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SD Progress Open to Backing Progressive Republicans

O.K., Democrats. We want to retake the Legislature, right? Or we at least want to elect enough sensible legislators to have a fighting shot not just at knocking down the wingnut bills that dominate the conversation in Pierre but also at passing real laws, not summer studies, with real funding to solve real problems.

If we can't find enough Democrats in enough districts for that task, are we willing to back progressive Republicans?

South Dakota Progress is, says SDP chair Katrina Wilke:

The goal is to fill ballots with the names of Democrats or even progressive Republicans.

“We would find them,” she said. “We wouldn’t just wait for them to come to us. We would look for people who are really active in their community.”

Candidates would receive training and seed money to begin their campaigns. The belief is candidates will do better if they are financially supported immediately [Roger Larsen, "S.D. Progress Seeks Dem Candidates for Local Offices: New Group in Early Stages of Formation," Huron Plainsman, 2015.02.21].

That wicket is tricky from all angles. South Dakota Progress will need to convince its donor base that any Republicans it backs are really good sheep in wolves' clothing. SDP will have to be confident and make others confident that "progressive Republicans" receiving SDP support can be counted on to put progressive principles over the diktats of the Republican leadership that stands in the way of progressive legislation. And those progressive Republicans will have to brace for a brutal primary in which the SDGOP will likely declare fatwa on GOP apostates playing ball with a group they will surely brand, no matter what SDP says, as a tool of the South Dakota Democratic Party.

Then again, Wilke may be mapping exactly the strategy that allows South Dakota Progress to distinguish itself from the Democratic Party. It may well be that the best hope for Legislative sanity in some districts may be to find a smart, young, pragmatic candidate who keeps the "R" in front of her name but isn't waving a Bible and packing heat. Maybe South Dakota Progress can become the go-to team for young Independents who want to engage in politics but don't want to get tangled in partisan tomfoolery. There's a mission South Dakota Progress can do that the South Dakota Democratic Party cannot. Working with candidates of any label would give South Dakota Progress more opportunities to prove its practical ability to help candidates win elections and more donors on whose doors they could knock.

Perhaps in a state where being a mere moderate may count as being progressive, South Dakota Progress will follow the example of The Centrist Project, which backed former Republican Larry Pressler as an Independent in our 2014 U.S. Senate race but backed R's and D's in other races.

But will anyone—donors, candidates, or attentive voters—buy that approach? Will the Democratic Party continue to dance with South Dakota Progress if SDP asks for such an open relationship?


  1. Bob Newland 2015.02.22

    Whether or not you pack heat, packing a bible in your left breast pocket is just good sense. During the time it's not stopping bullets, it can be used to establish your bible-packin' creds.

    That's never a bad political move. Flash your bible, then use your political position to attempt to subvert the principles explicated therein. Not to mention subverting the "establishment" clause.

  2. grudznick 2015.02.22

    Bob, you are my favorite pragmatist.

  3. Tim 2015.02.22

    It's an idea that might have merit, and it would eliminate most republican legislators now holding office. Trick would be, as you say, identifying such people. Finding these people in Pennington county will be hard, pretty strong wingnut territory out here, at least with the politicians anyway. They re-elected Jensen after all.

  4. Curt 2015.02.22

    Difficult not to get snarky ... but isn't 'progressive republican' is either an anachronism or an oxymoron?

  5. jerry 2015.02.22

    Exactly, wtf is a party anymore anyway? Lets get some people in office that can articulate a sentence, that can take a column of numbers and find their total. Most of these clucks like Jensen for example, have to be told to use toilet paper and pull their britches up.

  6. Tim 2015.02.22

    It would be nice to have some sane people in Pierre for a change, as Cory said, maybe get something done for a change.

  7. Bob Newland 2015.02.22

    Grudz, SMD.

  8. Tim 2015.02.22

    Speaking of the SDDP, has anybody heard anything from them lately? Chairperson Tornberg has been eerily silent since she was handed the office. Have they hired an exec yet?

  9. 12 2015.02.22

    This is either an organization that supports Dems or it's not. I cannot lend support with anything that helps keep SD red. I don't care how progressive some repubs here might claim to be... they will always march lock-step with their party once elected.

  10. grudznick 2015.02.22

    This seems like the libbie union is either throwing in the towel or going to run some of the Mr. Katuses of the world as an R. When my good friend Bill registers (R) and runs for the legislatures I will know that all has gone star-belly-sneetched in this world.

  11. Curt 2015.02.22

    Tim -
    Come to the mtg Tues ... we'll give you an update.

  12. Tim 2015.02.22

    Curt, time and place?

  13. Tim 2015.02.22

    The library at 7? Seem to remember that from someplace.

  14. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.22

    Curt: oxymoron? Maybe. But if they're out there, I assume SDP is gearing up for primary fights, because the Republicans they'd be backing would be Republicans who can't get the backing of the GOP and who would thus surely face a primary challenger. Do such Republicans exist? Would they remain R's for any reason other than South Dakota cultural cover?

  15. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.22

    And 12 shows us the donor/volunteer problem. Is there any chance SDP could compartmentalize? Could SDP allow donors to specify that the resources they give would only be used for candidates of their preferred partisan affiliation? Or at that point, does the process become impossibly complicated?

  16. leslie 2015.02.22

    tim-6pm, upstairs.

  17. Les 2015.02.22

    I'm sure 12 could jump in with both feet and help unelect a Hickey, for example. Not that a Dem would be elected.

  18. CLCJM 2015.02.22

    I participated in a couple of organizational meeting in the hopes we can make a difference. I hadn't heard mention of the idea of supporting "moderate conservatives". I've sat here thinking about this and was at first skeptical. However, I recalled that I've heard from fellow Democrats that there are legislators who switched from Democrat to Republican, not because they're politics changed but because voters here don't investigate candidates. They just look for the "R" and vote accordingly. So since that's the case, maybe helping those moderates if we can clearly identify them and get them to commit to supporting the kind of causes and solutions we do, then perhaps we could support them. After all,we've seen from Republicans for 6× years is hate, devisiveness and obstructionism. Maybe we can show them what unity and cooperation can accomplish!!!

  19. Roger Cornelius 2015.02.22

    It somehow appears that Democrats are acting in desperation to field good solid candidates. If we help elect progressive Republicans we still end up with a red state, as someone has stated. There are no guarantees that a progressive Republican will support Democratic causes or major issues.
    Many of us remember Senator McGovern's work in bringing back to life the party in the 50's and 60's. I was honored to work with him on voter registration and education drives, it was truly a grassroots endeavor.
    Often in politics we complicate problems by trying to figure out what the opposition is doing or what segment of a party we may offend.
    George McGovern recognized that the Democratic Party was dead in South Dakota and he revived it. George did it without the power of social media and other advanced communication tools we have today.
    When you are dead in the water, you go back to basics and plan to do some hard work, your shoes will get a lot of wear and tear and you'll rack up miles on your car, but you will meet people, register them to vote, keep them informed, and most importantly on election day, get them to the polls.
    The campaigns that I have worked since 1968 had very little ideology and theories, we had 3 goals; register, get voters to the polls and win. This doesn't have to be a difficult process.
    Being born a liberal Democrat, I'm not seeking common ground with the Republican Party, I'm seeking a change to state government that will end this 40 year cycle of crony capitalism corruption, can we accomplish that with a progressive Republican?
    The SDDP goal should be to fill the slate with Democrats, support those candidates in any way they can and not run from Republicans.
    Finally, I have said this repeatedly and will say it one more time. Democrats don't have a problem superior Republican candidates, we have a problem with low-information Republican voters, they are the base of the Republican Party and the party leadership counts coup without ever acknowledging them. These are the voters that need to be educated with a strong dose of reality and come to realize Republicans are using them and not representing their best interests.

  20. Deb Geelsdottir 2015.02.22

    Good for SDP. A good, compassionate legislator doesn't have to be a Democrat.

    The Republicans have much farther to go than Democrats to bring their party back to a collection of citizens working together for what's best for the entire nation. Republicans used to be good for America. They can be again.

  21. Roger Cornelius 2015.02.22

    Are there currently any progressive Republicans in the state legislature?
    And if so, did any of them support a full investigation of the Rounds EB-5 scandal, did any progressive Republicans vote to reinstate a state ethics commission or did they simply follow party lines?

  22. jerry 2015.02.22

    Good news though Roger, you can still be who you are politically. No one says that you have to change party affiliations, it is just that you can have a voice in who is sent to Pierre to get some things done that make sense for all of us. Maybe then we can cut the bullshit liberal angst that seems to be getting in the way of progress. If you are not carrying that, maybe then folks would get involved at the county level to put grass root change in what we need done. Look around, we certainly do not have a two party system in place now, just as well join up and get something done to run some of these deadbeats legislators off, they won't know what kicked them in the behind, stealth is a good thing.

  23. Bob Klein 2015.02.22

    I'll be either fur you or agin you depending on which will do you the most good.

  24. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.22

    My friends Roger and Deb offer what sound like two opposing approaches. If we were all in Kevin's backyard, I'd lean forward and listen very closely as they lovingly and conscientiously duked it out.

    Roger gets me thinking: is openness to "progressive Republicans" a wise attack or a surrender to the narrative of Republican inevitability and Democratic hopelessness?

  25. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.22

    (Sorry: I know I keep shifting between ideological idealism and pragmatism in my observations.)

  26. Roger Cornelius 2015.02.22

    Surrender is an appropriate word, I'm not good at surrendering, it just be my age or a life time of maintaining my same ideology.
    Most likely I'm a Harry Truman Democrat, he too couldn't see "any damn good in a Republican, you can't trust a one of them", or something like that.

  27. Jon Holmdal 2015.02.22

    I am neither a liberal or a conservative but I have ideas-similar to most people--I think if we gave our ideas instead of trying fit a label we would find that our ideas are similar--whoever represents us must be honest--have ethics and believe in open government.

  28. Deb Geelsdottir 2015.02.22

    Cory said: "is openness to "progressive Republicans" a wise attack or a surrender to the narrative of Republican inevitability and Democratic hopelessness?"

    I don't accept your either/or structure. I'm not attacking or surrendering. I'm searching for good governance that seeks to return the USA to a government of, for, and by the people.

  29. 12 2015.02.23

    les, if 12 lived in 9 she'd love nothing more than to unseat Hickey. 12 will have to stick to attempting to slay dragons in her own district, which has problems just as big. Corey, you may wish to speak with Daeen Langan ASAP. It would appear that Katrina spoke out of turn. South Dakota progress bylaws specifically state that they are a purely democratic supporting entity.

  30. mike from iowa 2015.02.23

    Huzzahs to Deb. You do not surrender an inch to wingnuts. They'll take that as capitulation and demand your first born for starters. Demo ideals are ever so much better than feed the rich and we can and will win again. Rethuglicans are intent on destroying all that 'murrica stands for so the koch bros have a few more pennies. Hopefully low info voters will finally see what they are doing and either quit supporting the wealthy or start wising up and protect what is left for the rest of us.

  31. larry kurtz 2015.02.23

    Rep. Hickey is the most progressive of the earth haters but it seems incomprehensible that SDP could forgive him for his opposition to cannabis, LGBTQ equality, women's rights and his support of guns for everyone because the SDDP platform sure doesn't see life that way.

  32. Les 2015.02.23

    I'm a conservative who doesn't believe n capital punishment. Whichever Pub unseats Hickey will more than likely not run with a repeal on the DP. A win is a win in my book.

    Moderate Pub or Dem doesn't necessrily mean the same corruptin that caused eb5. As well who stood with Tyler? Which of the hard left jumped to help save her sinking ship? And Herseth still stands to the side knowing she has no solid footing in the Dem partay in SD.

    As our friend Lar would say, pick a lane, which is extra hard if you can't field a runner and refuse to vote GOP primary.

  33. larry kurtz 2015.02.23

    South Dakota: Land of Infinite Vertiginousity.

  34. Katrina Wilke 2015.02.23

    I wanted to take this opportunity to clarify our position. SD Progress can only support registered Democrats per the current draft of our bylaws.

    However, here is what SD Progress can do that the SDDP can’t, we can recruit progressive Republicans to become Democrats. There have been many recent cases where Republicans have converted because the views of the GOP/Tea Party no longer align with their own views or those of their constituents.

    Also, as a group apart from the SDDP, the idea of garnering some financial support from moderate Republicans interested in curtailing the rightest of their wing is not farfetched and is something we discussed pursuing.

    If you would like to learn more about what SDP is doing, please join us at one of our meetings or check out our South Dakota Progress FB page!

  35. 12 2015.02.23

    Thanks for clarifying, Katrina! :-)

  36. tara volesky 2015.02.23

    That's to bad Katrina, you are leaving out the fastest growing non-establishment, 105,000 Independent voters that are disgusted with both parties or are just registering Independent. Well, Democrats only, will never win elections.

  37. Les 2015.02.23

    You mean those low info voters who just pull the D lever, Tara?

  38. tara volesky 2015.02.23

    You're right Les, it works both ways. lol. An Independent thinks for themselves.

  39. Roger Cornelius 2015.02.23

    Tara talks as though South Dakota independent voters are an actual functioning party.

  40. Les 2015.02.23

    Although I don't call my gop party functional in SD, they do win. Who are the functional parties in SD, Rog?

  41. Roger Cornelius 2015.02.23

    Whether the Democratic Party is functional party or not, it is still a legal public organization with a real address and phone number.

  42. Deb Geelsdottir 2015.02.23

    mfi said, "Huzzahs to Deb."

    I don't think I've ever received a "huzzah" before. Thank you mfi, I'm honored.

  43. tara volesky 2015.02.24

    Roger, you miss quoted me again. Go back and read my statement.

  44. 12 2015.02.24

    Tara, Democrats are not so short sighted as to believe that we can win elections without Republican and Independent votes. I feel like perhaps you're missing the point of the SD Progress group... their point is to recruit and train and support Democratic candidates. Period. It doesn't mean that these candidates cannot appeal to Independent voters... Independent voters do not strictly vote for Independent candidates... correct? I'm sure that Independent voters also have financially supported candidates that are Democratic... So, I'm not sure how Independent voters are being, as you said, "left out".

  45. Roger Cornelius 2015.02.24

    Tara, go back and read my comment. I did not misquote you, I made a observation.

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