Press "Enter" to skip to content

New Group Forming to Boost Local and Legislative Democrats

Can we all just get along?

Sixteen people (fourteen in the room, two on the phone) met in Rapid City Saturday to talk about how to elect more Democrats. These citizens discussed how to organize a quadfecta of political action committees that will recruit and support local and legislative candidates. The discussants included Pennington County Democrats, a former legislator, tribal members, a registered Independent, and LGBT advocates. Tentatively calling themselves South Dakota Progress, the group agreed enough to endorse a mission statement:

To elect Democratic Candidates to public office in South Dakota by drafting, implementing and following a cohesive plan that will support and facilitate the election of candidates for local offices up to the state legislative level.

They also agreed enough to schedule a second meeting for December 6 in Rapid City. The ball is rolling.

Friend of the blog Tasiyagnunpa Livermont is acting as steering committee chair for SD Progress. Livermont says she got involved with this project because she feels "disenfranchised" by the existing party mechanism. She saw great organization and outreach from Rick Weiland's Senate campaign, and she found a place for her desire to help in Robin Page's District 33 State Senate campaign, but she didn't see the SDDP making a similar effort to engage new, young volunteers across the state.

Echoing that sentiment is MRC Miller, a metallurgical student at School of Mines, LGBT activist, and former Page volunteer:

I'm involved out of anger.... Republicans didn't win 2014, Democrats didn't fight. Half the time there wasn't one on the ballot. What few candidates could be found were generally weak, because they were unsupported by what passed for a party [MRC Miller, South Dakota Progress, press release, 2014.11.19].

Some Democratic candidates and organizers may take Miller's and Livermont's criticism personally, making it difficult for SD Progress to live up the intention Livermont states of working in parallel with the South Dakota Democratic Party. But Bajun Mavalwalla, who helped build the Page campaign convened and advised Saturday's meeting, says the group assembled Saturday consists of "professionals who will lay down hard feelings and use their passion to further mobilize their constituents in a precise, organized way." In a sign that Democratic Party members can do the same, Pennington County Dems invited SD Progress participants to their regular meeting Tuesday night to further discuss how the groups can work together. Rapid City Police received no reports of shots fired.

Prior to Saturday's meeting, SDDP exec Zach Crago cautiously welcomed the new group's effort:

“Our state party welcomes input from any Democrat or others from across the state,” Crago said. “These kind of discussions with folks like Bajun are healthy for the party.”

But he defended the SDDP’s work raising money and recruiting candidates for local races — even if it hasn’t borne much fruit in elections the past few years [David Montgomery, "South Dakota Democrats: An Idea to Rebuild," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.11.14].

Former SDDP chair/exec Ben Nesselhuf dismisses the group as unnecessary:

“Everything that he’s suggesting there is (already) being done through the state party,” said Ben Nesselhuf, the former chair of the South Dakota Democratic Party, after reviewing Mavalwalla’s proposal. “I think Democrats would be much better served by putting their time and energy into the state party structure than dividing up their resources with competing organizations” [Montgomery, 2014.11.14].

There seems to be a difference of opinion as to just how much support the state party is offering to local and legislative candidates. We'll let Crago address that in his speech tomorrow at Democratic Forum.

There should not be a difference of opinion about what to do with South Dakota Progress. Democrats, a group of over a dozen activists want to help us win elections. Our immediate response should be, "Yes, please!" Party leaders should have open, thoughtful conversations to help South Dakota Progress develop a plan that is truly complementary to and not wastefully redundant with existing party efforts. But as long SD Progress does nothing that hinders the SD Democratic Party's efforts to raise money and recruit volunteers and candidates, we should welcome the help.


  1. Tim 2014.11.20

    One only needs read this article to see a large part of the problem. A complete overhaul of leadership is needed, as long as people like Nesselhuf and Crago continue their "fall in line and shut up" attitude, nothing changes. The voters of this state believe the Democratic Party is a joke for a reason, until Democrats prove they are willing to take the drastic steps needed to make real change, Republicans will just sit back and smile.

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.20

    But there's a question, Tim: as Nesselhuf contends, has the SDDP already taken the steps SD Progress wants to take? Is SD Progress redundant?

    And if they are not redundant, is there anything wrong with this apparently diverse grassroots group taking the initiative and doing this work?

  3. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.20

    Bill, are those discontented Democrats simply surrendering to the GOP narrative? Is the sluggish, rich-serving economy making them nervous?

  4. Tim 2014.11.20

    Cory, since current SDDP leadership is so quiet about what they are or are not doing, it's hard to know if it's redundant or not. I see nothing wrong with accepting as much help and insight as we can get, Nesselhuf doesn't seem to be interested.

    Bill, in the isolated cases where candidates in other states campaigned on the Presidents accomplishments and didn't run away, they won. A lesson to be learned? Will see.

  5. Tasiyagnunpa Livermont 2014.11.20

    I think Tim here has nailed it, but again what state and county-level parties are doing hasn't always worked, which was noted by long-standing members of the Pennington County Democrats. And there are members of our steering committee becoming actively involved in the local parties.

    However, new regulations put a damper of sorts on how much money parties can raise, so taking the bull by the horns here for local candidates will facilitate better returns.

    No shots were fired, Cory, because the response from the Pennington County Dems was overwhelmingly positive.

    And it is not lost on me that any ruffled feathers folks have shared with us, they come by it honest. We are not trying to assign blame, but note the indicators that tell us a plan like is being conceived now will only help everyone in the long run. We stand on the shoulders of hard-working Democrats before us, and we won't forget it.

  6. JeniW 2014.11.20

    How do we know that "so many" Democrats voted for Pressler? I do not understand how that was determined and by whom?

    But, if that is the case, I going to guess it was due to Pressler having more familiar name and history. Plus, his ads were for the lack of better word, more appealing to the older voters.

  7. JeniW 2014.11.20

    Although it did not sway my vote against Wieland, because I did vote him, his robo call with the music in the background were, IMO ineffective. When people have difficulty hearing as well, the music made the voice-over harder to understand.

    I thought the robo calls with the background music were so hard to understand I deleted them almost immediately. That could have been a "just me" thing.

  8. Bill Fleming 2014.11.20

    Right, Cory, both nationwide and in SD, the GOP told Dems they sucked, and a lot of us believed them.

    JeniW, the data comes from exit polls.

    Tim, the problem is apathy due to an orchestrated barrage of negativity. Today's immigration action will be a case in point. The majority of Americans want something done about the problem, an even larger majority wants exactly what our president is going to propose to happen! and yet, when asked whether they think the President taking action is the right thing to do, 48% of people polled say no, 38% say yes, and the rest don't know.

    Compounding this, I just this morning heard a 'talking head' on a news show say that 'the vast majority' of people don't want the President to take this action. And not one person on the panel spoke up to her to point out that 48% is not a 'vast majority.' It's not even a majority. And so it goes. people are becoming so confused, they no longer know which way is up. The Dems job has become an exercise in helping the nation pull it's collective head out of the sand.

    It's morning on America, but nobody notices because we all have the shades pulled down.

  9. mike from iowa 2014.11.20

    Which 'murrica is mourning. Is it the one we can see for our ownselves and economic stats say is improving,or are we supposed to believe chicken-diddle wingnuts who are trying to return us to the age where robber barons controlled the gubmint and used the National Guard to break strikes and keep us peons in our place?

  10. mike from iowa 2014.11.20

    and fake noise makes no secret they are paid shills for wingnuts and yet a large group of people believe they are fair and balanced while everyone else shill for libs.

  11. Jenny 2014.11.20

    Robocalls are horrible. What I like best is just getting a pamphlet in my mail. People then feel they aren't being controlled, they can quick look it over, then toss it into the recyle bin.
    My fellow SD Dems, one/half of people didn't even vote this past election. What percentage of South Dakotans are not even registered to vote? Know these statistics and get a statewide voter outreach going. Voter registration/education is tops on the DFL list in MN. Take the DFL's advice, we know how to win elections!!

  12. Jenny 2014.11.20

    I am trying to find a Minnhaha County Democrats website, and can't find one except a Facebook one. Having just a FB one is not recommended, many people don't with FB.
    You mean to tell me there is not even a Democrats website page for the largest county in South Dakota?? No wonder you're losing elections!I see a statewide one, but I highly recommend Minnehaha County Dems put one up for starters.

  13. Jenny 2014.11.20

    Many people don't 'bother' with FB.

  14. Darleen Langan 2014.11.20

    Mike, this is something that I have been thinking on a lot recently: "I blame the Democrats for having lost their identity as a progressive party of the working stiff. The Democratic Party is instead…nothing at all. It’s a collection of political strands that pull in one direction and push in the other."

    During my work this election season I met a dozen or so folks who either believed the party didn't represent them anymore, or (worse) were afraid or embarrassed to publicly be a Democrat. I also found there to be a communication break down between folks who were interested in coming out to help and the party.

    SDP can be a burden lifter by taking some of these municipal and other lower office candidate searches off the plate of the party and helping to establish a pool of experienced RTE (ready to elect) professionals.

    We as a party need to talk about how to get back our identity and push out reach efforts that will expand our voter base so that when a candidate runs they are not fighting impossible odds.

  15. mike from iowa 2014.11.20

    Darleen, my democratic party is not as committed to me as a former working stiff. It has been frightened,humiliated,scared,chastised into being a shadow of the wingnut party,thereby losing voters on both sides of the aisle.

    They need to decide what they stand for and defend those positions. Next election season wingnuts will bombard a faceless party -"Do you want cheese with that waffle and whine?"

  16. JeniW 2014.11.20

    Jenny, I agree with you about Face Book. FB is good for socializing, but I have found it to be pretty useless for businesses and organizations because they do not have enough information.

    Having a web-site is much better, IMO. Keeping the web-site current so it does not appear "old" is vital.

  17. Sabrina 2014.11.20

    Genuinely curious: is this the result of east river vs west river Dems? From an outsiders perspective, there seemed to be a lot of in-fighting this year, with west river folks seeming to feel the east river Democratic establishment really was not supporting western candidates. All the folks working on SD Progress appear to be west river, particularly Pennington County, Democrats. So to what extent is this simply west river Democrats trying to take control of their own elections, rather than depending on the mainly-east river SDDP?

  18. larry kurtz 2014.11.20

    Facebook is malware.

    Lawrence County sent zero delegates to the convention in Yankton and Jeff Barth knows how furious i was about it: he's already got my support.

  19. PrairieLady - Gayle 2014.11.20

    The SDGOP have used propaganda tactics and won. If you repeat the same message over and over, lies or not, people will start to believe them. I do mean propaganda and brainwashing! The Koch Brothers, ALEC, and the pacs have done a great job.
    The Dems are just way to nice and do not have a real spine. There does not seem to be a united front and clear message. To get Dems back in SD will take a long time. The message needs to be clear and said over and over, as I firmly believe many Dems have given up voting.
    I can think of 2 things that have happened this time around that does not inspire me to get my butt of my chair and got to the polls. Voters have said they want the min. wage to go up, but when we have a governor who says NO! So why did I bother to vote? It is very demoralizing. Then there was Reid, who could not get behind Weiland because he was in a snit with another Dem. What did that say? Not a unified party!
    Just my 2 cents worth.

  20. leslie 2014.11.20

    prairie lady-we MUST have your vote and every other dem vote possible, EVERY time.

  21. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.20

    Jeff Barth is running for SDDP chair; Todd Epp reports in maddening passive voices that Rick Weiland and Ann Tornberg are "other names being floated" for the post. I wonder what each of those folks thinks of South Dakota Progress and the potential for synergy between them and the SDDP.

  22. leslie 2014.11.20

    fantastic jeff!! As a west riverian, welcome, I applaud your activism in Sx Falls and the federal preservation of EB5 evidence you championed.

    PennDems are listening.

  23. mike from iowa 2014.11.20

    Put Rick W in charge of state elections and call him the "Balloteer" laureate.

  24. larry kurtz 2014.11.20

    Cory: have you compared Madville's traffic with DWC lately?

  25. PrairieLady - Gayle 2014.11.20

    Leslie, I never miss a chance to vote. I am tired of voting for the lesser of the evil one.

  26. bearcreekbat 2014.11.20

    Jeff Barth is also a pretty darn good Chess player, so he knows how to plan ahead. He would make a great leader for the SD Democrats.

  27. leslie 2014.11.22

    i never get the "lesser of 2 evils" cop-out in the context of dems. weiland, robinson and wismer (except for her "evolving" stand on gay equality, if i remember right) were outstandingly well-qualified, -spoken and -principled candidates, to name three. i could go on.

    of course NY's dem. primary between teachout and wall street's Gov. cuomo was a victory for campaign finance inequality.

    of course questions exist between joe lowe or susan wismer's primary for dem. candidate for gov. but there is no comparison with daugaard's complicity with and/or cover-up of EB5 over his last 8 years in office. 48,000 more state residents would have health insurance.

    yes there are problems with Obamacare which the Koch Brothers in SD helped point out ad nauseum. it is certainly far better, and is steps ahead in the right direction for little people ect.

    any support other than dems assures 95% wealth goes to of the 1%, co-opting the supreme court into "unelected politicians in black robes", no ethics but power politics in favor of corporations,...and i could go on.

Comments are closed.