's resounding vote of confidence by the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce at its annual Business Day gathering in Pierre only reinforced what I've been sensing all along.
This state's business community is pretty much solidly behind South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley's candidacy for governor, giving him 63 percent of its support, compared to an anemic 23 percent for his chief primary rival, Rep. Kristi Noem. The balance went to the Democratic candidate Billie Sutton.
This, of course, is about as unscientific as the straw poll at the South Dakota State Fair last summer that gave Jackley a 58 percent to 41 percent margin over Noem, but the numbers are facts that have to give Jackley's campaign plenty of reason to cheer.
But confident as I am about Jackley's chances, my status as a businessman makes me wonder about the cross-purposes in his campaign. From the "Hometown Initiative" that Jackley released a few days ago, the candidate says that he wants to give "our young people the opportunities they need to remain in the state" and aggressively recruit "employees from outside the state" in order to "retain South Dakota's best and close the worker shortage."
This is great rhetoric, but I don't get how it squares with Jackley's unequivocal support on a couple of issues that are likely to turn off the very people he's trying to attract. Jackley's support for gender-exclusive use of school bathrooms probably has plenty of backing from voters here, but promoting a law to that effect in South Dakota would have disastrous consequences for his plan to retain and recruit the best people into our state as a way to bolster and advance our economy.
There are just too many companies and institutions that will have nothing to do with a state that discriminates against its transgender residents. Look at how quickly North Carolina repealed its ill-conceived anti-transgender bathroom law when the NCAA threatened to take its basketball tournaments away from the state because of it. Corporate boycotts have become a fact of life for states that codify laws restricting the rights of their LGBT residents. So, if Jackley wants to impose his values on bathroom access he runs the risk of costing the state some serious money and opportunities.
Same goes for Jackley's support for one of the National Rifle Association's pet causes, "constitutional carry," which OKs the holding of a handgun, either concealed or openly, without a permit. Along with my M-16, as a radioman I also toted a .45 during my 13 months as a Marine in Vietnam.
I have good reason to get a little nervous about the idea of just anyone getting a handgun off the shelf without a permit. That restrictions are by-passable doesn't mean they should be tossed. I'd be concerned about South Dakota getting a reputation as a shoot-'em-up state now that NRA-boycotts are getting commonplace in the corporate world.
Jackley's dilemma is a tough one, but if supporting the business community and enhancing economic development are his primary goals he has to court a national market that can find South Dakota and its codified values all to easy to reject, conspicuously.