Democrats struggling to remain relevant in South Dakota politics

The night in 1983 before Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. was popped for heroin possession at Rapid City Regional Airport he was partying with us at Durty Nelly's in the basement of the Franklin Hotel in Deadwood.

Kennedy sat with Pam Pearson Cleveland, Shelley, my wife at the time and myself at a booth near where Bill Walsh was tending his own bar: catholics on parade. Bobby bet me ten dollars I couldn't eat a packet of saltine crackers in less than a minute without drinking. He laughed so hard while i tried to get those crackers down he spit beer across the table. I lost and bought the next round.

Jo Roebuck Pearson, an heir to the Sears retail enterprise, her husband, Bill Walsh, Orville "French" Bryan, wife, Taffy Tucker and another couple, the Mike Trucanos, if memory serves, had recently bought the Franklin. French had been Mayor of Deadwood for a time; Walsh had left the priesthood to marry. Trucano had the coin-op monopoly in the Black Hills. He'd go on to reap a fortune after gambling came to the Gulch. Pam later divorced then married into the Republican Kirby family.

At least a decade ago the Franklin sold to the Silverado group and is now crumbling under deferred maintenance.

Today, Bill Walsh is a superdelegate and national committeeman at the South Dakota Democratic Convention.
“This is my eighth convention,” Walsh said Wednesday. “My first convention, in Chicago, I went as a priest. My second, in Miami, I went as a policeman … This convention, I’m going as a politician.” South Dakota has five unpledged delegates: Former Sen. Tom Daschle, State Chairwoman Ann Tornberg, State Vice Chairman Joe Lowe, State Democratic National Committeewoman Sharon Stroschein, and Walsh. [Black Hills Pioneer]
I began playing in Jerry Apa's illegal poker games in the basement of the Bodega in Deadwood somewhere around 1985. It was a seminal time in bringing gaming to the Gulch. The late Mike O'Connell was a founding father and a Democrat as were Chuck and Bernie Williams.

One frequent player was Walter Dale Miller even after he became Lt. Governor Miller. After poker became legal he played while governor and even after Bill Janklow shafted him forcing him from politics he came to Deadwood to play. This reporter has been in Texas hold 'em games where Gov. Miller, Mark Hollenbeck's dad, Bud, and Kevin Costner were also playing.

Miller was horrible at poker sometimes pouring thousands into a game. He liked being called Walt.

Recall that after years of financial problems Miller's son and daughter-in-law, Randy and Mary, were convicted of tax crimes then served time in federal prison.

Mark Hollenbeck is up to his tits. Bud was a shitty player, too.

My obsession with poker and power wiped out a career and destroyed at least two of my marriages so, i haven't played for over ten years.

Going into a restaurant where poker is on teevee causes my mind to replay images of the past and renders me unable to take my eyes off the screen.

Imagine the number of lives touched by video lootery.

The specter of Janklow operatives sabotaging Governor George Mickelson's plane still haunts me.

It took the lobbying of Lt. Governor Walter Dale Miller, Democrats Bill Walsh and Tom Blair to bring legal gaming to Deadwood to finance historic preservation; but, Republican greed has turned it into the prostituted cultural wasteland that it is today.

A gun range in Whitewood Canyon where alcohol would be sold has been scuttled but Republicans are scrambling to find a new venue for one of their own.

Kevin Costner has sold the Dunbar property and there is a movement to build a $40+ million theme park but there are no longer any Democrats to guide the process. They have fled South Dakota for blue states.

But, remember: hope is the last thing to die.

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