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SD Progress Not “Fragmenting,” But Cutting Legislative Races from Immediate Mission?

Speaking of right-wing misrepresentation of reality, I find Pat Powers is out twisting truth again. Sensing a threat, Powers turns his slime gun on South Dakota Progress, the new group forming to support Democratic candidates at the local level. Ignoring most of the facts in Seth Tupper's report on the group's swift evolution, Powers digs for one little hint of change and explodes it into a portent of doom. Writes Tupper:

The woman who distributed the initial news release and who was identified in that release as the chairwoman of the group’s steering committee, Tasiyagnunpa Livermont, has already left the group. She and [SD Progress member David] Hubbard both said she underestimated the time commitment and was pulled away by other matters [Seth Tupper, "New Democratic Organization Trains Candidates for Local Offices," Rapid City Journal, 2014.12.22].

Writes Powers: looks like one group formed to improve their electoral showing is already starting to dribble off members....

...Was that about 30 days, and people are already leaving? [Pat Powers, "Group Formed to Improve Dem Electoral Fortunes Already Fragmenting. And They Just Don’t Get It," Dakota War College, 2014.12.23]

Members, plural? People, plural? Tupper reports on one change, one person who participated in two meetings, accepted a leadership role, but then quickly stepped aside when she realized that this activist outlet wouldn't fit in her schedule. The situation doesn't sound much different from when I've directed plays and had one student-actor decide after a couple days that 6:30 a.m. rehearsals would not be good for her GPA. That's not mass defection or fragmentation; that's an individual making a choice that's healthy for herself and for the group. No story here.

But like a big round snowball, get Pat rolling, and he can't stop. He then takes a gratuitous and false swipe at resigning state Dems exec Zach Crago:

Interesting thing in the story about the Dem’s recent bad fortunes is that we’re not hearing about the biggest part of the South Dakota Democrat party’s problem, as illustrated by Zach Crago’s letter to activists as he quietly slipped out the door [Powers, 2014.12.22].

Never mind that Tupper's story is about the formation of a new group, not the fortunes of the state Democratic Party as a whole. (Tupper sensibly tackled that separate issue in a separate article.) Quietly slipping out the door insinuates something sneaky or shamefaced in Crago's resignation. Crago's departure was no more sneaky than SDGOP chairman Craig Lawrence's resignation announced last week. There's no sign he was punished or pushed out. Rather than quietly slipping out, he volunteers a public resignation letter, in which he says pretty much what you'd expect a good departing executive to say: our organization has had setbacks, but we've made great progress and we look ahead to a great future.

Pat, Pat, Pat, you're hearing things. Those echoes in your head are so noisy that you're missing what could be the big news in Tupper's report on South Dakota Progress. As I understood it, SD Progress originally declared its mission to include the recruitment, support, and election of Democrats in local and legislative races. Tupper downplays the legislative effort and reports the impression, held at least by our new Democratic leaders, that SD Progress will focus on local elections:

Neither the initial news release nor Hubbard, in his interview with the Journal, spoke of focusing exclusively on any particular level of politics. But there have been indications the group will keep its focus on local-level candidate recruiting and assistance.

Mavalwalla, in an interview with the Sioux Falls Argus Leader last month, said he’s proposing to focus on school board and city council candidates to create a bench of future county and state candidates.

Following a meeting of State Democratic Party officials with South Dakota Progress founders earlier this month, newly elected state Democratic Party Chairwoman Ann Tornberg said her understanding is that South Dakota Progress will recruit candidates for local-level positions like school boards and township boards. Joe Lowe, the state party’s newly elected vice chairman, expressed a similar view that South Dakota Progress will focus on city council and other local races [Tupper, 2014.12.22].

To be clear, here's how David Montgomery wrote the November comment to which Tupper refers:

The plan’s focus isn’t on winning high-profile races for governor or U.S. Senate. Instead, he’s proposing to recruit, train and fund Democrats running for school boards and city councils, creating a bench of elected Democrats who can then run for county offices and the state Legislature [David Montgomery, "South Dakota Democrats: An Idea to Rebuild," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.11.14].

If Tupper's reporting is correct, SD Progress is staying out of direct involvement in legislative races, simply building the bench from which the state Dems can recruit legislative candidates. But as an outsider's outsider, I would suggest that limiting its mission to school board and city council races will make SD Progress's fundraising mission much more difficult. I understand the logic—build up local candidates now, field more experienced candidates for Legislature and beyond later—and some donors will, too. But some big money is going to want a big return right now, and that big return in the eyes of some eager donors will include immediate legislative wins.

South Dakota Progress is not fragmenting. Zach Crago is not sneaking away from the South Dakota Democratic Party. But the real news (i.e., actual events evidenced by actual things Tupper actually writes) may be that SD Progress and the Dems are signaling their modus accommodandi: the new group will focus on the local races where the party traditionally picks no horses, while the party will keep its jurisdiction over races for the Legislature.


  1. Owen reitzel 2014.12.23

    It'd be something if Powers had the balls to post here.

  2. larry kurtz 2014.12.23

    He does, Owen: he uses a variety of nom de poops like he does in the comment section of Dakota Water Closet.

  3. Nick Nemec 2014.12.23

    Tasi Livermont is a young mother with four preschool to elementary age kids. I can sure understand why she backed off from active leadership in a new organization. Family comes first.

    Zach Crago is a 20 something who has been accepted into Stanford Business School. All of the members of the SDDP are very happy for his acceptance in one of the nation's best schools and wish him the best of luck in his studies. He's smart and ambitious, our state will be blessed if he decides to return here after graduation. He is decidedly not slipping out the door as Powers claims.

    It's negative attitudes like Powers' that play a part in driving young people out of South Dakota. But then maybe that's his goal.

  4. Roger Cornelius 2014.12.23

    SDP doesn't have its legs yet, it is a baby organization at this point. Surely many of their goals and objectives will evolve over time.
    I agree with Cory in that they do need to concentrate some effort on state and legislative races if they are going to be progressive, there are qualified Democratic candidates out there that need to be cultivated and encouraged, candidates don't necessarily have to come from county or city governments.
    As far as Pat and his Dump Site, he's like Limbaugh, I don't read or listen to either and neither should you.

  5. Jeff Barth 2014.12.23

    Happy Birthday Roger!

  6. Roger Cornelius 2014.12.23

    Thanks Jeff and thank you for the contributions you have made to the Democratic Party.

  7. jerry 2014.12.23

    I hope that you have some gingerbread cookies for your birthday Roger, have a good one.

  8. Roger Cornelius 2014.12.23

    Thanks Jerry, I sent my gingerbread request to my sister, she is a great Christmas baker.

  9. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.12.23

    It's your birthday Roger? Wonderful! I wish you all the best. Blessings to you.

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.12.23

    Roger! Happy birthday! Let's all surprise him and get him appointed chairman of South Dakota Progress! *<8-{D}

    [That emoticon is me with my glasses and whiskers, wearing a combination birthday/Santa hat.]

  11. Roger Cornelius 2014.12.23

    Thanks Deb and Cory, it has been a wonderful day thus far.

    Whoa on the SDP chairman thing, I'll leave that to younger more energetic minds.

  12. leslie 2014.12.25

    all the best, Roger

  13. leslie 2014.12.25

    dems-why haven't we initiated MEDICAID EXPANSION?!

  14. Tasiyagnunpa Livermont 2014.12.26

    Nick, thank you. Actually my children are preschool through junior high, ages 2, 6, almost 10, and 13. I also had a full-time job to consider as well, though since leaving I found out my position was eliminated during a corporate restructuring, and I'm already using my time to job hunt again as well.

    I think time will tell what shakes out with SD Progress. One thing I know for sure, Pat Powers is the last person who should even attempt to understand progressives, specifically. Not everyone in SD Progress is a progressive. The name itself was chosen to show 'forward momentum,' not a particular type of belief or MO of people within the Democratic Party.

    I recently was at a meeting of tribal members including Chase Iron Eyes and Chaz Jewett and others. To be honest, and I had this feeling from my ex fellow leadership at SDP, tribal interests are not being served by any political party in South Dakota currently. Beyond interest in precinct volunteer work, I may throw my weight behind Chase and others, but will yet see.

  15. grudznick 2014.12.26

    Ms. Livermont, I wish you well.

Comments are closed.