Oh, Eldon

How could you?

News out of Pierre reports that Eldon Nygaard, District 17 Senator-Elect, has defected to the Republican Party.

See commentary here, here, and here.

I want to add to that discussion the fact that Nygaard was elected to represent one of the bluest districts in the state.  Had he been running on the other side of the aisle, he would have lost. Period.

That seat was BJ’s (Ben Nesselhuf’s), and the fact that Nygaard won had as much (if not more) to do with Ben leaving the Dem’s District 17 Senate seat open to run for Secretary of State (and giving Eldon his support) as it did with Nygaard’s own virtues as a candidate. The idea that Nygaard can “best represent” his district by switching parties after securing those good-faith Democratic votes is ludicrous and wrong-headed in the extreme.

But Eldon has made wrong-headed decisions before–like supporting HCR 1009 while serving in the House–you know the one that said science instructors ought to engage in “balanced teaching of global warming”?  The embarrassment that earned our state “dumbest in the nation” acclaim?

I attended the cracker barrel after that one, as did a number of parents, science teachers and USD professors, to let Eldon know just exactly how far he’d strayed from representing the home district of the University of South Dakota.  Nygaard vacillated between saying he’d “pulled the wrong lever” to admitting he traded that vote for one on some anti-texting-while-driving legislation he introduced.

Either way, the crowd wasn’t satisfied with the lack of apology or real acknowledgment of the grievousness of the error, and Eldon ought to have figured that out by how few signed his Senate-run petition as they left.

You can’t even claim Nygaard made the party switch out of personal interest.  How many democratic fund-raising efforts, meetings, and GOTV efforts brought business to his Buffalo Run winery?  Dems on all levels of state government (and some on the federal level as well) considered that place their home turf for a reason, and those reasons are gone now.

This switch is far more maddeningly clueless and faithless than Nygaard’s support for HCR 1009.  District 17 Dems need to make their outrage known AND start recruiting candidates to replace those who can’t figure out on which side of the aisle their bread gets its butter.

[Wanna contend my Nesselhuf/Nygaard popularity assertion?  Let’s do.

In the 2010 election, BJ won for Secretary of State in both counties in his old Senate seat district: 62.67% of the vote in Clay County and 47.48% in Turner County as a whole (not all of which is in District 17).  By comparison, Eldon won the Clay County vote with 59.52% and lost his area of Turner County with 44.05% of votes.  Eldon won his seat with 53.42% of the overall District 17 vote.  BJ won that same seat in 2006 with 69% of the vote.

I think you could comfortably say that even though Nesselhuf is the “truer blue” of the candidates, he was, and remains, more popular than our turncoat Nygaard, even in the majority Republican part (Turner County) of District 17. Now tell us again, Eldon, about the wisdom of your strategy?]

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