The two Republican candidates for governor are hitting all the right buttons on the campaign trail. Pro-Second Amendment. Check. Pro-life. Check. Pro-religion and family values. Check, check. Antipathy toward the federal government. Check.
Rep. Kristi Noem and Attorney General Marty Jackley are emphasizing those conservative values that are central to the party’s message as they seek its nomination on June 5 in a race that is a toss-up at this point.
They both plan to work hard for the people of South Dakota. They both point to their lives growing up in the state and how that has shaped their values and prepared them to lead. Their campaign advertising reinforces their nearly mirror image as both candidates have trotted out their horses and carried guns while wearing flannel shirts and blue jeans. They are nearly the same age, with Jackley being 47 and Noem 46.
With so many similarities, Republican voters who have yet to commit to a candidate and could determine the outcome of the primary election need to search beyond the issues before casting a vote.
One place to look is at management and leadership styles, which likely will impact the candidates' policies and the legislation they propose if elected governor in November. In this race, it might even be the key difference between them.
Rep. Noem, who was elected to Congress in 2011, promises not to appoint any citizen advisory boards, claiming they are merely a clever way to grow government. At the same time, she pledges to “maintain a strong working relationship” with the same lawmakers who have worked diligently to limit the citizen voice by nullifying Initiated Measure 22 and then taking steps to make it more difficult to use the initiative-and-referendum process to put government-reform measures on the ballot.
“Under my administration, there would be no new boards, no new commissions, and no new blue ribbon task forces,” Noem said in a story on the front page of last Sunday’s Journal. “Instead, we would look to scrub each agency, refocusing and streamlining existing departments while cutting red tape.”
Jackley, meanwhile, is committed to continuing to enlist citizen advisory boards like Gov. Dennis Daugaard used to create the Bridge Improvement Grant program that funnels millions of dollars into counties that chose to participate in the program and increased the sales tax a half cent to raise teacher pay and spare South Dakota from the teacher revolts that have forced other state legislatures to do the same with the equivalent of a gun to their head.
“Government can learn a lot from hardworking taxpayers and business leaders, so our team will encourage them to participate and welcome their ideas,” Jackley said in the story written by state capitol reporter Bob Mercer.
Another issue that both candidates tout is making government more transparent, a noble one to be sure. A truly open government enables the public to study how legislation and policy are shaped so citizens can participate in a meaningful way that enhances their trust in elected officials.
Citizen advisory boards add to that by empowering citizens and giving them a legitimate voice in the process. Most citizens appointed to a task force take their duties seriously. The efforts and recommendations made by citizens’ boards also don’t diminish the role of the Legislature. In the end, state lawmakers will continue to have the final say on legislation. In addition, the notion that volunteer boards grow government doesn't add up although it may make elected officials' jobs more difficult as there are more points of view to consider.
If those boards cease to exist, the process of lawmaking becomes less transparent while concentrating more power in the hands of the political class and the lobbyists and special interests that in many cases pay for their access to the process.
It’s a clear choice for those Republican voters still on the fence. Do they want citizens included as Gov. Daugaard has done for the past eight years or do they want to see more public policy shaped behind closed doors?