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     Political parties: “There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties each arranged under its leader . . . This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.” – John Adams, second president of the United States

Switching political parties seems to be more popular these days. When the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, Michelle Lavallee, changed her registration from Republican to Democrat so she could team up with Billie Sutton as his running mate, hardly an eyebrow raised.

I’d be the last person to throw stones at someone who decided to change political affiliations.

I was a Democrat in good standing until the early 1970s when I determined that my views on taxes and social issues were more in line with the GOP.

Then, when I became a card carrying newspaperman, I registered as an Independent. After that, when I ran for the South Dakota House of Representatives, it was as a Republican.

Out west, in Rapid City, it has been rumored for years that some candidates change their party affiliation from Democrat to Republican so they can be elected. A journalist friend said to me recently that perhaps there are three kinds of Republicans in western South Dakota: ultra (hard right) Republicans, moderate Republicans, and Democrats posing as Republicans.

Funny, but there could be some truth to it.

There are many reasons to change party affiliations. In South Dakota, some move to the GOP so they can vote in the primary and affect who will face the Democrat in the general election.  Some voters become disenchanted with whichever party they are in and change colors. More and more voters are registering as Independents, signaling they don’t like either of the major parties.

The importance of party affiliation strikes close to home for me because had my Uncle Frank (John Frank Lindley) taken the advice of at least some he likely would have fulfilled a lifelong dream: become governor of South Dakota.

Frank was lieutenant governor in 1958-59 when Ralph Herseth was governor. He ran for the top spot in 1964, capturing more than 48 percent of the vote, a strong showing for a Democrat.  A longtime acquaintance from Lyman County told me some years ago that if Uncle Frank, after graduating from law school, had joined former Republican Gov. M.Q. Sharpe’s law firm in Kennebec instead of Matt Brown’s in Chamberlain, “he would have been governor.”

Changing parties wasn’t an option for Frank. Switching labels because of disagreements on the issues or policy is one thing; taking on a different affiliation in order to better your election chances is something else.

Party labels still matter. Which is one reason why South Dakota, come November, could be the 29th state to elect a female as governor.

June 20, 2018