Gubernatorial candidates Scott Heidepriem and Dennis Daugaard first became friends when they both went to school at the University of South Dakota. On Thursday night, Oct. 21, they were reunited on USD's campus for a debate on South Dakota Public Broadcasting less than two weeks before Election Day.
Heidepriem, the Democratic candidate and current state senator, said both men have been friends, are currently friends and will be friends after the election is over.
But after that statement, Heidepriem, who won the coin toss to decide who would answer the first question, started to point out how he differed from Daugaard on many different issues, the first being South Dakota's budget.
"Tackling the budget is very serious action, and I've made it clear throughout the campaign that I will sell airplanes, reduce the size of government, I will end TransCanada's subsidy and end no-bid contracts to close that budget gap," Heidepriem said. "I've asked Lt. Gov. Daugaard how he would reduce the deficit, but he hasn't offered any ideas, and tonight would be the perfect time for him to say how he would."
While South Dakota's budget appears to be in better shape than most other states, Daugaard said it would be one of the first things he will focus on if he is elected governor.
He said he would basically cut spending.
"Not all the cuts I will make may be popular, but they will be what's necessary," he said. "I won't raise taxes in the middle of a recession, and the deficit isn't built on bad spending."
Heidepriem responded by saying South Dakota got this far in the hole because of the current Mike Rounds/Daugaard administration.
"South Dakota received $300 million of stimulus money and we still can't balance the budget," he said. "To have a $107 million deficit after having stimulus money is mismanagement by this current administration."
Daugaard said the money South Dakota received from the federal stimulus wasn't for the general budget fund. He noted that "$186 million of that was spent on our roads, which is why we have so much construction, and the money we got has nothing to do with the general funds.
"(Heidepriem's) public attacks and proposed cuts don't impact our budget. … His ideas are just political attacks."
One issue both candidates will face as governor is Medicaid, and both had different ways how to handle it.
"There is very little South Dakota can do to cut Medicaid if they want to keep federal dollars. In just the last eight years, Medicaid has grown by 68 percent," Daugaard said. "It's difficult to control."
But Heidepriem said he has an idea of how to handle growing Medicaid costs.
"If we privatize Medicaid, it makes it less expensive," he said. "There is no reason why South Dakota can't do that."
Later on, Heidepriem added that if spending upsets voters, all they have to do is to look at what's happening in Pierre during the current administration.
"What we need to do is to cut government to reduce the deficit that Dennis and Mike have created," he said.
However, Daugaard said Heidepriem is no stranger to spending money himself.
"In 2007, he proposed to spend some of the reserves and trust fund. In 2009, he proposed to spend $10 million more when we were trying to balance the budget," he said. "He has a history of encouraging spending. He talks as if he is a cutter, but he is really a spender."
In Daugaard's closing, he said voters should expect four things from the next governor: honesty, experience, leadership and someone who cares about the people – all things he feels he brings to the role.
"I know what it's like to be an agricultural person from my time on the farm. I have balanced budgets in my previous jobs, and I have been in politics for 14 years," he said. "I have offered ideas and I will listen. I believe I can make a difference, and I never stop listening."
Heidepriem closed by saying he would be the one to offer new ideas, not Daugaard.
"I waited an hour for him for ideas on how to balance the budget and to deal with Medicaid, but he doesn't have any new ideas," he said. "I have specific ideas, and we need a strong leader right now."
After the debate was over, both candidates said they thought it went well.
"The debate was run very well, and I think it went well," Daugaard said. "I think the critical issues were covered, and the next governor must focus on the government budget and jobs."
Heidepriem said he was hoping the public saw the points he was trying to make throughout the debate.
"I thought it was great, and I love to talk about the issues," he said. "I thought we mixed it up, and I hope the public sees he doesn't offer any ideas."
Heidepriem also thought a couple more topics could've been brought up during the debate.
"Well, it's a big state with a lot of issues, and we didn't get into tech education or birth to three," he said. "But I was pleased with it."
Throughout the debate, Heidepriem said Daugaard doesn't have any ideas for any of his solutions, but Daugaard said that's not the case.
"Him saying so doesn't make it so. I would ask the voters to look at both sides for one second," he said. "They can also go to my website and see the ideas I have. Look at the jobs plan and look at the education plan."
Heidepriem said he would be more than happy for the voters to check out Daugaard's website.
"I want people to check out his ideas, because they won't see any ideas," he said.