South Dakota Democratic Party vice-chairman Joe Lowe is organizing a big West River town hall meeting next month for all folks interested in building a winning Democratic Party.

Party chair Ann Tornberg will lay out her vision for the SDDP. Tornberg and Lowe will present results of a statewide survey of party members and to hear the concerns and recommendations of West River Democrats. I'll even drop in, review the 2015 Legislative Session, and call for all good Dems to give Republicans a good butt-kicking in 2016.

Admission, refreshments, and discussion are free, but the party welcomes donations alongside ideas any time.


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.


While old cronies and loons like Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum slouch into our state to save Mike Rounds's floundering campaign, Rick Weiland gets the endorsement of a straight-up South Dakotan, former gubernatorial candidate and state fire chief Joe Lowe:

It's about Leadership and People—Rick Weiland gets it

I get so tired during a campaign about people claiming that they are proven leaders. Many candidates have been good managers. Leaders deal with people. Managers deal with things. Leadership and management are different,

I form my opinions on leadership from my 36-year career with the fire service, being part of a leadership program associated with Chapman College, and leading a national incident management team that responded to Incidents of national significance.

Rick Weiland is about people and is a proven leader. It is big responsibility to be the Region 8 FEMA Director. He had to work with governors and people when disaster struck. Rick had to bring people together during the recovery efforts on large and destructive incidents. He had to insure continuity of government was restored, community infrastructure was restored and get disaster funds to the people whose homes were destroyed.

Leaders deal with people. They create a vision of the future. They see things as they ought to be and not as they are, They motivate and inspire people. In addition, they coach and build teams.

Rick gets it. Get out and help him win this race. It is a close one [Joe Lowe, Facebook post, 2014.10.15].

Joe Lowe worked for Mike Rounds. He knows the leadership abilities of our former Governor. And Lowe says Weiland can better motivate, inspire, and build teams than Lowe's old boss.


Rapid City businessman, Piedmont resident, and former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joe Lowe submits this letter to the editor speaking directly to Rep. Betty Olson about her "sense of humor" about Muslims. He's not joking.

Representative Betty Olson’s remarks are racist and disgusting. Now that it has created a media storm, she claims it was only a joke. Face the facts: you are a racist. You are unfit to represent the people of South Dakota.

Your “jokes” focus around Muslims filling jobs like cab drivers, motel clerks, and other menial paying jobs. According to a Pew 2007 study, Muslim Americans generally mirror the U.S. public in education and income. In fact, 24% of all Muslim Americans and 29% of immigrant Muslims have college degrees, compared to 25% for the U.S. population. 41% of all Muslim Americans and 45% of immigrant Americans report annual incomes of $50,000 or higher. This compares to the national average of 44%. Immigrant Muslims are well represented among higher wage earners in this country. 19% of immigrant Americans claim annual household incomes of $100,000. This is due to the many Muslim professionals in this country. You must have not known this.

Your comments also offend the millions of Muslims in our country and act as a great recruiting tool for the enemy—ISIS. Do the citizens of the state a favor and step down from office.

Joe Lowe

[links added; Joe Lowe, letter to the editor, 2014.10.08]

It's good to hear a prominent West River voice raised against Rep. Olson's racist remarks. I doubt we'll hear any Republicans call for Olson's resignation, but could we at least hear some due criticism? Governor Dennis Daugaard wasn't afraid to step out and call GOP Senator Phil Jensen's comments about the Ku Klux Klan and the free market "completely out of line with South Dakota values." Rep. Bett Olson's comments are at least as insensitive and politically wrong-headed, and deserve similar disdain.


One of the talking points Democratic nominee Susan Wismer needs to adopt from her vanquished primary opponent Joe Lowe is his talk of the "culture of corruption" fostered by the Rounds-Daugaard administration. Why?

  1. It's true!
  2. Fighting a "Culture of Corruption" will synergize with the "Take It Back!" populist message of Sue's new best buddy on the prairie, Rick Weiland.
  3. South Dakota's higher-than-normal corruption has policy impacts, like an over-emphasis on economic development based on bribe-prone corporate handouts and less funding for education and health care:

...Economic development projects are ripe for corruption, the study published this spring in the Public Administration Review, found.

Using data from the Department of Justice that encompassed more than 25,000 public corruption-related convictions nationwide between 1976 and 2008 of elected officials, judges and local employees, the study concluded that higher instances of corruption correlate with more spending in certain areas. Among the most corrupt states were Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Illinois, South Dakota and Alaska.

The study found that high levels of corruption in a state can shape its budget allocation. More corrupt states tended to spend money on construction, highways, and police protection programs, which provide more opportunity for corrupt officials to use public money for their own gain. These states spend less on health, education, and welfare, which provide less opportunity for officials to collect bribes... [Liz Farmer and Kevin Tidmarsh, "What Corrupt States Spend Their Money On," Governing, 2014.06.06].

Wismer can also point out that the culture of corruption ends up hamstringing the economic development that Daugaard and pals say they are promoting:

The shakedown culture can also be a deterrent to economic development, with developers who are attempting to play fair getting disenchanted by pay-to-play politics, he added. After all, there's little incentive to spend time and money on a bid when the winning bidder has already bought political favor [Farmer and Tidmarsh, 2014.06.06].

Corruption could even have something to do with lower voter turnout:

Public confidence in government is also a hidden – and immeasurable – cost of corruption, added Sergio Acosta, a corporate attorney who was the former federal prosecutor for the Northern District of Illinois [Farmer and Tidmarsh, 2014.06.06].

The culture of corruption that Joe Lowe identifies hinders public welfare, economic development, and civic life in South Dakota. Sue, that's your message, in one sentence. Get on it!


The South Dakota primary is all done but the shouting, of which we will do plenty in the Wednesday blog cycle. To get us started, let's look at the county maps for the GOP Senate race and the Democratic gubernatorial race (no need for a map of the GOP gubernatorial primary: just picture one solid block of Daugaard red):


2014 GOP Senate Primary (click to embiggen!)

As we may have expected, Rounds dominated, winning 60 counties and 55.54% of the statewide vote. Larry Rhoden jumped to second place at 18.25%, taking four counties. Rhoden only pulled 40.91% of his home county of Meade, with Rounds at his spurs with 37.01%. Rhoden was strongest in Ziebach, where he won 53.33%

Third-place finisher Stace Nelson won 17.69% statewide. He won only two counties, but he won his home county with 70.64%.


2014 Democratic Gubernatorial Primary (click to embiggen!)

The Democratic gubernatorial primary made for a more interesting map. Susan Wismer won statewide 55.48% over Joe Lowe's 44.52% and took 44 counties to Lowe's 22. Wismer grabbed a handful of Lowe's West River neighbors, but Lowe made similar inroads into Wismer's East River territory. Lowe beat Wismer by 62 votes in Minnehaha County.

But Wismer held a better home turf advantage: in northeastern South Dakota, she beat Lowe with 70% of more of the vote. In her home county of Marshall, she took over 85%. Out West, Lowe took his home turf of Meade and Pennington with much smaller majorities (54.6% and 53.6%, respectively). Despite more work as state fire chief on the reservations, Lowe still split Indian Country with Wismer. Lowe's best finish came in Tripp County, where Wismer still broke 40 and held Lowe to 58.85%.

You can dig into the statewide race data yourself on the Secretary of State's website. Stay tuned for more anlysis of these results as well as the Legislative primaries!


In the Democratic gubernatorial candidates' forum on SDPB last Thursday, candidate Joe Lowe recommended that the Governor's Office of Economic Development redirect some of its grants from big corporations to South Dakota's small towns to help them revitalize their downtowns. Lowe pointed to Main Street Square in Rapid City, where regular events create a shopping and tourism destination that's boosting business.

Regular readers know that I'm all about big-thinking economic development policy that looks past the traditional, unreliable corporate-welfare model. So, apparently, is Fargo, where downtown development is drawing youth, creativity, and entrepreneurial spirit. The Minneapolis Star Tribune's profile of Fargo's downtown success discusses young Fargo entrepreneur Greg Tehven's passion for his stereotype-busting hometown:

Tehven’s Fargo is the five-block radius of downtown; a vibrant community of artists, tech entrepreneurs, college kids and possibilities. Once hollowed out, the downtown is now crowded with coffee shops, restaurants and quirky shops that draw in crowds of strolling pedestrians and cyclists.

Tehven’s Fargo is one of the nation’s fastest-growing cities [Jennifer Brooks, "Fargo Reinvents Itself as a Magnet for Creative Types and Entrepreneurs," Minneapolis Star Tribune, 2014.06.01].

We discussed that population growth last week, when we noted that Fargo ranks seventh for population growth among the nation's cities, ahead of booming #11 Sioux Falls.

What's it feel like to be in charge of economic development in Fargo?

“You feel like you died and went to heaven, ” said James Gartin, president of the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corp. — the man in charge of encouraging economic growth in a place now ranked as the best place in America to find a job, the country’s third-safest community and its fourth-fastest growing metro region.

“It’s electric,” Gartin said. “It’s just an incredible time to be in this market. Not only with the business growth, but we have this incredible entrepreneurial ecosystem” [Brooks, 2014.06.01].

Fargo's good fortune spills across the Red River to Moorhead, which is growing even faster. Moorhead has hamstrung its downtown development but enjoys other advantages from which South Dakota might learn:

Rather than focusing on downtown revitalization — a difficult proposition, since a large swath of downtown Moorhead was razed to make way for a mall — Moorhead cultivates the image of a politically progressive, family-friendly college town. It touts its schools, its close-knit neighborhoods, its public funding for the arts, its parks and green spaces — in short, its Minnesota-ness [Brooks, 2014.06.01].

Economic development is much, much more than handing money to big corporations. Fargo and Moorhead get that. Joe Lowe gets that. Why don't Dennis Daugaard and Mike Rounds get that?


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