At the press conference where former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds announced his intent to run for U.S. Senate, Jason Glodt was right where he wanted to be – in the background.
That’s where he’s done his work for almost two decades, managing or helping with more than 200 South Dakota political campaigns in the process.
“Every cycle since 1994 I have worked on political campaigns,” he said.
Glodt recounts the past in two-year cycles. As he ticks off campaign after campaign he has managed or helped with there are some standouts. In 1994, he volunteered with the Bill Janklow for Governor campaign. In 2006, he helped Mike Rounds get re-elected as governor and in 2010 he played a role in Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s election. He also served as the executive director of the South Dakota Republican Party when John Thune defeated Tom Daschle in 2004
But there’s so much more – dozens of legislative races and more recently his help with the U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem and U.S. Sen. John Thune campaigns.
But not every candidate is a winner. In fact, Glodt started his paid political management career with a loss. Although he had volunteered with campaigns for eight years by then, it wasn’t until 2002 that he drew a paycheck for his services and his first one came from then-Attorney General Mark Barnett. Barnett faced off against then-Lt. Gov. Steve T. Kirby and Rounds in a primary race, but lost.
Although not every campaign can be a winner, Glodt has found plenty of success.
“We have been very blessed and very fortunate to have a good track record in the last decade,” he said.
He said some of the highlights of his career came in what seemed to be difficult years. In 2008, state Democrats only needed to pick up a handful of seats to take control of the Senate and the political climate was prime for them to do that, Glodt said.
“It was kind of a referendum on the Bush presidency,” he said. “Nationwide, we knew it was going to be a difficult year and an uphill battle. So my focus was on trying to weather the storm and hold our majority in the state Senate and state House.”
In the end, Republicans not only managed to hold the Senate, but they picked up one seat, Glodt said.
“Compared to other states, I don’t think you can point to another state that weathered the storm better than South Dakota,” he said.
Dusty Johnson, a former Public Utilities Commissioner whose campaign had some help from Glodt, said one of Glodt’s strengths is that he really believes in what he campaigns for.
“He is a true believer in freedom and prosperity and all of these phrases that politicians use that always sound hollow from them ’cause you feel like they are trying to sell you something,” Johnson said. “Jason Glodt believes that stuff in a really authentic way. That is why he gets out of bed in the morning. Not for power, not for glory, not to see his own name on the ballot, but because he believes in that stuff really as much as anyone I’ve met.”
Glodt said that’s part of what got him interested in politics.
“I think what initially got me started was my love for my country and a desire to see a better future in America and that was at a time when the national debt was only $5 trillion. Now that it is $16 trillion, I am more active than ever,” he said. “I’ve never been able to sit on the sidelines and watch our country go in the wrong direction.”
Johnson said Glodt’s work ethic is unmatched. In Johnson’s bid for a seat on the PUC eight years ago, he prided himself on being the hardest-working person in politics, but he soon realized Glodt was right there with him.
“I would get off the road at 2 a.m. and do an hour or two of emails and get up in the morning and do it all over again,” Johnson said. “But every night when I was doing emails I was getting emails from Jason Glodt. He was working, too.”
Glodt also impressed Daugaard with his work ethic.
“I really appreciate Jason’s hard work and his straightforward approach,” Daugaard said. “He was very helpful to me on my campaign, organizing ‘get out the vote’ and working with many of our supporters.”
But his success doesn’t just come from hard work; it comes from understanding South Dakota voters.
He focuses on grassroots organization. Part of that means designing mailers and creating media advertising, with the goal ultimately building a network of supporters across the state.
“I’m a behind-the-scenes guy,” Glodt said.
Policy and working for government
Glodt also has an extensive career in government working for politicians such as Larry Pressler, Barnett, Larry Long, Rounds and Daugaard.
Originally Glodt moved to Pierre to use his law degree in the Attorney General’s Office. However, he has worked in a variety of positions, most recently working with policy in the Governor’s Office.
Johnson said in that area too, Glodt excelled.
“If people are really lucky they get to be outstanding at one thing in their lives,” Johnson said. “Jason Glodt is outstanding at two. The guy is among the strongest policy minds running around the state and he is also the best political operative in the state.”
Future in the
Glodt recently left his position in the Governor’s Office to move his political work to the next level. Glodt has teamed up with soon-to-be former state Sen. Bob Gray and Rob Skjonsberg to open GSG Strategies, a public relations firm. It is a big step for Glodt, who has mostly kept one foot in the public sector.
“This is the first time I’ve hung my own shingle, really,” he said.
Conceived by Gray and Skjonsberg, the two discussed the idea with Glodt, who would be a key part of the firm.
“The business would not look the same without him,” Gray said.
But the switch to the private sector full-time meant Glodt had to leave a job he loved.
He said it was difficult, but he felt as though the time was right.
It was also hard for the Governor’s Office to lose him.
“In the governor’s office, Jason did a great job working on tough issues,” Daugaard said. “Jason was a valuable asset for South Dakota, both working for me and for Gov. Rounds, and I was very sorry to see him go.”
It also appears he will have his first gig soon. It was officially announced Tuesday he along with Gray with join Skjonsberg on Rounds’ campaign management team.