The last time I spoke with Scyller Borglum, I was nonplussed.
But I didn’t know it. At least, not until she told me.
I was in the food line at the Black Hills Press Club & Forum, a monthly gathering of interesting speakers and interested listeners. It’s organized by a Democrat, Bill Walsh, and Republican, Marnie Herrmann, to be engaging, educational, welcoming and non-partisan.
Which is kind of a nice break from most of the rest of the world, don’t you think?
The Press Club is a good place to visit if you’re a candidate on the move. And that day I spoke with Borglum, she was on the move. I just didn’t know where she was headed, yet.
I can’t remember what she said or how I responded when she first spoke up from across the food platters. I was focused on the architecturally sturdy construction of my salad, sides and main course, with an added sliver of dessert.
Food stuff is important stuff to Medicare-aged people, after all.
Shortly after the food-line meeting, Borglum joined us at a table where I was eating with former state Sen. J.P. Duniphan and others. Borglum addressed me, noting sort of apologetically that I seemed “nonplussed” by her introduction over the salad dressing.
I took a while to answer, and finally said:
“I’m just trying to decide whether I know what ‘nonplussed’ means before I respond.”
Actually, I was about 86 percent certain that it meant “confused” or “puzzled.” I was also a little confused and puzzled by how energetically Borglum was working the room, since the nearest re-election challenge for a state representative was about a year away.
Then somebody whispered: “She’s running for the Senate.”
I whispered back: “Wait, you mean THE Senate, as in Washington, D.C.?”
Somebody whispered again: “Yeah. She’s been working Republican meetings all over the state.”
That took my attention off the cheesecake, as I pondered the prospects of a first-term state representative who was barely known in politics a year ago challenging former two-term governor and incumbent U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds.
I’ll admit, I was nonplussed by the idea. And it wouldn’t be the last time. Just a few days later, Borglum accused GOP Congressman Dusty Johnson of a “D.C.-style ambush” during a Republican dinner. She said Johnson threatened her future in politics if she ran against Rounds in the 2020 primary.
I was even more nonplussed by that. Maybe even discomfited, although I’d have to check a dictionary to be sure.
Johnson seems like the last guy to play the heavy for the Republican establishment in South Dakota. And he denied making any threats against Borglum, saying he was “baffled” by her allegations following what he contended was a pleasant meeting.
That was the first week in May. Borglum said then that speculation about a U.S. Senate run was premature. She said she wasn’t thinking “that far in advance” and was focused instead during her travels on rural-education issues.
Two months later she announced her campaign for the U.S. Senate. She said among other things that Rounds and the political establishment were failing to properly support President Donald Trump and his “common-sense-conservative approach to the business of running America.”
Here’s a couple of things on that: First, I haven’t seen much from Mike Rounds that didn’t support Trump. So I have to wonder how much Trump love is enough for Borglum?
Second, as a District 32 resident, I voted for Borglum last year thinking she was a moderate Republican. So after hearing her initial campaign rhetoric, I was beyond nonplussed. I was flabbergasted.
And I’m certain I know what that means.
Kevin Woster writes a blog and offers radio commentary for South Dakota Public Broadcasting. He can be reached by emailing email@example.com.
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