National | Politics

Native Sun News: GOP candidate rejects Senate debate at UTTC

The following story was written and reported by Native Sun News Staff. All content © Native Sun News.

Mike Rounds, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in South Dakota.

Rounds declines to attend UTTC debate
By Native Sun News Staff

RAPID CITY – The long-awaited debate that will be held at the Rapid City Campus of the United Tribes Technical College has reached its final lineup.

Former Senator Larry Pressler, running as an Independent, Rick Weiland, running as a Democrat, and Gordie Howie, also running as an Independent, have all agreed to participate in the debate.

Former South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds has decided not to enter the debate. His campaign spokesman, Rob Skjonsberg said, “We can’t make that date work and as we discussed, I still don’t think a debate is the best venue for a two-way conversation on these issues. Instead my offer for a one-on-one, the students and your staff, stands. We can accomplish what you seek with a conversation, I believe.”

Gordon Howie, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in South Dakota.

Independent candidate Gordie Howie was quick to respond. He said, “South Dakota deserves to see and hear from all of the candidates so they can make an informed decision. I have to wonder what questions he is afraid to answer.”

Rick Weiland, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate with Oglala Sioux Tribe President Bryan Brewer. Photo from Facebook

The Democrat Rick Weiland was not happy. He said, “I think it is very disappointing that Mike Rounds has decided the debate at UTTC isn’t important enough for him to participate. This will be the only U. S. Senate debate that will focus on the issues affecting Indian Country whose population represents almost 10 percent of our state. How do you expect to represent all the people of South Dakota in the United States senate if you are not willing to make your case in person by stating your positions and answering questions? This election should not be a coronation of the ‘big money’ candidate who thinks he can buy this seat without showing up. If you want people to vote for you, you need to respect the process and participate in it. I have traveled to every town and reservation in South Dakota these past 15 months meeting with the elders and tribal leaders and attending many of the pow wows. I want to earn the privilege to represent Indian Country in the United States Senate and am not afraid to show up. I’m looking forward to it.”

Larry Pressler, an independent candidate for U.S. Senate in South Dakota.

Former Senator Larry Pressler also expressed his disappointment. He said, “Upon further consideration, it appears to me that we have lost five statewide debates because of Rounds’ refusal to debate, and then sometimes if only three accept then Weiland has been refusing to debate, as he does not want to be on the same platform as me, apparently, without Rounds there. Anyway, as a result of this, many people just cancel their debate plans without ever announcing them. I hope the United Tribes Technical College debate goes forward with their debate as planned. However, I and others had hoped that CSPAN might cover this debate to give more knowledge of the Native Americans’ plight. You might consider an empty chair for those who do not wish to participate.”

“First of all, what follows is based on hearsay, and I can’t really prove a lot of this, but it appears that we have lost five or six debates based on Rounds’ and Weiland’s refusal to go forward. Specifically, it is my belief that we have lost a Rapid City Journal/KOTA televised debate, the traditional KSFY televised debate in Sioux Falls, a Mitchell Daily Republic McGovern Center debate (although it will be held with high school students in a modified form, I guess, without Rounds), a Watertown radio debate, a KSOO radio debate, and an Aberdeen debate. Of the four debates agreed to by Rounds, two are not on television and all of them are limited to one hour. The one at the Mitchell Farm Fest, remarks are supposed to be limited to answering the agricultural questions, and it sounds as though there can be very little personal initiative on subjects on the part of the candidates,” Pressler said.

Pressler continued, “I can’t actually prove that this is what has happened, but it appears to me that five or six debates have just evaporated because of candidates’ refusal to take part. That is too bad for the future of our state. As one who has been a Professor of political science and history for the last eighteen years, I am very sorry that the great American political tradition of debate has been seriously compromised by Governor Rounds’ refusal to join in – although I’m sure his campaign will say he is in four debates, but only two of those are broadcast and they are all very tightly controlled in terms of the subject matter.”

Native Sun News management declined the offer by Skjonsberg to have a one on one meeting with former Governor Rounds. Editor Tim Giago said, “The Native American students at UTTC wanted to ask questions of all four candidates, should Rounds have chosen to attend the debate, and compare their answers to the same question and then be able to determine which candidate was most informed about Native American concerns and issues. To question only one candidate would defeat the purpose of a debate.”

Kathlene Thurman, the Higher Education Director at UTTC, said that the students are disappointed that Rounds will not attend their debate, but she was pleased that the other three candidates saw the importance of being there.

Copyright permission Native Sun News

Related Stories:
Native Sun News: Senate candidates accept invitation to debate (8/6)

Join the Conversation