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Tornberg Will Defer to Weiland in Campaign for Democratic State Chair

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].


  1. judy judy 2014.12.03

    Ann forgot to mention she opposes reproductive choice, is a member of Democrats for Life and a proud ally of Ag United. I am not sure the SDDP is ready to go in the direction this anti-abortion, pro-corporate mega-farm, former head of the Sioux Falls Education Association wants to take us.

  2. jerry 2014.12.03

    ruh oh, judy judy kind of lays a real strong argument against Ann. Joe Lowe looking better and better each day. Now if he can get the old farts that run the SDDP to pull their heads out of the dark place, we may get something done.

  3. Joeboo 2014.12.03

    Give me $60K+ full benefits and I'll come back

  4. Rorschach 2014.12.04

    The Glengarry leads are for closers. Is Tornberg a closer? Why would anybody who wants a position start their bid by offering to defer to someone else's potential and unstated ambition for that position?

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.12.04

    But Jerry, Joe Lowe has announced no such intentions. As far as I know, he's not campaigning for the job. The Meade County Dems, who leaned toward Lowe in the primary, are lobbying for the as-yet unannounced Weiland.

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.12.04

    Rohr, fair point that the Glangarry analogy breaks down at the top of the letter when Jack Lemmon says he's willing to hand his leads to Ed Harris. Are there any points earned here for humility?

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.12.04

    Judy, the abortion and corporate ag positions would give me pause. Union leadership in Sioux Falls would not: SFEA gets stuff done in the interests of its workers.

    So on Judy's card, we have two ideological reasons to oppose and one practical reason to support. Does party chair do much to shape the ideology of the party, or is the party chair's primary responsibility the practical management of party business? Tornberg's letter isn't pitching any ideology; it pitches practical management.

    I'm not digging for an excuse; I'm just wondering about the proper priorities for selecting an effective chair.

  8. Bill Fleming 2014.12.04

    Seem to me Cory, that first and formost, a party leader needs to be a proven grass roots organizer and fundraiser.

  9. tara volesky 2014.12.04

    I think the best thing that could happen to the party is a name change and take abortion off the plank. Non issue. Unless the supreme court overturns it, which they won't and Republicans will never do anything to overturn it because that's how they win in red states. Prolife is used for fundraising and winning elections. That issue should not be exploited for party and personal gain.

  10. judy judy 2014.12.04

    You are right. Two negatives and a positive. I didn't mean to imply that Ann's Sioux Falls education work was a negative. Just that as any debater would who knows her audience, she failed to mention in her long list of accomplishments that she is a member of Democrats for Life and works with Ag United, two organizations with goals contrary to those of many Democrats.

  11. Bill Fleming 2014.12.04

    Tara, I checked the last SD Democratic platform and I didn't see abortion on there anywhere. Not sure I've ever seen it on any Dem platform. Have you?

  12. John Hess 2014.12.04

    Most of the middle reluctantly agrees that abortion should be legal. It's an ugly procedure. Both sides create labels to alienate. Troy refers to the Democrat Party intended to be disrespectful. But the people in the middle really are on the same side of most tings isolated in party by a different political language. We need a another Barry with the last name Olson.

  13. jerry 2014.12.04

    You are correct Cory about Joe Lowe, I just think that someone like him would be a good choice and have thought that way since he tossed his hat into the gubernatorial ring.

  14. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.12.04

    I agree, Jerry: Joe is my template right now for the Democrats South Dakota needs, as party chair and as candidates.

  15. grudznick 2014.12.04

    Yes, with Mr. Weiland not wishing to be a Demo any more, this young lady from the legislatures has the front seat unless Mr. H steps up or that Barth fellow gets less grumpy.

  16. grudznick 2014.12.04

    That Mr. Lowe fellow is about as capitalistic as you fellows could get. He buffaloed some of you, but not enough of you, and that tells me there is hope for your party.

  17. jerry 2014.12.04

    grudznick, can you please take a break from your carrots and enlighten us fellows with your definition of capitalistic?

  18. grudznick 2014.12.04

    I am not a fan of carrots, Mr. jerry, unless they are cooked to a delicate soft but still crisp center with a little juiciness left. You know the kind.

    Mr Lowe is into everything for his own self. Ask anybody in Piedmont.

  19. grudznick 2014.12.04

    I have tried Mr. jerry with good answers but I keep getting banned or errored from this website. I think Mr. H has become enraged at me again

  20. jerry 2014.12.04

    Mr. grudznick, it is my great misfortune to not really know a soul in Piedmont. I have the fear that the total stranger that I may ask, may be like me, a total stranger to the place. Carrots are really to be enjoyed in the raw state, so you can gnaw on them as if they were a pork chop bone.

  21. grudznick 2014.12.04

    It's OK. Everybody in Piedmont knows Mr. Lowe.

Comments are closed.