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!


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.


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?


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.


Todd Epp stirs the pot with an unsourced story claiming that the contest between Jeff Barth and Ann Tornberg to chair the South Dakota Democratic Party could hinge on their apparently conflicting stances on abortion:

Pro-Barth party activists point out that in Tornberg’s unsuccessful 2014 run for the District 16 state Senate race, she called herself “pro-life” as well as note her ties to other pro-life groups and legislators. The activists say the Democrats at the 2014 state convention adopted a pro-choice platform and that Barth is pro-choice [Todd Epp, "South Dakota Democratic Party Chairmanship May Turn on Abortion Stand," Northern Plains New, 2014.12.12].

Epp's anonymous sources don't specify that votes today at the SDDP Central Committee meeting in Oacoma will swing on that policy difference. We have heard this abortion rumble here in the comment section.

But hey, you Democrats waking up this morning on the Missouri River, listen up:

If you are thinking of casting your vote for party chair based solely on the abortion issue, stop.

Today you are electing a party chair. You are electing an administrator, not a policymaker. You are electing someone to raise money, organize volunteers, and win elections. Delegates in 2016, not the chair, will determine whether "reproductive rights" remain in the party platform (the Sioux Falls paper tells me that's what the platform says, but I can't check, because the SDDP never appears to have updated the website with this year's platform, an administrative thing the new chair should tell the exec to do!). Legislators, not the chair, will decide what issues to focus on in Pierre. Candidates, not the chair, will decide what issues get the spotlight in 2016.

SDDP Central Committee members, if you are voting today on abortion, you are voting in the wrong election. You want to fight about abortion? Petition an initiative to repeal South Dakota's mandatory counseling and 72-hour-plus waiting period for abortion. But today, pick someone who can do the job.

Related Thought Puzzle: What impact did SDGOP chairman Craig Lawrence's position on reproductive rights have on the 2014 election?


South Dakota Progress is off and running. Following an initial brainstorm meeting last month following the disappointing midterm election, sixteen activists interested in electing Democrats to local and legislative offices gathered Saturday, December 6, in Rapid City (and by phone) to formally select their leaders and approve their plans for educating and supporting future Democratic candidates.

South Dakota Progress named the following officers:

  • Chair: Tasiyagnunpa Livermont
  • Vice-Chair: Katrina Wilke
  • Secretary/Treasurer: Darlene Langan
  • Communications Director: David Hubbard
  • Parliamentarian (the coolest job in any meeting): Curt Pochardt

After some recruiting, South Dakota Progress will elect a nine-member board in 2015. That board will have two East River seats, two West River seats, two Indian Country seats, and three at-large seats. One at-large seat will be reserved for a registered tribal member.

In its initial conversations, South Dakota Progress considered creating four PACs dedicated to different regions: statewide, East River, West River, and Indian Country. Simplicity took over Saturday, and members decided one PAC for all campaign finance activities is plenty for now, until the group starts rolling in big dough.

SDP members agreed to send a delegation to the Central Committee meeting of the state Democratic Party this coming Friday and Saturday at Oacoma. The group will caucus Friday night and invites all Democratic Party officials to participate. SDP will also seek five minutes on the formal party meeting agenda to report on its activities.

The meeting also produced SDP's first contribution, $100 from the original facilitator of the discussions that led to SDP's formation, Bajun Mavalwalla.

Members will set a firm date for their next meeting after they see what comes out of the state Democratic Party meeting this weekend. The group tentatively plans to meet in Sioux Falls the weekend of January 3.

Rick Weiland, at coffee shop campaign stop, Madison, South Dakota, 2013.07.16

Rick Weiland

Sorry, Meade County Dems: Rick Weiland does not want to chair the South Dakota Democratic Party. We can now focus on debating the relative merits of Ann Tornberg and Jeff Barth as to who can best redirect and rebuild the party.

Whomever Dems pick as their practical leader, they should look for someone who can align with Weiland's philosophical leadership. Consider this passage from Weiland's message to supporters yesterday, which sounds more like a call to arms than a demurral:

But in 2014 our Democratic Party has become almost as hogtied by big money as the other party and ridding our political system of it’s influence became the cornerstone of my campaign for the United States Senate.

It is past time for another injection of common sense from the prairie.

We need a new declaration of independence, a declaration of independence from big money [Rick Weiland, e-mail, 2014.12.04].

Weiland is saying the same thing here that he consistently said during his 18 months on the Senate campaign trail: plutocracy is bad for democracy, and even his own Democratic Party needs to do more to reclaim democracy from its rich hijackers. It sounds an awful lot like what many progressive commentators are saying Democrats need to do to win back their base.

David Dayen says the working class and the middle class are mad that the wealthy have rigged the system in their own favor, and the only thing they are hearing from most Democrats is the same free-market bushwa they get from Republicans:

This is not the Democratic Party of your great-grandfather’s New Deal or your grandfather’s Great Society. The takeover of the party by more business-friendly interests — which ironically (or perhaps not) dates back to right around 1973, when wages decoupled from productivity — necessarily impoverishes the imagination around issues of economic security and prosperity [David Dayen, "The So-So Society: Democrats Have Forgotten What Made Them Great," Fiscal Times, 2014.11.14].

William Greider says we can't campaign on the Obama recovery because the near-18K Dow isn't lifting the masses' boats, and Dems look as pro-Wall Street as the GOP:

Barack Obama kept telling folks to brighten up: the economy is coming back, he said, and prosperity is just around the corner.

A party truly connected to the people would never have dared to make such a claim. In the real world of voters, human experience trumps macroeconomics and the slowly declining official unemployment rate. An official at the AFL-CIO culled the following insights from what voters said about themselves on Election Day: 54 percent suffered a decline in household income during the past year. Sixty-three percent feel the economy is fundamentally unfair. Fifty-five percent agree strongly (and another 25 percent agree somewhat) that both political parties are too focused on helping Wall Street and not enough on helping ordinary people [William Greider, "How the Democratic Party Lost Its Soul," The Nation, 2014.11.11].

Dave Johnson of the Campaign for America's Future says Democrats' "New Coke" response to the GOP's pro-business Pepsi has driven voters away:

As Democrats embraced neoliberal “market solution” arguments and moved away from representing the interests of working-class and middle-class voters, many of those voters had nowhere left to turn and simply stopped voting [Dave Johnson, "Is the Democratic Party Relevant Anymore?" Truthout, 2014.12.03].

The Nation says voters see the Democratic Party "too close to corporate funders" and calls for a progressive challenger to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential primary. Richard R.J. Eskow says Democrats must rekindle a "passionate commitment to core progressive values" to restore their party's soul. Greider calls for outright populist-progressive insurrection to reclaim the party:

What we need is a rump formation of dissenters who will break free of the Democratic Party’s confines and set a new agenda that will build the good society rather than feed bloated wealth, disloyal corporations and absurd foreign wars. This is the politics the country needs: purposeful insurrection inside and outside party bounds, and a willingness to disrupt the regular order [Greider, 2014.11.11].

Is Weiland reading these thinkers? Are these thinkers reading Weiland? Whichever the case may be, Weiland may be positioning himself to lead just such a progressive-populist fight for the soul of his party. Weiland writes in his December 4 e-mail that he will do everything in his power "to assist the new Chairperson," but by keeping himself out of the elected party leadership, he keeps the freedom to advocate and criticize his party to push them toward his populist values.

As the South Dakota Democrat to emerge from the unpleasant midterms with the largest, most active base, Weiland doesn't need an official title to lead the party in the right direction. Dems, and next Dem chair, you should strongly consider following Weiland in the fight against plutocracy.


Union County Democrat Ann Tornberg shares a letter she has sent to Democratic Party county officers statewide before Thanksgiving to convince them to pick her as the state party's next chair. At the top she makes clear that she will yield the chair to former Senate candidate Rick Weiland if he says he wants the post.

Commenters here complained that Tornberg's press release on her candidacy spoke of progress the party had made but did not itemize that progress. Tornberg offers more detail in her pitch to the voters:

  1. Tornberg organized the Young Elected Legislative Leader program with Ryan Cwach (another high school debate alumnus! My confidence grows!), doubled participation from 2013 to 2014, and thus started building a pool of future Dem leaders.
  2. Tornberg forced GOP noisemaker Dan Lederman to spend $75,000 to keep his seat.
  3. Tornberg claims credit for adding $6000 in annual commitment in one day to the Founder's Club, the circle of donors who pledge ongoing monthly contributions. Tornberg says the Founder's Club is key to sustaining staff and volunteers who can do some of the things others have been hollering about, like rebuilding county parties, supporting tribal organizers, recruiting and training candidates, and registering voters.

Summoning her Glengarry Glen Ross Alec Baldwin (actually, Tornberg may have coached Baldwin), the chair candidate closes her ask for the job with an ask for money. She urges every party leader reading the letter to write a check to the Founder's Club, write a bigger check to the Founder's Club, or recruit a new member to write a check to the Founder's Club.

Here is the full text of Tornberg's letter to county officers, who can vote as members of the South Dakota Democratic Committee on December 13:

Thanks for taking the time to read this letter and giving me an opportunity to introduce myself.

I’m seeking to serve as the next Chair of the South Dakota Democratic Party. I hope to have your support when we gather at the Cedar Shores in Oacoma for Central Committee on Sat. Dec. 13th. I want you to know upfront that I have spoken to Rick Weiland who is presently considering running for State Chair. If he decides to do this, I will withdraw and run as Vice Chair. Either way, I hope you’ll consider my candidacy. I have a lot to offer our state party.

I’m a retired educator having spent 31 years in the classroom as a high school English teacher, speech and debate coach. I taught in Beresford, Sioux Falls Lincoln, and then was elected President of the Sioux Falls Education Association, the largest professional association in the state of South Dakota. I was raised on a farm and 38 years ago married Mike Tornberg, a third generation SD dairy farmer. We raised two daughters who were Beresford grads. One is a doctor and the other is a teacher. Both are married to farmers. We are blessed with five very cute grandkids!

I have the background and passion to promote education and agriculture, as well as other core issues important to South Dakota Democrats. There are several reasons why I believe I will be the right leader at the right time for our Party.

Democratic Party Leader

With Jay Williams from Yankton, I served as co-chair of the 2014 State Convention. Serving as Union County Chair since 2010, I’ve been active on the Central Committee and also serve on the Executive Board.

Grooming Leadership for our Future

Along with Ryan Cwach from Yankton, we organized the YELL (Young Elected Legislative Leader) program, a student legislature for young Democrats across South Dakota. Originating in 2013, we doubled the number of participants to close to 50 students in 2014. In addition to organizing and participating, I was a primary financial sponsor of these leadership events. The YELL Fellows program (which trained young Democrats to work with candidates on legislative races) followed next. We’re building some incredible leaders for our future! I’ll be organizing a similar event for 2015 and we hope to build on our past success.

Experienced Legislative Candidate

I know what it’s like to run a campaign, and what Democrats are up against. I worked hard at candidate recruitment and have a strong working relationship with the staff at the state party. While there are 2,800 more Republicans than Democrats in District 16 where I ran, I narrowly lost the House in 2012 by 124 votes out of 11,000 total cast. In 2014, I gave incumbent State Senator Dan Lederman a run for his money! (He spent $75,000 to defeat me despite his huge GOP registration advantage).

Valued Member of the Democratic Caucus in Pierre

After narrowly losing the District 16 House seat in 2012, I went to Pierre as a volunteer. I worked each day of the 2013 Session as a legislative aide. In 2014, I was hired by LRC as House Secretary for the Democrats. I will return to Pierre as Senate Secretary in 2015. Please ask any of our state legislators for a reference. I believe they will tell you they have witnessed first-hand how hard I work and how dedicated I am to the issues which define the beliefs and values of SD Democrats.

Successful Fundraiser for Democratic Causes

While working in Pierre, I was the primary organizer for the Majority Project’s Lobbyist Party.

The Majority Project uses funds raised on legislative races. If elected as your State Chair, recruiting candidates and helping to fund elections will be my highest priority. The job of the State Chair is to diligently work to raise funds. I have the ability and experience to fulfill that role.

That’s why the back of this letter is the MOST IMPORTANT PART YOU WILL READ……

Founder’s Club Member and Supporter

I have been a member of the Founder’s Club for many years and will actively work to grow our membership. I spoke at the 2014 McGovern Day Luncheon to promote the Founder’s Club. We were able in that one day to increase our donations by another $500 per month and now bring in a total of over $6,000 per month. This exceeds the goal we set in early 2014 to expand the Founder’s Club.

Why the Founder’s Club is so important

While we appreciate all donations to the SDDP, the Founder’s Club represents a sustaining contribution given monthly. Our current donations range from $3 dollars per month to $300 dollars per month. (I personally donate $100 per month and have done so for the past four years). This on-going type of donation sustains our party’s most basic organization needs (our 3-person staff, their benefits, our rent and utilities, etc.).

Most importantly, it is the only way we can reliably sustain growth and plan for our future. If we know there is money coming in on a regular basis, as a Central Committee, we are able to help manage it to grow our party. What could that growth look like? Perhaps it could mean more staff and trained volunteers dedicated to...

  • Grassroots organizing of the county parties
  • Tribal Organizers who work on issues vital to the Native Community (including but not limited to just voter registration and turnout)
  • Legislative Candidate Recruiters and trainers who starts NOW for 2016
  • Connecting Democratic State Legislators to the State Central Committee
  • Voter Registration
  • Initiatives and Referrals vital to Democratic Core Values

As your State Party Chair, I will work to expand the Founder’s Club as a means to a successful strategy to move Democrats forward in South Dakota. That’s why I challenge all 138 individuals receiving this letter to join the Founder’s Club if you’re not a member; increase your monthly donation is you are already a member; or recruit one new member from your county.

Bring the enclosed Founder’s Club form with you to Chamberlain on Dec. 13 or mail it into the office.

Tell them “Ann Sent Me” and win or lose in the State Chair race, we’ll all WIN by working together to grow a stronger Democratic Party in this great state we call home.

Hope to see you in Chamberlain on Dec. 13th. I would appreciate your support [Ann Tornberg, letter to South Dakota Democratic Party county officials, 2014.11.24].


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  • Teaching and Inspiring Math Educators (TIME)
    A New Normal:  Before the fall semester began, I was very apprehensive about how it would go. I was worried about contracting COVID-19 and how that would affect my family. I was dreading wearing a mask, having to u…

  • A Teacher's Writes
    Connecting A Confederacy of Dunces to its reference: I began John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces recently and while I haven’t cracked it this week, I plan to finish it. It has fallen somewhat victim to my habit of reading handfuls of books at a…

  • Notes from a Western Life
    Book Remarks: Mystic Travelers by Gail Crane: With Mystic Travelers: Images from the Edge, the reader receives not only a book but an invitation to join these two Mystic travelers on adventures to the edge of the world we know through Facebook an…

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