National and local conservative activists are up in arms because former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds (R), a leading contender in the state's open U.S. Senate race next year, declined to give total assurances that he won't raise taxes if he makes it to Capitol Hill.
A story published Sunday in the Argus Leader of Sioux Falls, S.D. quoted a number of right-wing leaders who expressed misgivings about the former governor's refusal to sign an anti-tax pledge, as well as his spending record while in office.
Rounds told the Argus Leader that pledges lead to bad governance.
“While we may know how we would feel about a particular issue right now, when things change, when circumstances change, a good legislator or congressperson should have the ability to reconsider their own position on an issue,” Rounds said.
That didn't sit well with Matt Hoskins, who leads the Senate Conservatives Fund.
“We asked him a series of policy questions, things like, ‘Will you pledge to oppose tax increases?’ He said ‘No, I won’t take pledges,’” Hoskins said. “On earmarks, and on bailouts, on every policy issue you can imagine, he just consistently said ‘No, no, no, I won’t make any of those pledges.’”
Rounds was a popular figure when he left the governor's mansion in 2011, and many pegged him as the frontrunner in the 2014 Senate race after his early entrance in the contest.
But Sunday's story in the Argus Leader and a survey released last month by Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling both signal that his path to the GOP nomination won't necessarily be easy. The poll showed Republican voters in the state essentially split between Rounds and two-term Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD), who has not yet announced if she will run. Rounds will be vying for the seat currently held by Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD), who announced last month that he will not seek re-election.