Todd Epp tantalizes us with a tidbit on the Democrats’ tardy tapping of a new top dog. For four months, since Zach Crago’s resignation, South Dakota’s minority party has languished without an executive director. The party said it would interview applicants for the job shortly after January 15. But the entire Legislative session and McGovern Day have rolled by without an announcement of a hire.
KSOO’s Epp says Dems really do have someone in the chute; unfortunately, they chose someone who can’t be involved with the job yet:
According to a source well-known to me who has a history of reliability, the South Dakota Democratic Party has selected a new executive director. Finally, about three months later than they said they would.
But the party of open government in South Dakota won’t reveal who the person is, even though the SDDP leadership has apparently set their salary and benefits.
My source says the speculation is that the person is somehow involved with the federal courts, where political activity is strictly verboten! The new ED also may have worked for former Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin [Todd Epp, “Political Whispers: State Democrats Have New Leader, Won’t Say Who It Is,” KSOO Radio, 2015.04.20].
Epp has one anonymous source, but Epp only swings on solid anonymous branches. And now that he’s working for the mainstream media, he’s got standards! So let’s give his story credence and grouse, in order:
- If the state Democrats stuck with their time frame and interviewed in January, we’ve spent three months waiting for a new exec. There’s been plenty of work to do: raining fire on regressive Republican legislators for bad bills, recruiting a logistics team to handle McGovern Day details, organizing press and pavement pounders for the referendum drives on SB 69 and SB 177, and laying all the groundwork possible for recruiting candidates for a full slate in 2016. Zach Nistler is an able interim director, but this decision should have been made and the permanent position filled as close to February 1 as possible.
- If the state Democrats have picked someone they can’t talk about, have they also picked someone who can’t start the job as soon as other candidates? I know that taking the helm of a state party that controls no statewide elected offices and holds subminorities in both chambers of the Legislature may not look like the most appealing job, but I find it hard to believe that there aren’t one or two qualified Kirk-like executives who would look at the SDDP’s grim situation and say (1) “Sounds like fun!” and (2) “I can start in two weeks.” If the SDDP has chosen a new exec who not only can’t be named but also can’t start right away because of obligations to the federal court system, this new exec had better bring a couple cases of organizational secret sauce to make up for valuable time lost during which other qualified applicants could have been taking care of business.
- And secrecy? Yes, Todd’s right: we give our opponents a free shot against our open-government credibility when we keep secrets. Picking a new exec whom we cannot name, let alone seat, for a month (two? three?) is an unforced error.
That grousing is all woulda-coulda-shoulda. If Epp’s source is right, the choice is made, the contract set, and we just have to wait for the SDDP’s choice to exit the federal court system and start doing work that desperately needs to get done.