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Spawn Seeks District 12 House Seat, Better Teacher Pay, Minimum Wage

Last updated on 2014.08.26

Democrat Ellee Spawn is running for District 12 House. The first-time candidate took time Friday after Democratic Forum in Sioux Falls to tell me about teacher pay, health care, the minimum wage, and other issues that have propelled her into the public arena.

Ellee Spawn, Democrat for District 12 House, 2014.08.22
Ellee Spawn, Democrat for District 12 House, 2014.08.22

Spawn puts teacher pay at the top of her agenda. She says last place in salaries is unacceptable if we're serious about retaining the best and brightest teachers. Her own daughter can testify to this economic fact. Spawn's daughter studied elementary education at SDSU. She wants very much to stay and teach in South Dakota, but she has a five-year-old son and a student loan to pay off. South Dakota's teacher pay won't cut it, so she and her fiancé from Watertown are moving to Minneapolis.

Spawn sees a certain cognitive dissonance in South Dakota's inability to recognize the harm we do to ourselves with our low teacher pay. People don't like to face hard truths, says Spawn, but we have to deal with them.

Of course, we also have to find the money to deal with hard truths. Spawn doesn't jump to new taxes. Instead, she says a statewide effort to boost teacher pay should start with our budget surplus. next, says Spawn, we should stop giving out Benda bonuses. (Hmmm... put Ellee and Charlie Hoffman together, and we just might move the needle on teacher pay!)

Spawn currently manages the Sioux Falls office of M4 Roofing. She has worked in management and sales, served as a virtual assistant, and run her own restaurant. Spawn says her self-employment experience instilled in her a sense of self-accountability and a commitment to getting the job done.

Running a restaurant also shaped Spawn's view on the minimum wage. Spawn says she paid her servers $8 an hour, plus tips. Her kitchen staff got $11 to $12 an hour, and that was nine years ago. Spawn says paying more than other restaurants never hurt her business; it helped her draw and keep experienced and happy workers. It's a bad business practice to pay workers too little. Pay a living wage, says Spawn, and your employees feel less stress, pay more attention to customers, and steal less. Spawn recognizes that South Dakota's minimum-wage initiative, to raise our base wage to $8.50 an hour, is still somewhat shy of a living wage, but she supports it as step in the right direction.

Spawn shows further support for low-income workers with her support for Medicaid expansion. Governor Dennis Daugaard is leaving 48,000 South Dakotans (49,000, said this January 2013 study) without coverage because he'd rather dig in his heels on a specious objection to federal money, which, Spawn points out, already subsidizes 39.6% (yes, she had that number in her head) of the Governor's state budget. The Governor's refusal is "a slap in the face to hard-working South Dakotans."

Spawn says she jumped into the District 12 House race last winter because she was mad. She was sick of her District 12 Reps. Hal Wick and Manny Steele helping the state GOP embarrass South Dakota with their impractical and fringe-nibbling proposals to require everyone to carry a gun, get fluoride out of our water, hold a Constitutional convention, and promote anti-gay discrimination. A friend asked her, "Why don't you run?" Spawn replied, "Why don't I?"

And a candidacy was born. Rep. Steele was term-limited out, and Rep. Wick chose not to run for reëlection, so District 12 is already headed in the right direction. But Spawn wants to make sure her district gets some sensible, unembarrassing leadership. She and fellow Democrat Susan Randall are running against GOP challengers Arch Beal and Alex Jensen.

Spawn is assembling a noteworthy team for her legislative campaign. She just hired John Gossom as her campaign manager and Nebula Group USA as her strategy team. Nebula Group USA is also working for District 33 House candidate Robin Page. Nebula Group USA is run by Bajun Mavalwalla, who like Gossom was involved in the early stages of Corinna Robinson's Congressional campaign.


  1. moses 2014.08.25

    Move to Maryland and teach first year about 60 grand better than here , also retirement better.Our motto we came to die not to buy.C.H. keep up the great work.

  2. Bill Dithmer 2014.08.25

    When you talk about raising revenue in SD the answer is simple. Start making the banks and financial institutions pay a portion of what they are hiding there. After all, corporations are people to.

    "In the past four years, the amount of money administered by South Dakota trust companies has tripled to $121 billion."

    Now add this, " South Dakota was a pioneer in “dynasty trusts,” which allow families to escape estate taxes forever. The state offers iron-clad secrecy for trusts and protection of assets from creditors and former spouses. It also has rules that make it easier for families to set up their own trust company, rather than rely on a bank trustee, and to enhance their control over trust investment decisions. An added attraction: South Dakota levies no state income taxes on investments."

    There sure seems to be inequality in who is taxed and who isn't. Why take your money off shore when there is a nice little island in the middle of the good old USA that has special rules to make that a possibility, South Dakota.

    " Without an income tax, South Dakota doesn’t get revenue directly from the trusts. Companies like McDowell’s pay taxes on their earnings, a levy that raised about $1.2 million in 2012, according to the state Department of Revenue, out of a state budget of about $4 billion. Nor has the industry become a major employer. The state estimates that about 100 South Dakotans work for locally chartered trust companies."

    There are an unknown number of jobs in local trust units of national banks such as Wells Fargo and more work for area law firms and accountants. The trusts aren’t required to hire local money managers or invest in area businesses. “If you’ve got several hundred well-paying jobs, it’s worth it to us,” says Governor Dennis Daugaard, a Republican who used to travel to Minneapolis pitching tax-saving trusts when he worked at a bank in Sioux Falls. “It also gives us the opportunity to develop relationships with people who have the ability to encourage business here of other sorts. Now, I can’t point to a single case where that’s occurred yet, but I think it’s possible.”

    Good old Gov. Double Dufus knows which side of his bread the butter is on. The question is, do the people od SD understand the significance of that much money that has been accumulating?

    Hunting preserve's, tourism, and whore houses, what do all these things have in common? They are all in the business of giving the paying public somthing they couldn't get anywhere else. If its the best service, guess what, your going to get business. If its pretty scenery, same damn thing.

    Two of those occupations are taxable, one is not. The big money rolling into the state is like the illegal whore houses, they dont pay any taxes on the money they make here. I look at SD and the big money coming here like that.

    The people of SD would be the pimps, and those with money to hide would be the Johns. Money is always money. Why arent the people of South Dakota getting their cut? After all, there were services rendered. Its time to pay the pimp, the educational house needs a remodel just to keep it livable, and the money might just as well come from the income derived form the johns in question.

    It's hard to believe that the state of SD has accumulating untouchable assets of now more then $121 billion. We made it possible for all those johns to have a "happy ending." I never heard of a pimp that didnt want a cut from the tricks the whores turned.

    It's like Richard Pryor's Mudbone used to say. "I work's to hard to gets my girl a proper egication, and nots the kind you wants to give her."

    The Blindman

  3. Roger Cornelius 2014.08.25

    Elle would make a dynamic legislator, she would be a game changer. I've followed her campaign and visited with several times and am impressed with her style.
    It is great news to hear that she is reinforcing her campaign with a manager and strategy team, it shows that she is committed to South Dakota and District 12. She's serious about what she says and does.
    As with all candidates today, I'm asking Elle to layout her plans to address South Dakota's high ranking as one of the top ten most corrupt states in the country.
    Additionally, candidates like Elle need our financial support, Democrats running for the legislature have limited resources and are often fighting an up hill battle against Republicans that have money.
    Come on Madvillians, donate to Elle and other local candidates, give til it hurts.

  4. David Hubbard 2014.08.25

    I have know Ellee for a long time. One thing is for certain, she is a woman of strong and positive convictions. She does not just talk the talk, she walks the walk. With more people like Ellee in the State House we could actual succeed at raising our bar. Let's face it, being 48th-51st is the last place we should be on any scale. South Dakotans have the opportunity to show the rest of the nation how proper governing can be done. We need South Dakotans like Ellee voting for all South Dakotans, not just the elite few or for outside interests, such as ALEC and the Koch Brothers.

  5. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.08.25

    "we came to die not to buy"

    Excellent turn of phrase, Moses. Is that SD's new motto?

  6. Ellee Spawn 2014.10.06

    Deb... I hope not... let's turn that around!

Comments are closed.