Is Kristi Noem taking the right approach to school lunch?

Kristi Noem is attempting to roll back some of the school lunch regulations that went into effect last year. She seems to generally support the effort to get kids to eat healthier, but she thinks the regulations have gone too far and are causing some kids to go without enough to eat. (Click here to see Noem’s legislation.)

We’ve covered this with a short news story and an editorial. You can also watch a video below. What do you think of her approach?

Smart move, Stephanie

Stephanie Herseth Sandlin

If you’re a reader of The Daily Republic, you may know I wrote a column recently in which I advised Stephanie Herseth Sandlin to either forgo next year’s Senate race in order to fulfill her expressed desire to spend more time with her family, or to quit talking about that desire so much if she had already decided to run.

Looks like I timed my column well. News broke this morning that she’s not running, after she posted an announcement on her Facebook page.

I’m under no illusions that my column had any impact whatsoever on her decision, but I do think, partly for the reasons I outlined in the column, that she made a smart move.

You can’t go all over the state telling everybody how important your family time is — as Herseth Sandlin had been doing lately — and then jump into the first big-time political race that comes along. It would look hypocritical.

The next time an opportunity arises, Herseth Sandlin’s young son will probably be in grade school, and she’ll be more able to make the sacrifice of time it takes to run for and win a statewide elected office.

Furthermore, I think the political winds are against her right now. When the regular voter thinks of Herseth Sandlin, I think there’s still a feeling of, “didn’t we just vote her out a couple of years ago?” It’s too soon for a full-scale comeback. Besides, I don’t see her beating Mike Rounds in a Senate race or Kristi Noem in a House race, and another defeat right now could be the end of Herseth Sandlin’s political career.

There will be more opportunities for Stephanie Herseth Sandlin. Nobody is emerging so far from the Democratic Party in South Dakota to challenge her as (in the absence of Tim Johnson) the party’s biggest star. She will continue to be the first name on Democratic lists for every statewide office that opens up. Of course, Brendan Johnson is out there on the horizon, but it’s looking more like he, too, might pass on the 2014 cycle. And we all know there’s plenty of room on the perilously thin South Dakota Democratic bench for two.

With a few more years living and working in South Dakota under her belt, Herseth Sandlin will be an even better candidate. One of the knocks on her was always that she left the state as a young woman for college and law school and appeared to rarely come back. By the next time she runs for something, with all the time she’ll have spent living, working and raising her child in South Dakota, that criticism will have been obliterated. I can honestly say I’d be more inclined to vote for her knowing that she’s shared my experience of being a working parent in South Dakota. And she’ll be better able to relate to voters, which is a scary prospect for Republicans, given she’s already shown she can win statewide elections in a Republican-dominated state.

So today I say congratulations to Stephanie Herseth Sandlin for making a good decision for sound reasons. Enjoy your family and your life for a while. I have a feeling the Democrats will still need you a few years down the road, and you’ll be able come back to politics when you’re truly ready.

A drawback of the Democrats’ new centralization strategy

Anybody who’s worked in a large, geographically dispersed organization knows there are positives and negatives associated with the centralization of certain organizational tasks. While great efficiencies and gains in quality can be achieved by centralizing a task with one expert at company headquarters, things like local knowledge can get lost along the way.

A giant postcard I received last weekend from the state Democratic Party is a good example. We published a story Saturday about the Democrats’ new focus on the oversized postcards. They’re sending them all over the state on behalf of Democratic legislative candidates, and Sen. Mike Vehle, R-Mitchell, has been especially targeted. Ben Nesselhuf, the state party’s chairman and executive director, explained the strategy this way in our Saturday story:

“We have essentially set ourselves up to be the campaign consulting team for our candidates. We’ve been able, by using a more centralized strategy, to bring costs down.”

That sounds good, and it probably is mostly good for the party and its candidates. But it also makes it more likely that somebody working from an office in Pierre or Sioux Falls will make a mistake that a local candidate would not make.

Take the picture below, for example, which I shot with my phone. It’s a postcard sent by the Democratic Party on behalf of Democratic District 20 Senate candidate Quinten Burg. The postcard includes an absolutely lovely view of Lake Prior in Woonsocket (it’s not labeled as such; I just know the lake from having seen it many times).

The problem? Woonsocket and its beautiful lake are in District 8, not District 20. I’m sure Quinten Burg knows that, but apparently somebody at the state party office doesn’t.

So that’s what an “ice luge” is

Maybe I’ve led a sheltered life, but when I heard and read that Kristi Noem was criticizing Matt Varilek for drinking Jagermeister from an ice luge (it was part of Corndog-gate), I didn’t really know what she was talking about.

Then, Friday, I was fortunate enough to attend the Avera Foundation’s Splash of Spirits fundraiser here in Mitchell. I was walking through the lobby of the Highland Conference Center when what to my wondering eyes should appear but a real, live ice luge (see photo below that I snapped with my phone). At Splash of Spirits, the luge was being used to pour liquor. There were two slots in the back of the huge ice block, and the liquor poured down a couple of ice chutes into a waiting glass below.

We can only hope there will be an ice luge at Matt Varilek’s election watch party tomorrow night in Sioux Falls. I’ll tell our photographer to be on the lookout for it.

Columnist: McGovern/Armstrong juxtaposition proves it’s better to lose with integrity than win without it

George McGovern lived long enough to be a contemporary of a lot of people, but I’d never heard him mentioned in the same breath as Lance Armstrong until today.

Leonard Pitts Jr. notes the juxtaposition of recent news reports about the two men in a new column:

There is something to be said for simply being who and what you say you are. In juxtaposing these two lives, these two fates, we learn that our parents were right, once upon a time.

Better you lose with integrity than win seven times without.