Gordon Howie says the face of tyranny is right here in South Dakota, with one-party rule corrupting the South Dakota Republican Party and state government. Yet like Cardinal Raymond Burke blaming feminists for pedophile priests, Howie blames Democrats for Republican tyranny:

In South Dakota, the Republican Party has simply moved to the left, thanks to the efforts of political power brokers with lots of money and liberal perspectives.  Infiltration of the Republican Party  might have been the Democrats response to one party rule by the Republicans.  They did, indeed gain some ground with regard to policy, but at what ultimate cost?  Democrats are now so weak statewide that they have trouble finding credible candidates for most political races, thereby simply giving the offices to Republicans [Gordon Howie, "The Face of Tyranny," The Right Side, 2015.01.11].

Democrats infiltrated the SDGOP. Right.

Howie hopes for a revitalized Democratic Party (yes!) and says the key lies in re-recruiting Republicans:

If there is any hope for accountability to return to this state, it may be in a revitalized Democrat Party.  That will only happen if they can entice their own to shed the costumes, leave the Republican Party and come home. That would leave conservatives to manage the Republican Party and once again, give South Dakota voters a real choice [Howie, 2015.01.11].

I agree with Howie that part of the recipe for Democratic rebuilding is finding candidates and issues who can win votes from some moderate Republicans. But I cannot adopt the Howie narrative that the SDGOP is filled with leftists. Howie and his Republican purists need to stop labeling folks like Mike Rounds as leftists and call them what they are: opportunists. Folks like Larry Rhoden don't switch their registration from Democrat to Republican as some plot to infiltrate the SDGOP and promote leftist ideology. They switch parties to get their names on ballots, win elections, and gain power. By Howie's own thinking, those opportunists have weakened the Republican Party; why would Democrats fare any better by drawing such self-serving opportunists "back"?

Instead of trying to get Democrats to lure other people our of the SDGOP, Howie challenge tyranny by a more direct route: forming his own True Conservative Party. His pal Gary Coe already has a PAC with that name; it shouldn't be hard to turn that mechanism into a party. Get the 8,474 people who voted for Howie for Senate in 2014 to petition a True Conservative Party into existence. (Forming a new party will require 6,936 signatures.) Line up True Conservative Party candidates for at least ten Legislative districts (including every Black Hills district, an easy task for a party centered around Howie's new world headquarters east of Rapid City). Abandon the SDGOP to its soulless, self-serving opportunists, cooperate with Democrats to fire on the depleted SDGOP from both sides, and upset the balance of power.

Even conservatives recognize that South Dakota needs a real liberal party to bring balance to Pierre and check the tyranny of Republican opportunists. But the solution is not for Democrats to catch the disease Howie says debilitates the Republicans.

30 comments

Toward the end of our conversation on KSOO's Viewpoint University yesterday, Dan Peters and Todd Epp asked me what big news stories we should watch for in 2015. You have my dreamy wishlist; now let me cast a partisan eye at my crystal ball and point toward some developing stories that offer smart Democrats some opportunities for organizing and recruiting allies this year for the 2016 election.

The Public Utilities Commission certification hearings on Keystone XL are arousing serious activism among cowboys and Indians. The state Democratic Party should be talking to those activists. Among the Indian opponents, the Democrats may find tribal leaders (and candidates?) who can help activate Indian volunteers and voters on other issues. Among the cowboy opponents, the Dems may find new, unexpected allies who are open to questioning their ingrained West River Republican assumptions and seeking common ground with Dems on other issues. I'm betting the pipeline issue will be resolved this year; Dems should strike now while that iron is hot to invite anti-pipeline activists to turn their energy to other important issues in 2016.

Another issue likely to get some resolution this year will be same-sex marriage. The record in other states and the failure of the Marty Jackley's arguments so far tell me Judge Karen Schreier will throw out South Dakota's gay marriage ban this year. LGBT activists and other lovers of equality and lifelong commitment will celebrate; then they'll want to turn their energy to other equality issues. LGBT activists are holding a summit this month; Democratic Party organizers should be at the summit listening for for ideas on what we can collaborate on in 2016.

South Dakota Democrats should build on one of their only visible areas of success, their ballot measures. Dems in 2014 won the biggest raise in the nation for minimum wage workers, which by itself is a great feather in the cap. We now need to keep tickling Republicans with that feather. We should monitor wage and employment data over the coming year, and when we see economic stimulus from workers with more wages and, as in Minnesota, no sign that increasing the minimum wage hurts job growth, we should loudly and unabashedly remind voters that we were right and the Republican corporate overlords were wrong.

Democrats need to build on that policy momentum, pick another issue (or two?), and get it on the ballot by the November 8, 2015 deadline. They need to march petitions all summer, not just to get a measure on the ballot, but to recruit and mobilize volunteers. They also ned to prepare a full-tilt marketing campaign behind a killer issue on which the party and its candidates can boldly hang their brand.

Democrats won't be alone on the petition trail this year. Rep. Rev. Steve Hickey and Steve Hildebrand have announced their intention to place a payday-lender-killing interest rate cap on the ballot. Daugaardian logic would say, "Don't crowd the ballot; too many issues make voters tired and stupid." But we're not Daugaard; we're Democrats! The more opportunities for people to practice democracy, the more boxes they can mark on a ballot, the better. Dems should think about issues that can synergize with the interest rate cap, and they should keep their radar on for other groups who might be working on initiatives, just in case we need to avoid duplication or cross-purposes, but they should not be afraid to forge their path with the policy initiative they think best serves the interest of the state and the party.

Along with possible issue synergy, the interest rate cap initiative may offer South Dakota Democrats a valuable lesson in coalition-building. Hickey and Hildebrand have already made national headlines with their unlikely political union. Hickey is an evangelical pastor and Republican legislator. Hildebrand helped Barack Obama become President. By any twist of conventional wisdom, a Hickey-Hildebrand collaboration should as unlikely as Stace Nelson and Cory Heidelberger running as a gubernatorial ticket in 2018. But there they are, Steve and Steve, putting aside political opposition to forge a working relationship and solve problems.

Any candidate for SDDP exec who cannot recognize, verbalize, and actualize the lesson in that paragraph should be summarily booted from the interview.

These suggestions apply as much to the state Democratic Party as it does to South Dakota Progress, the new group forming to recruit and support local Democratic candidates. SDP and SDDP (yes, this will be confusing) both need to find new workers, new candidates, new allies, and new dollars. Both groups can find useful conversations and lessons in all of the areas of activism mentioned above. And heck, if SD Progress can grow from mid-term frustration and one good idea into an effective organization, they may offer the South Dakota Democratic Party some lessons as well.

24 comments

Last I checked, South Dakota Progress is looking to play very, very nicely with the South Dakota Democratic Party.

Maybe they shouldn't. Bill Curry, a former Clinton White House advisor who has batted .333 in his own election efforts, says the Democratic Party got beat up nationwide this election year because, since the late 1970's, it has sold out to Wall Street and shut out its problem-solving progressive voices. Curry recommends liberals take charge, go their own way, and dare Democrats to follow:

They can do it but they’ll have to take a time-out from electoral politics. They must declare their independence from the Democratic Party, its ineffectual politics and its current, clueless leaders....

Democrats in Congress seem bent on mass suicide. After their landslide loss they reelected all their leaders without challenge. After the Senate confirmed two utterly unqualified Obama donors as foreign ambassadors, they caved on a budget that opened more sluices for the rich to pour money into politics and hollowed out Dodd/Frank to let Wall Street cover its bad bets with depositors’ money. In 2013 Obama said he wouldn’t “pay ransom” to pass a budget. In 2014 he did just that.

A Progressive Declaration of Independence is a risk, but it’s safer than idling about on deck as the Democrats’ ship goes down... [Bill Curry, "Let's Abandon the Democrats: Stop Blaming Fox News and Stop Hoping Elizabeth Warren Will Save Us," Salon, 2014.12.23].

Curry sounds much like William Greider, who wrote in November that the national Democratic Party has lost its soul and called for a "rump formation of dissenters" to break the spell corporate power has cast on Democrats.

Rick Weiland tried to flex independence from national Democrats and from Big Money in his Senate campaign this year. That didn't go so well, but he is still preaching that same message to South Dakota Democrats. I continue to think that's the right message for South Dakota Democrats and for anyone willing to help them.

I do not think Curry's analysis ports neatly from the national level to South Dakota. Our state Dems are not in Washington collaborating with Republicans to gild Wall Street's throne. Our state Dems aren't in Washington, period, now that Tim Johnson is out. Unlike national Democrats, South Dakota Dems responded to the midterm election by electing new leadership. South Dakota Democrats may be in as good a position to break with Washington and sound Curry's progressive populist bugle as a separate progressive group like South Dakota Progress.

But the question remains, for South Dakota Progress as well as for anyone else hoping to restore progressive fortunes in South Dakota: do we work within the machine, or do we build a new one?

Related Reading: WaPo Fix blogger Philip Bump wonders what would happen if both Republicans and Democrats cleaved into two parties.

90 comments

Speaking of right-wing misrepresentation of reality, I find Pat Powers is out twisting truth again. Sensing a threat, Powers turns his slime gun on South Dakota Progress, the new group forming to support Democratic candidates at the local level. Ignoring most of the facts in Seth Tupper's report on the group's swift evolution, Powers digs for one little hint of change and explodes it into a portent of doom. Writes Tupper:

The woman who distributed the initial news release and who was identified in that release as the chairwoman of the group’s steering committee, Tasiyagnunpa Livermont, has already left the group. She and [SD Progress member David] Hubbard both said she underestimated the time commitment and was pulled away by other matters [Seth Tupper, "New Democratic Organization Trains Candidates for Local Offices," Rapid City Journal, 2014.12.22].

Writes Powers:

...it looks like one group formed to improve their electoral showing is already starting to dribble off members....

...Was that about 30 days, and people are already leaving? [Pat Powers, "Group Formed to Improve Dem Electoral Fortunes Already Fragmenting. And They Just Don’t Get It," Dakota War College, 2014.12.23]

Members, plural? People, plural? Tupper reports on one change, one person who participated in two meetings, accepted a leadership role, but then quickly stepped aside when she realized that this activist outlet wouldn't fit in her schedule. The situation doesn't sound much different from when I've directed plays and had one student-actor decide after a couple days that 6:30 a.m. rehearsals would not be good for her GPA. That's not mass defection or fragmentation; that's an individual making a choice that's healthy for herself and for the group. No story here.

But like a big round snowball, get Pat rolling, and he can't stop. He then takes a gratuitous and false swipe at resigning state Dems exec Zach Crago:

Interesting thing in the story about the Dem’s recent bad fortunes is that we’re not hearing about the biggest part of the South Dakota Democrat party’s problem, as illustrated by Zach Crago’s letter to activists as he quietly slipped out the door [Powers, 2014.12.22].

Never mind that Tupper's story is about the formation of a new group, not the fortunes of the state Democratic Party as a whole. (Tupper sensibly tackled that separate issue in a separate article.) Quietly slipping out the door insinuates something sneaky or shamefaced in Crago's resignation. Crago's departure was no more sneaky than SDGOP chairman Craig Lawrence's resignation announced last week. There's no sign he was punished or pushed out. Rather than quietly slipping out, he volunteers a public resignation letter, in which he says pretty much what you'd expect a good departing executive to say: our organization has had setbacks, but we've made great progress and we look ahead to a great future.

Pat, Pat, Pat, you're hearing things. Those echoes in your head are so noisy that you're missing what could be the big news in Tupper's report on South Dakota Progress. As I understood it, SD Progress originally declared its mission to include the recruitment, support, and election of Democrats in local and legislative races. Tupper downplays the legislative effort and reports the impression, held at least by our new Democratic leaders, that SD Progress will focus on local elections:

Neither the initial news release nor Hubbard, in his interview with the Journal, spoke of focusing exclusively on any particular level of politics. But there have been indications the group will keep its focus on local-level candidate recruiting and assistance.

Mavalwalla, in an interview with the Sioux Falls Argus Leader last month, said he’s proposing to focus on school board and city council candidates to create a bench of future county and state candidates.

Following a meeting of State Democratic Party officials with South Dakota Progress founders earlier this month, newly elected state Democratic Party Chairwoman Ann Tornberg said her understanding is that South Dakota Progress will recruit candidates for local-level positions like school boards and township boards. Joe Lowe, the state party’s newly elected vice chairman, expressed a similar view that South Dakota Progress will focus on city council and other local races [Tupper, 2014.12.22].

To be clear, here's how David Montgomery wrote the November comment to which Tupper refers:

The plan’s focus isn’t on winning high-profile races for governor or U.S. Senate. Instead, he’s proposing to recruit, train and fund Democrats running for school boards and city councils, creating a bench of elected Democrats who can then run for county offices and the state Legislature [David Montgomery, "South Dakota Democrats: An Idea to Rebuild," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.11.14].

If Tupper's reporting is correct, SD Progress is staying out of direct involvement in legislative races, simply building the bench from which the state Dems can recruit legislative candidates. But as an outsider's outsider, I would suggest that limiting its mission to school board and city council races will make SD Progress's fundraising mission much more difficult. I understand the logic—build up local candidates now, field more experienced candidates for Legislature and beyond later—and some donors will, too. But some big money is going to want a big return right now, and that big return in the eyes of some eager donors will include immediate legislative wins.

South Dakota Progress is not fragmenting. Zach Crago is not sneaking away from the South Dakota Democratic Party. But the real news (i.e., actual events evidenced by actual things Tupper actually writes) may be that SD Progress and the Dems are signaling their modus accommodandi: the new group will focus on the local races where the party traditionally picks no horses, while the party will keep its jurisdiction over races for the Legislature.

15 comments

I yield the floor to Zach Crago, who yields the executive directorship of the South Dakota Democratic Party to the next willing and able madman.

Crago is leaving South Dakota for graduate school... but not without offering a valuable review of the work he thinks the SDDP has done during his watch. Here's Crago's exit report, plus a real trooper's exhortation to action.

Zach Crago, SDDP executive director until January 1

Zach Crago, SDDP executive director until January 1

Dear South Dakota Democrats,

As I’ve long planned, I’m resigning as Executive Director of the South Dakota Democratic Party at the end of this calendar year with good news to share about the state of the State Party that you all deserve to hear.

But let’s get right to the point on everyone’s mind - the 2014 elections were painful for Democrats. Nationally, Republicans padded their majority in the US House of Representatives, and the GOP swept nearly every single competitive Senate race to capture the US Senate majority. It wasn’t much better here in South Dakota either. We lost Senator Tim Johnson’s US Senate seat and all other statewide races. And while we gained one seat in the State Senate, we lost five seats in the State House.

Some are saying the South Dakota Democratic Party is broken, but fact of the matter is nothing could be further from the truth. While the Party exists to win elections, we must also be good stewards who protect our Party’s viability beyond any single election cycle. Despite a dismal election here and across the country, the South Dakota Democratic Party has made enormous progress this election cycle in fundraising, field organizing, and our future leadership to build a party that lasts.

The South Dakota Democratic Party has a mixed past when it comes to raising money. We’ve raked in cash with powerful federal office holders & strong state party leaders and held literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt after elections gone bad. The boom and bust cycle made it impossible to retain top quality staff, attract new talent, or inspire confidence in prospective candidates and volunteers.

Chair Deb Knecht and I decided we were going to escape the broken boom and bust cycle when we took charge in July of 2013. At that time, the South Dakota Democratic Party was raising $1963 a month from the Founders Club, the monthly sustaining donor program George McGovern started in the 1950s - barely enough to cover rent, phones, and office supplies every month. Today with the support of over 160 Democrats, the South Dakota Democratic Party raises $6360 a monthfrom Founders Club members like you. With the DNC’s additional $5,000 a month State Partnership Program contribution, our ongoing revenue matches our ongoing expenses nearly dollar for dollar for three full time staff.

And guess what? When the ongoing expenses are covered by ongoing revenue, it’s a lot easier to raise one-time money for targeted programs too. In fact, the South Dakota Democratic Party raised $458,959 in one time contributions this year from revamped events like our “Tribute to Tim” McGovern Day Dinner with over 725 people and over a dozen house parties, a new monthly mail program, an aggressive email operation, and regular call time from our state party chair and staff among other successful fundraising initiatives.

When you’re raising that kind of money, you can spend it on field organizing that makes a difference. The South Dakota Democratic Party wasted no time in 2013 when we partnered with our friends in organized labor to sponsor an initiated measure to raise the minimum wage. In 60 short days, we hired 1 Field Director and 10 organizers, recruited over 500 petition circulators, and submitted 25,681 signatures from registered voters to put our initiated measure on the ballot. With $330,000 supporting the IM 18 campaign, 55% of South Dakota voters said Yes on 18, giving 62,000 South Dakotans a raise. In an otherwise rough election, YOU can be proud that the South Dakota Democratic Party championed this issue for working families across the state.

We made big investments in the field to help candidates win up and down the ballot too. The South Dakota Democratic Party hosted 7 webinars and 41 one on ones to train our candidates. We rewarded candidates who knocked doors and raised money with 32 rounds of free mail. We created the first ever YELL Fellows program with 21 young Democrats who were paid staff paired with 21 legislative candidates with half the expense covered by the Majority Project and half by the candidates. We hammered away at the Mike Rounds EB5 citizenship-for-sale scheme through 12 press conferences that among other things generated over 12,500 articles on Mike Rounds and the EB5 scandal. With the additional scrutiny, Mike Rounds dropped to a 4 point lead in the polls in early October.

We also made big five figure investments in our Get Out The Vote program. With Democratic County Party GOTV offices across the state, volunteers like you made approximately 31,000 calls. Our GOTV headquarters in Sioux Falls incorporated predictive dialers and canvasses to make 313,764 calls. Add to that a special targeted effort to reach Democrats with a low to mid likelihood of voting, and the South Dakota Democratic Party made over 573,000 phone calls across the state! Strong candidates with proper trainings and a focus on turnout allowed us to gain a seat in the State Senate - one of only 14 legislative chambers in the entire country in which Democrats gained seats.

At the same time we were ramping up our fundraising for big investments in field organizing, we were thinking about the future too. The question I heard most often as Legislative Director and then Executive Director is how do we get more young people involved in the Party? We tried answering that question. In 2013, the South Dakota Democratic Party started the first ever Young Elected Legislative Leaders retreat in Pierre for high school Democrats who draft bills, debate legislators, and decide issues on the state senate floor. 28 students participated in 2013, and the program was so successful among students 48 high schoolers participated in 2014. Know what they told us in a survey afterwards? They didn’t want to stop after the weekend. They wanted to find more ways to make a difference right now. So we answered their call too, and we formed the aforementioned YELL Fellows program where our 21 YELL Fellows knocked thousands of doorsand made thousands of phone calls for legislative candidates. And after the election was all said and done, we left $60,000 in the bank to continue building a better future right away.

To be sure, our efforts didn’t translate to the ballot box this year. But just because we didn’t see electoral gains from our efforts in a tough year doesn’t mean we stop raising money, recruiting volunteers, or bringing more young people into the Party for the next election cycle. It means we need to continue this work - and do more! We have to evaluate our efforts, adapt, and iterate - and once the statewide voterfile is released by the Secretary of State, the Party plans to model results against our targeted programs to see if our investments made an impact. Most importantly, we need to continue to add more value for the Party. We need to raise more money, rebuild county parties, recruit more candidates, and register more voters to win elections going forward.

Here’s the tough part: We can’t do this without you. Do you want a staff person dedicated to Democratic turnout? Be a Founders Club member with a monthly contribution of any amount that fits your budget. There’s no reason why the South Dakota Democratic Party can’t double our Founders Club program and with it double our number of full time staff for Democratic turnout, candidate recruitment, voter outreach, or rapid response communications.

Do you want to help build our county parties? Be a county party officer in your county. You can be appointed in vacant counties, or you can run for a filled county party office in April. The South Dakota Democratic Party is about to embark on an aggressive training program for county officers across the state so you have the tools to raise money, recruit local candidates and register voters in your county.

Do you want to bring more young people into the Party? Invest in the rapidly growing Young Elected Legislative Leaders program, where we are already training the next generation of South Dakota’s Democratic leaders.

Do you want to help in other ways? Let us know how you want to keep building the South Dakota Democratic Party.

Yes, I’m resigning my role as Executive Director, but the truth is I didn’t do this work alone. Not even close. State party leaders before me paid off all our remaining debt. Chair Deb Knecht called Democrats across the state to triple our Founders Club program. Volunteers like you gave your time to put minimum wage on the ballot. Donors like you funded a host of projects including the Young Elected Legislative Leaders program. County party officers like you guided us through thick and thin. And our unparalleled Field Director Ryan Rolfs & Finance Director Zach Nistler worked way too many hours for way too little pay to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

With the continued support of Democrats like you, truthseekers like Cory Heidelberger here at MadvilleTimes.com, and great new leaders like State Party Chair-elect Ann Tornberg and Vice Chair-elect Joe Lowe, the South Dakota Democratic Party’s best days are ahead. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to work with you over the last four years. I look forward to volunteering my time, talent, and treasure right beside you going forward.
Zach Crago, Executive Director, South Dakota Democratic Party
[letter, 2014.12.19]

We didn't win elections, but we did a lot of things that will help us win future elections. All applicants for Crago's job (submit résumés to SDDP!) should read this letter and come to the interview with a critique of this assessment and an action plan for capitalizing on Crago's work.

Crago will continue to advise the party part-time after January 1 to help pass his knowledge on to the next exec. Good luck with the transition, Zach, and with the next big adventure!

41 comments

Unlike Pat Powers, who gave us nothing but press releases yesterday, I will indulge in one press release from newcomers South Dakota Progress, as it contains some real news. Specifically, SD Progress answers a key question we've had on this blog: will the South Dakota Democratic Party recognize SD Progress as a useful ally in the war on Republican ignorance and one-party rule?

So far, the answer is yes. SD Progress reports that new party chair Ann Tornberg and influential Democrats Nick Nemec and Mary Perpich are giving the new candidate support group thumbs up. Here's SD Progress's report on its first contact with the state Dems at last Saturday's Central Committee meeting in Oacoma:

OACOMA, SD - December 12-13, 2014 - During the SD Democratic Central Committee Meeting in Chamberlain, SD, the South Dakota Democratic Party (SDDP) and South Dakota Progress (SDP) began measures to coordinate efforts.

Newly elected Chair, Ann Tornberg, stated, "We welcome the endeavors of South Dakota Progress, the enthusiastic group working to recruit candidates at the grass roots level. National politics are based on division; local politics need to be based on inclusion."

After a presentation on the potential of SDP to become active in 2015 local elections by Acting Steering Committee Chair, Katrina Wilke, DNC Committeeman, Nick Nemec said, "I think that's a place where this organization can make real progress; finding progressive people to fill non partisan races, because that's the pool for legislators. Their candidates will have a step up in legislative races."

Brookings County Democrats Chairperson, Mary Perpich, "There is new blood with members of South Dakota Progress joining forces with the state party to recruit candidates and help them get elected. We are fired up and ready to go."

SDP will hold its next meeting in Sioux Falls on January 10, 2014. Persons interested in attending should contact SDprogressUS@gmail.com for more information [South Dakota Progress, press release, 2014.12.16].

South Dakota Progress members are also planning to attend Democratic Forum at the Sioux Falls VFW on Friday, January 9. East River folks interested in learning more about the group and signing up to help win local and legislative races are welcome to attend.

31 comments

Dear readers, would you agree that the new chair of the South Dakota Democratic Party, Ann Tornberg, is a party insider, and that her new vice-chair, Joe Lowe, is a party outsider? If Lowe is an outsider, does becoming state vice-chair now make him a full-bird insider?

Would you also agree that the new South Dakota Progress organization, which I hear was well received at last weekend's SDDP Central Committee meeting, is an interesting mix of party outsiders and (former?) party insiders?

Would you further agree that this blog is more a conversation of party outsiders than party insiders?Whatever your assessment of our inside-outside quotients, who's better positioned to effect real change, insiders or outsiders?As you contemplate those questions, consider this Washington Post column on Senator Elizabeth Warren's insider-outsider balancing act. Zachary A. Goldfarb opens with this quote from Senator Warrne's new book, in which she recounts advice offered her in April 2009 by Larry Summers:

I could be an insider or I could be an outsider. Outsiders can say whatever they want. But people on the inside don’t listen to them. Insiders, however, get lots of access and a chance to push their ideas. People — powerful people — listen to what they have to say. But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule. They don’t criticize other insiders [Elizabeth Warren, A Fighting Chance, New York: Henry Holt, p. 106].

They don't criticize other insiders—well, what fun is that?Goldfarb says Warren has gained clout by ignoring that warning:

...if the past few weeks are any indication, she can operate as an insider without giving her up outsider credentials. She’s remained outspoken, but has become even more influential. She hasn't stopped throwing bombs at the rich and powerful — and causing trouble for the White House — but she's won a spot in Senate leadership, changed the shape of congressional debates over financial regulation and continued to draw widespread attention as a potential presidential candidate.

It all helps to explain why – for the 300 former Obama campaign officials who last week urged her to run in 2016 – she is the one they’ve been waiting for [Zachary A. Goldfarb, "Elizabeth Warren Was Told to Stay Quiet, but She Didn’t – and It’s Paying Off," Washington Post: Wonkblog, 2014.12.14].

Where do you want to be, Joe, SD Progress, blog friends, outside or in?

67 comments
Tornberg

Ann Tornberg, SDDP Chair

Habemus sellam... et subsellam! The Central Committee of the South Dakota Democratic Party yesterday elected Beresford farm gal, former debate coach, and former Sioux Falls teachers' union president Ann Tornberg as statewide party chair. Tornberg may have sealed the deal by inviting former state fire chief and Democratic gubernatorial primary challenger Joe Lowe to run for the Vice-Chair position. Lowe ran unopposed for and won that second slot.

If Lowe did indeed tip the scales, Tornberg had an unfair advantage. Barth could not offer Lowe the vice-chair position: as I understand it, the state party requires that chair and vice-chair be of opposite sex... although a review of the party constitution finds an opposite-sex preference stated for county and legislative district chairs and vice-chairs but no similar language for the top two state officers. (The SDGOP explicitly requires that gender equity of its state chair and vice-chair in its bylaws, Section 1, Clause 4.)

My comment section lights up with discontent. John Tsitrian (just a Republican provocateur, right?) hears grumbling from a Central Committee member that the vote was pre-ordained (like how Republicans pick their chair). Another party observer says the Tornberg-Lowe team represents "more of the same" keeping the "current clique... in control of the state party."

Democratic candidate for South Dakota Governor Joe Lowe

Joe Lowe, SDDP Vice-Chair

We should not be surprised if internal party affairs are scripted events rather than genuinely exciting and open contests of ideas and strategies. But I would like to take issue with the notion that selecting Joe Lowe as a party official represents an embrace of insiders and a failed status quo. A year ago, Lowe rattled Democratic insiders with his surprise bid for governor. He jumped in before the party's preferred candidate, Rep. Susan Wismer, could make her announcement. He ran a more aggressive, ambitious, and inspiring primary campaign and lost only because Wismer (whom Tornberg supported) could rely on an old-guard network. Anyone who thinks Joe Lowe would accept a figure-subhead position to bolster a mostly powerless clique has probably not spoken to Joe Lowe or reviewed his record.

Instead of reading deep machinations into the situation, let's look at the two new party leaders we have. Tornberg and Lowe are both fighters and effective managers. Tornberg's experience with the Sioux Falls Education Association should reinforce the party's commitment to labor. Lowe brings the West River voice to the head table. Lowe can organize Dems in the Black Hills. He can connect with the nascent Rapid-City based South Dakota Progress, increasing the chances that the two organizations will communicate and synergize rather than drifting off to work at cross-purposes. Tornberg and Lowe both strike me as leaders who can help the party learn from failure and fight for success.

P.S.: For those of you thinking Tornberg's election hinged on her not-quite-pro-choice politics, remember that Joe Lowe was the Democrat last spring explicitly calling for repeal of South Dakota's 72-hour waiting period and state-mandated anti-abortion propaganda sessions.

52 comments

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