TIME 2014 Election

Democrats Eye a South Dakota Senate Surprise

U.S. Senate candidate Rick Weiland speaks at the Democratic Convention on June 27, 2014 in Yankton, S.D.
U.S. Senate candidate Rick Weiland speaks at the Democratic Convention on June 27, 2014 in Yankton, S.D. Dave Eggen—AP

Could a second upset be brewing on the prairie?

If Democrats hold the Senate in November, it could be due to surprising success in states the party never expected to be competitive.

Just weeks after independent candidate Greg Orman surged in a Kansas Senate race that had been chalked into the Republican column, Democrats have spied another unlikely opening on the prairie. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) on Wednesday pumped $1 million into the surprisingly competitive South Dakota Senate race.

The DSCC poured in the cash just hours after a new poll showed Republican Mike Rounds locked in a three-way contest with independent candidate Larry Pressler and Democrat Rick Weiland. The SurveyUSA poll released Wednesday showed Rounds with 35%, Pressler with 32% and Weiland with 28%. The race also includes a Tea Party candidate who could siphon votes from the GOP frontrunner.

The survey could be an outlier. Rounds still boasts an average 12-point lead in recent polling, and South Dakota is a conservative state. “If I was a betting man, I would still put money on Rounds,” says Bob Burns, a veteran political analyst in the state.

But the DSCC’s move, first reported by Bloomberg Politics, underlines the dramatic changes in a race that both sides had written off as a cakewalk. Even this summer, as Democrats desperately searched for ways to hold their majority together, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was frank about the party’s chance in South Dakota. “We are going to lose,” the Nevada Democrat said.

But as in neighboring Kansas, something strange is happening in South Dakota. Rounds, a former governor, has been dogged by a controversy over the state’s EB-5 program, a federal visa program that grants green cards to wealthy immigrants who invest at least $500,000 in economic development project. As governor, Rounds was a booster of the program, which has drawn criticism for mismanagement and lack of transparency after it was privatized by one of the governor’s allies.

Democrats believe the issue may have made Rounds vulnerable. The Republican’s campaign did not immediately return a request for comment.

The Democratic money will go toward field operations and ads attacking Rounds. In a sign of how strange the three-way entanglement is becoming, Mayday PAC, the quixotic super PAC whose stated goal is to reverse the tide of big-money politics, has dumped $1 million into the race in support of Weiland, whom not even Reid is supporting. Meanwhile, the wild card is Pressler, 72, a three-term former U.S. senator who represented the state as a Republican from 1979 through 1996.

Nearly 20 years later, after stints as a college professor in the U.S., Italy and France, Pressler has launched the kind of quixotic campaign that is typically run by quirky obsessives, not former senators. He has one paid staffer, slaps together homemade yard signs with magic markers, and relies on his wife as his driver when he barnstorms the state. When he returned a reporter’s call himself Wednesday, he had just been informed that his campaign website did not include a mailing address for supporters to send in contributions.

“It’s bare bones,” he says. “My wife was very doubtful.”

In part that’s because of his fundraising deficit. According to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, Pressler has spent just $50,000, a sum dwarfed by Rounds’ $3 million. “I’m like a sitting duck with no clothes on out on the firing range,” he says. “We won’t be able to answer any negative ads.”

Pressler says he hasn’t decided which party he would caucus with if elected. But with the GOP’s lurch to the right, the former moderate Republican now sounds more like a Democrat. He voted for Barack Obama. He supports balancing the budget in part by raising taxes on millionaires, a new gas tax and the elimination of some corporate deductions. He wants to raise the minimum wage and teacher salaries, supports gay marriage, and says the U.S. should pare back its military spending. “I’m not an isolationist,” he adds. “I know we have to do some bombing.”

Pressler says he will limit himself to a “one glorious term” if elected, freeing him from the demands of the contemporary senatorial practice of dialing for dollars. Though his shoestring campaign may still be a long shot, Pressler says the moment is right for a post-partisan candidate. “We’ve seeing something very significant happening in American politics,” he says.

At the very least, something strange is stirring out on the prairie.

-Additional reporting by Alex Rogers

TIME politics

U.N. Headquarters in South Dakota: How It Could Have Happened

UN HQ - Dec. 10, 1945
From the Dec. 10, 1945, issue of TIME TIME

New York City wasn’t the obvious choice for the United Nations headquarters

Representatives from around the world are now gathering in New York City for the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly. A vast cadre of diplomats, staff and heads of state have descended on the Big Apple — ensuring a nightmare for daily commuters. But, though that traffic jam is now a dependable annual event, New York City wasn’t the obvious choice for the United Nations headquarters.

In the wake of the 1945 conference establishing the modern day United Nations — which took place in San Francisco — a committee was set up to find the best spot for what would essentially become the world’s capital. A look back into TIME’s coverage of that period shows that the competition to host the U.N. was wide open, though one thing was clear: New York City, where the UN would be overshadowed by “Wall Street, etc…” as one TIME story put it, was no good.

Philadelphia made a strong case for itself when delegates visited to check out potential sites in 1946, TIME reported:

When the time for on-the-spot inspection came, the spirit of brotherly love was almost overpowering. There was a cocktail party for them in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Day, who would be evicted if [one of the potential locations] were chosen. Mr. and Mrs. Day thought that would be a fine idea.

…Philadelphia’s hosts never missed a bet. There was a concert by the famed Philadelphia Orchestra, a luncheon at the Art Museum (under pictures by Matisse, Gauguin and Reynolds). In a helicopter provided for the delegates, Holland’s Jan de Ranitz and Dr. M. P. M. van Karnebeek plopped down near Philadelphia for a hearty greeting by a local farmer & family.

But, still, even Philadelphia was considered to be too close to New York and Washington, D.C.

Chicago, San Francisco, Atlantic City and Boston were among the other locales lobbying to become the permanent headquarters. One unlikely contender, the Black Hills region of South Dakota, made the rational argument that it was far from the reach of an atomic bomb, unlike the coastal cities.

“In the Black Hills there are no military objectives, and the gentlemen who are striving for the peace of the world can live at peace while the atomic bombs are falling,” Paul Bellamy, a businessman representing the Black Hills, told an assembly of the U.N., which was temporarily based in London, according to a TIME story from December 1945.

“It was no part of Bellamy’s job, or of the booster tradition,” the author noted, “to ask what the gentlemen would be doing at that point.”

Ultimately, Bellamy’s urgings were for naught. Despite the organizers’ original misgivings, real-estate concerns ended up carrying more weight than atomic ones: New York City received the boost it needed when philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr. gifted a parcel of Manhattan land to the U.N.

Read a 1952 cover story about the building of the current United Nations headquarters: Cheops’ Architect

TIME National Monuments

84 Years Later: The Making of Mount Rushmore

The memorial that immortalized four presidents took more than a decade to carve out of the rock. But on July 4th, 1930, in the early days of construction, a dedication was held for the head of George Washington.

The Danish-American sculptor Gutzon Borglum began carving the heads of four presidents out of South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore in 1927, embarking on an ambitious project to build one of America’s most iconic memorials. Today, the heads of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt attract more than 2 million visitors every year.

But construction was predictably laborious, and Borglum died in 1941 before he could see his project finished. His son, Lincoln Borglum, completed the sculpture later that year. Today, on the 84th anniversary of the Fourth of July dedication of Washington’s head in the early years of carving, TIME looks back at the construction of the memorial that immortalized four presidents.

TIME States

For $400,000 You Can Be a Town’s Owner, and its Bartender

A road marker highlights Swett, S.D.'s small borders on June 26, 2014.
A road marker highlights Swett, S.D.'s small borders on June 26, 2014. Eric Ginnard—AP

The entire town of Swett, South Dakota is up for sale, and there's a bar included

Ever wished your local bar was a little less crowded? Well wish no more. For a mere $400,000 you can become the proud owner of a bar, and the one-man town it’s based in, the Associated Press reports.

Lance Benson, a wealthy businessman, has put the town of Swett, S.D. up for sale. Benson bought the hamlet in 1998, lost it in a divorce and reclaimed it in 2012. Now he’s looking for a buyer so he can spend more time on his business.

The new owner of Swett will inherit a workshop, three trailers, Benson’s house, and, of course, the bar. Though the town is uninhabited, solitary drinkers need not make an offer. The Swett Tavern is the bar of choice for local cowboys and farmers within a 10-mile radius.

Gerry Runnels, a patron of the bar commented: “This place is pretty much where the highway ends and the Wild West begins.”

Benson put the town on the market last week, though a new proprietor is yet to be found. Its current owner isn’t too bothered though. Benson said if Swett doesn’t sell in a year, he’ll keep it.

[AP]

TIME weather

Baseball-Size Hail Rains Down on Nebraska as Thunderstorms Inundate Midwest

Severe Weather
A car with its windows damaged by hail hangs over a creek following a severe thunderstorm in Blair, Neb., Tuesday, June 3, 2014. Nati Harnik—AP

Wild weather sweeps across the Midwest

Hard rain and hailstones inundated large swaths of the Great Plains on Tuesday as officials issued tornado watches in Nebraska that will continue late into the evening in the Cornhusker State.

“Storms may contain very heavy rain, large hail and a few tornadoes,” warned the National Weather Service in a bulletin posted on its website on Tuesday.

Baseball-size hail reportedly fell across northeast Nebraska on Tuesday, causing extensive damage.

The hail knocked out car windshields in affected areas, while the roof of at least one hotel in Missouri Valley, Iowa, was ripped off by high winds, according to CNN.

The National Weather Service predicted that another string of heavy thunderstorms is likely to move across the heartland from the Texas panhandle to western South Dakota on Wednesday.

TIME politics

GOP Senate Candidate Declares War on Sexism: ‘Our Country Has a Problem’

Conservative women fight back

A Republican Senate candidate from South Dakota has a message for the people calling her vulgar names on the Internet: conservative women fight back. Annette Bosworth, a current state Representative and medical doctor, held a press conference Tuesday openly condemning the misogyny she says she’s encountered throughout her campaign for the U.S. Senate, largely at the hands of “supposedly tolerant liberals.” Bosworth’s passionate diatribe hit a nerve at a moment when much of the country is turning its attention to misogyny in the wake of a mass killing in California, where a young man stabbed and shot his way through a college town, driven by his sexist views.

“Good morning, and welcome to the state of political discourse in 2014, “ Bosworth said while standing in a profane graffiti-covered room. She called the exhibit a representation of what’s facing women who “dare to challenge the status quo.”

“What you see around you are the words which have been written about me on blogs, on the Internet throughout this campaign,” Bosworth said. “They are hateful, they are hurtful and no person should have to endure it. It is its own form of abuse.”

Bosworth, who is challenging former Gov. Mike Rounds in the upcoming June primary, said she asked local artists to Google her and “pick a name. Spell it just as it’s spelled on the Internet and represent that on my campaign signs.”

“The Democrats talk about a war on women, but much of what you see is written by the supposedly tolerant liberals. Their message is clear: conservative women are fair game. If you are a female and a Republican, anything goes. Look at these signs. Look at the messages sent by our country. We have a problem, and it’s not being talked about.”

She called attention to the Santa Barbara massacre:

“I would like you to try and find a word that correlates to that in a man with the same connotation and the same disrespect that when their children Google it, it makes them cry. The misogyny is real. Go to the shootings in California. Look around. South Dakota is not unique. Our country has a problem.”

She may be considered a “long-shot” as a Senate candidate, but her powerful stance against the vulgarity sends a much needed, powerful message to hatemongers: enough is enough.

Watch the full video at Talking Points Memo.

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