Capitol Notebook: When it mattered, Adelstein showed smarts and courage

By Bob Mercer

State Capitol Bureau

PIERRE – During 11 years Stan Adelstein never got much traction in the Legislature.

Of 99 bills he introduced, 14 became law. Not one of the senator’s 21 in 2012 and 2013 made it out of the Senate.

But the courage of Adelstein, R-Rapid City, shouldn’t be misestimated.

He clearly was a feminist. He defended legalized abortion. He tried to stop the practice of an aggrieved spouse or parent seeking compensation in court for abduction, enticement or seduction. He wanted Medicaid benefits expanded to pregnant mothers.

Likewise he tried to raise more money for state and local governments through alcohol tax increases and a summer increase in sales tax. He championed ignition-interlock for convicted drunk drivers.

He occasionally brought legislation and resolutions regarding Judaism. Once in the House he let loose after an anonymous note was left at his desk about being a Jew. That came after he paid for lights to better show a historic mural in the House chamber

Those who truly understand Rapid City politics know too his roles in city elections.

Adelstein, 82, resigned on Dec. 30 from the Senate because of illness after surgery. With the 2014 session starting Jan. 14, Gov. Dennis Daugaard has little time to appoint a replacement.

Republicans will still control the Senate, 27-7.

You likely heard or read how then-Gov. Bill Janklow called Adelstein in the spring of 2002 and suggested some financial oomph might make the difference for Mike Rounds in the Republican primary for governor.

Rounds won the nomination. He was elected governor, twice.

And you likely remember two years ago when Adelstein demanded state Attorney General Marty Jackley investigate activities of Secretary of State Jason Gant and deputy Pat Powers.

Adelstein introduced legislation in 2013 to make candidates for constitutional offices such as secretary of state subject to primary elections, rather than continue to be nominated at political-party conventions. This was a direct shot at the process that led to Gant’s election.

The bill failed but the dissent was planted. On Sept. 3, Sen. Shantel Krebs, R-Renner, filed paperwork to run for secretary of state. Gant soon announced he wouldn’t seek re-election in 2014.

For years Adelstein also showed how political action committees funded largely by one man – him – could be used to steer large amounts of money to candidates.

The Legislature adopted limits, but that merely led to multiple PACs relying on a wealthy contributor, such as those used by Republican Gordon Howie of Rapid City and Democrat Scott Heidepriem of Sioux Falls to fuel their 2010 campaigns for governor.

Adelstein’s heavy emphasis on pro-choice legislation in 2005 led to rejection by Pennington County Republican voters in 2006. Elli Schwiesow took the nomination with 2,145 votes to his 1,971.

Democrat Tom Katus rolled past Schwiesow in the general election 4,994 to 4,515. Adelstein came back in 2008. He won a three-way contest, polling 3,834 votes to edge Katus at 3,464 and Schwiesow at 3,683 running as an independent.

Lesson learned: Adelstein didn’t have a challenger in 2010 or 2012.

He wasn’t a great legislator. But at times Stan Adelstein was good at politics – very good.

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