PIERRE - Here are some unusual stories from South Dakota politics in 2010 that didn't make the mainstream top 10 list.
·Deaths of Curt Hohn and Bill Dougherty - The news reports about his death at age 60 in November missed the big story of how Hohn helped change rural South Dakota.
Hohn was an aide to U.S. Sen. George McGovern in the mid-1970s, when he became convinced McGovern should stop supporting the proposed Oahe irrigation project, which was planned to supply Missouri River water through ditches to farmers across much of north-central South Dakota.
Hohn helped McGovern win re-election in 1974 but quit his staff job with McGovern and eventually became the first paid executive director for the anti-project United Family Farmers organization. In 1980, UFF helped Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Abdnor beat McGovern, a three-term Democratic senator.
The grassroots opposition to Oahe led to formation of the WEB rural water system as a replacement. Hohn went on to become manager of the WEB system and oversaw its construction. Today, most of rural South Dakota is served by pipelines for drinking water.
Hohn remained a controversial figure among WEB board members and directors. He left South Dakota for several years but returned in 1997 for a second run as WEB manager. He was the Democratic challenger to then-U.S. Rep. John Thune, a Republican, in 2000.
Dougherty, a friend of the Kennedy family and a key aide in the McGovern presidential campaign of 1972, was the state's last independently elected lieutenant governor. He went on to a career as a long-time lobbyist. Failing health prevented him from working the 2010 legislative session. He died July 3 at age 78.
·Angie Buhl and Jenna Haggar - Their victories in the same Sioux Falls district proved there's more than one way to use underground tactics to win a legislative seat.
Buhl, pro-choice and an open advocate for gay equality, toppled pro-life incumbent Kathy Miles in a low-turnout Democratic primary for the Senate seat held by Miles in District 15. No Republican or independent candidate filed, so Buhl's 398-276 primary win made her a senator-elect.
Republicans didn't run any candidates for the House seats in the heavily Democratic district. But Haggar, a legislative page in the 2004 session who later lobbied for South Dakota Right to Life, filed as an independent. And she scored the second big upset of the year.
Haggar received 2,264 votes in the general election, ahead of the two Democratic incumbents. Haggar supporters successfully painted Rep. Martha Vanderlinde as a pro-abortion liberal with a late burst of mailings. Vanderlinde finished third in the three-way fight for the district's two House seats with 1,758 votes, 100 behind Rep. Patrick Kirschman.
Buhl turns 26 on Jan. 19. Haggar turns 26 on Dec. 11. Haggar is the Legislature's only independent.
·Pat Powers and Jason Gant - Open government meets Soviet-style cleansing of the past.
Powers, whose fiercely Republican blog Dakota War College was a must-read Internet site, even though it made him little or no money, mysteriously quit his franchise, turned it over to new folks and wiped out all of his writings there after the November election.
Turns out the reason was that Gant, the newly elected secretary of state, had agreed to hire Powers. That prompted an outcry among other bloggers and commentators about whether Gant's office could be impartial in election matters - and about the wisdom of choosing someone who erased his own digital past to now be in charge of technology for the office.
·Marty Jackley and Brendan Johnson - Don't get crumbs in the voting machines, please.
The decisions respectively by the state attorney general, a Republican, and by the U.S. attorney for the South Dakota district, a Democrat, to not prosecute alleged violations of voter-bribery laws further deepened the gray about what can and can't be done with food as part of elections in South Dakota.
While the state and federal laws seemed clear cut, the circumstances evidently weren't so, at least to Jackley and Johnson and the lawyers they consulted. With the laws now resembling Swiss cheese, perhaps the smart next move is to go the other direction.
Rather than prohibit food for votes, instead encourage buffets at polling places so that Election Day can become a time of fellowship and community gatherings.
·Dusty Johnson and Chris Nelson - These state office-holders added new meaning to political merry-go-round.