Press "Enter" to skip to content

Barth to Johnson-Endorsing Party Chairs: Resign!

Last updated on 2014.01.29

Does Jeff Barth have a point? In response to news that various South Dakota Democratic Party county chairs are endorsing Brendan Johnson for Senate, Barth tweets that said party officials ought to resign for endorsing a candidate before the primary.

Having run in a primary against an opponent openly favored by the leading lights of the party, Barth is understandably sensitive to party interference in the primary process.

The SDDP constitution, Article 11, Section 1 reads thus:

Neither the State Central Committee, the State Executive Board nor any County Central Committee shall finance or endorse the candidacy of any person seeking the nomination of the Party in a contested Primary Election.

Hmm... does that language tell local party honchos to keep their endorsements to themselves until the June voters have spoken?

Experienced county party chair Robert Klein of Brookings offers some cover from Article 11 for eager official endorsers:

This has never been construed to prohibit individuals from endorsing candidates.

Their endorsement, however, should not be construed as an endorsement by the County Central Committee [Robert Klein, comment, Political Smokeout, 2013.04.03].

The committees themselves cannot endorse, but members thereof retain their First Amendment right to say whom they like.

And let's keep in mind: the only place a contested primary election currently exists is in the fervid hopes of bloggers and plotters on both sides of the aisle.


  1. mike 2013.04.04

    All I will say is that the party looks bad for doing this. Both Brendan Johnson and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin are good candidates and this public showing is meant to be an expression of the leaders being against Stephanie as much as they are for Brendan.

    Ben Nesselhuf has a problem on his hands and needs to keep the party from spontaneously combusting.

  2. larry kurtz 2013.04.04

    Democrats are stalwart and unified: don't let the earth haters like mike drive the discussion.

  3. larry kurtz 2013.04.04

    Let's be clear: Rep. Herseth Sandlin would annihilate Noem in the House race if it were held today and Brendan Johnson is an unknown, untested candidate who would do far better running against another lawyer like DD. The Senate race is for the earth haters to lose regardless of who we put in it.

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.04.04

    There's the crucial question, Mike: is the party driving the draft Johnson movement? If it is, then I'm not happy, and I'll vote for Jeff Barth again. But if these endorsers are acting on their own, independent of the party, then who are we to complain?

    But even in the latter case, might we not grumble about party chairs using their official chair title in their endorsement, as we grumbled last year when Secretary Gant inappropriately used his official title in his ill-fated endorsement of Val Rausch?

  5. Robert Klein 2013.04.04

    Methinks they do protest too much. County Chairs are to be commended for their efforts to elect Democrats.

    However, to suggest that their opinion matters all that much to primary voters gives them too much credit. For all we know, their Vice-Chairs hold opposing positions.

    But it is something to talk about, isn't it?

  6. G-Man 2013.04.04

    Mike and Cory have both great points in this matter. Cory is correct that the County Party Chairs have their 1st Amendment Rights to back who ever they choose, but, Mike is right in expressing concern of how this will look if Stephanie decides she's runnning for the Senate. If she makes that decision, this could potentially split the Democratic Party because we know that although some of the County Party chairs like Brenden Johnson, not, every one is on board with him.

  7. G-Man 2013.04.04

    ...and I don't take my orders from Party Chairs.

  8. Monty 2013.04.04

    It's this whole gee-whiz vibe that get me. Draft Johnson may not meet the technical definition of a campaign by FEC standards, but people - we might ordinarily call them campaign staff based on the tasks they are doing like calling around to county chairs and asking them to support Johnson, are certainly participating in a campaign. The Chairs who lend their names are certainly participating in and supporting a campaign, in fact they were contacted to support Johnson because they are County Chairs. Random registered D's are not getting asked. When they allow the draft Johnson campaign to list them on their website as John Smith, Hughes County Democratic Chair, they are using their office in support of a candidate, otherwise just plain John Smith would serve.

    SDDP Exec Board declined to set a penalty for and declined to designate individual office holders from the prohibition against taking sides in a primary. The SDDP Chair and other super-delegates threw in for Obama before the South Dakota primary in 2008. The Clinton people might not have been happy, but it didn't matter to Democratic primary voters who picked Clinton.

    Democrats, when bought, don't stay bought. If SHS is the Senate candidate, even some of the draft Johnson County Chairs will be falling all over Lars to let him know they were behind her from go.

  9. Douglas Wiken 2013.04.04

    Suggestion: Read Bob Klein's post again.

    Local county chairs have essentially zero influence unless they get moving to do actual work to support a primary candidate or the candidate in the general election, or actually recruit a legislative candidate.

    Party organizations have little influence when they do not have a Governor because they have no connections and are on "the wrong side". Party organization have little influence when they do have a Governor, because the Governor runs almost everything and any action by party organization is viewed as an insurrection or pandering.

    Converting one legislative house to a proportional representation system would give parties and their local supporters more influence.

  10. Winston 2013.04.04

    I just hope the Johnson and Sandlin camps get their acts together, with the help of the State Party Chair, to figure out and settle-down (positively for all) the current posturing that is going on for 2014. Else, this current posturing from the two camps will become the biggest Democratic cluster-fxxx since Wollman and McKellips in 1978.... a Party fight which led to the election of "Wild Bill" as governor.... and we all know the rest of that story....

  11. amanda 2013.04.04

    I'm so confused...I guess I didn't realize there was an official primary. Aren't these county chairs encouraging a competent, ambitious, young Democrat to run for office? Isn't that their job? Now if they were saying vote for so and so over so and so in the primary, that would be a different story, but I think this is much ado about nothing.

  12. Jerry 2013.04.04

    Yes Amanda, in my view, you are correct indeed. Maybe it is good to have a back up plan in case SHS should decide to not run. Give Mr. Johnson some exposure for the future and start to groom him into a viable state recognized candidate. In the meantime, let's do what we can to get SHS involved, her state and country needs her as a Democrat.

  13. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.04.04

    Oh, Amanda, you know I like you... but I also feel a word game there. I'm all about encouraging competent, ambitious, young Democrats to run for office. But are they really not making any statement whatsoever about whom we should vote for in the primary? Aren't they really saying, "This is the guy we want to vote for in the primary and the general"? And aren't they also sending a message to anyone else thinking about running to pick a different office?

    I agree it's mild ado. I'm not convinced it's entirely nothing.

  14. Winston 2013.04.04

    I am sure Amanda and Jerry are good Democrats, and amen to that, but with that said, their discussion is indicative of what is to come, if Tim, Brendan, Ben, and Stephanie do not get together for the sake of the Party. The South Dakota Democratic Party is playing with fire over this pending Senate vacancy and if Democrats are not careful, they will have to get use to the words "Senator Mike Rounds" or God forbid even more, a "Senator Kristi Noem."

    With the exception of a two year period between January of 1961 and January of 1963, South Dakota Democrats have successfully sent a least one Democrat to Washington to represent South Dakota since January of 1957.
    This fifty-eight years of positive history for the South Dakota Democratic Party will come to a screeching halt, if South Dakota Democrats do not come together over who should be our next US Senate nominee.

    The first Democrat elected to the US Senate from South Dakota was Edwin Johnson in 1914. If we play our cards right, Tim Johnson will not be the last Democratic Senator from South Dakota for sometime - regardless of whether that 2014 Senatorial Democratic nominee has the last name of Johnson or not.

  15. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.04.05

    No Dem in Congress during JFK's first term... how the heck do South Dakota Dems get weaker when Dems perform better nationally?

  16. Winston 2013.04.05

    Cory, the answer to your question is the Catholic factor. In 1960, McGovern loss his Senate bid against Karl Mundt. JFK campaigned for McGovern in that campaign and even appeared in SD in October of 1960 at the National Plow Shearing Contest. After McGovern's loss, JFK apparently commented that
    "I am afraid we might have lost that Senate seat for that young man out in SD." Then, JFK made McGovern Director of Food For Peace in the west wing of the White House.

    The irony to this history is that South Dakota actually had, and I believe still has, the largest Catholic population of any Great Plains state. The last stats I saw on this were at 24%. Since the 1960 election, both Pressler and Daschle have been elected to the Senate from South Dakota as Catholics.

  17. larry kurtz 2013.04.05

    Good eye, Win: St. Onge is just one community that enjoys a water system because of Democrats.

  18. Jerry 2013.04.06

    Ask most ranchers in the state and in particular, the west and central parts, without the water systems, were would you and your livestock get your water? Ask the cities, where would you get your drinking water without the water systems that were pushed through by the Democrats? This spring starts the continuing cycle of drought unless something happens right quick like. Democrats need to remember always that without them and their desire to get this process done, republicans would have preferred to let them rot. Why is it so hard for Democrats to run on social benefits for all of our state? The water spigot does not give a care about your political preference, but social history does. Campaign on the results would be a very good start. Campaign on the history of those elected from here that had a D by their name. Ask the voters what NOem has done. Ask the voters about what Rounds has done. Ask the voters what republicans have done. The answers to all are clear, a big fat nothing. The republican tent is empty with the only thing keeping their power together is playing the fear card. They are good at that, and have the moolah to spook folks, but like all bullies, they are just loud. Lets be the wind that blows that tent over and sends good Democrats to not only Washington, but also to Pierre to clean up that mess as well.

  19. Jerry 2013.04.06

    Downey is just another softener Mr. Kurtz, more lipstick on a pig. They are fundamentally flawed in their way of thinking and doing and we must show that every step we take. No more waiting for someone else to clean up this mess, it is really up to us. We have been living with their dirty laundry for long. I think that I have just about run out of laundry story lines.

Comments are closed.