Democratic candidate for U.S. House Paula Hawks just gave her first (as far as I’m aware) extended live broadcast interview following her announcement of her candidacy. The former teacher, now legislator and trainer from Hartford, spoke with Karl Gehrke on SDPB Radio’s Dakota Midday just now, right after I finished my sandwich. Here, [with a few crumbs, teriyaki sauce, and editorial comments], are Gehrke’s questions and Hawks’s responses:
Gehrke: Why are you running?
Hawks: “I want to bring back fairness and opportunity to South Dakota,” particularly to students, family farmers, seniors, women.
Gehrke: No fairness now?
Hawks: Fairness is defined differently by different people. I want to talk to South Dakotans about what they think fairness is.
Gehrke: How do you define fairness? [Notice that Karl is doing a good job with his follow-up questions flowing from what his guest is saying, not just working down his script of questions.]
Hawks: Consider, for example, students in South Dakota going to college. They face an incredible amount of student debt, and their interest rates not fair when we charge much lesser rates to big banks.
Gehrke: Tell us about your background.
Hawks: My great-great grandparents came into South Dakota as farmers. That farming tradition continued to my father. I grew up on family farm, went to a small rural school in Flandreau. I don’t farm, but I’ve worked in South Dakota throughout my career, so South Dakota is “in my blood.”
Gehrke: How does background qualify you to be in House?
Hawks: I have developed great relations with people of all backgrounds in South Dakota. I worked with the Republicans in the Legislature, developed good relations with them, and can have conversations about what is going to work for everybody. My experience as a teacher gave me an insight into the educational opportunities available in South Dakota. My work now in the banking industry has given me a different outlook on economic opportunities [this part got vague].
Gehrke: What sort of insight have you gained in the banking industry [good question, Karl, asking for specifics!]
Hawks: Public schools run differently from for-profit business; I’ve gotten insight into how investors are succeeding as well as into the situation for unbanked/underbanked folks in South Dakota and what help they need to help them make their money work for them.
Gehrke: Who are the unbanked/underbanked?
Hawks: They are folks who can’t qualify for standard checking account; we find ways to include them, help them use their money [Hmmm… I feel an interesting question here about payday lending and the synergy that Hawks could get by talking up South Dakota’s proposed 36%-rate-cap initiative and promising to replicate that legislation nationwide.]
Gehrke: Why did you decide to serve in the state Legislature? [Darn, not following up with a question about payday lending or policy for the un-/underbanked.]
Hawks: I was teaching high school science, saw education reform happening that I didn’t agree with, and decided it was important to lend my voice to that fight.
Gehrke: Have you enjoyed being part of the South Dakota Legislature?
Hawks: Very much. [Oh! Paula! Give us more! Turn the simple unrevealing question to a story about a specific event that shows your skills!]
Gehrke: What have you learned that would help you in Washington D.C.?
Hawks: Part of problem we see in national government is so much divisiveness amongst parties, holding to the party line, and not working together. We must work together, have meaningful and not spiteful conversations. Building relationships is a key issue. [Yes, yes, bipartisan cooperation. When things get tough, you’re going to give us clear examples of the incumbent’s failure to bipartisanly cooperate, right? Right?!]
Gehrke: You’d be just 1 of 435 Representatives; how would you make impact?
Hawks: A Representative must build relationships with people who have influence, get them talking, and facilitate their conversations. [Does this answer still let Hawks hang Noem for hanging with Speaker Boehner?]
Gehrke: What other big issues face South Dakota in Washington?
Hawks: The student debt issue, women’s equity in terms of equal pay for equal work, issues for seniors including price of pharmaceuticals.
Gehrke: What about Issues facing the nation as a whole?
Hawks: One of biggest is Black Lives Matter movement. We need to pay attention. This issue includes everyone in a suppressed/oppressed minority [Interesting choice, out of the panoply of issues in the news. “Black Lives Matter” is worth talking about, but holy cow: if we’re going to talk about it in South Dakota, we have to put it in South Dakota terms: Indians. Hawks did not say Indians. She should: Indian Lives Matter. Or Lakota Lives Matter. Tribal Lives Matter. Red Lives Matter, whatever form the line takes, aply the line to South Dakota.]
Gehrke: Rep. Kristi Noem has criticized President Obama’s new Clean Power Plan; have you had an opportunity to look at the President’s proposal?
Hawks: I haven’t had chance to really dig in, but we need to pay attention to clean energy options [We’re just 24 hours in, and Hawks had phone calls to make yesterday. I’m sure Zach Nistler will have this issue briefed out for her in time for her next interview.].
Gehrke: How would you vote on the Iran nuclear deal?
Hawks: “I probably would look at it in terms of what good it’s going to do for the nation and the world.” At this point, I would be in favor.
Gehrke: Noem has won three elections; what do you need to do over the next year-plus to be competitive?
Hawks: Raise money, talk to donors and voters and more importantly listen, find out what issues are important, gain support by listening, and work with folks to find solutions.
Gehrke: What have you been doing during these first days of the campaign?
Hawks: Making lots of phone calls, getting in touch with key supporters, getting events on the schedule [Here’s one: September 12, South Dakota Blogosphere Picnic, Aberdeen!].
Gehrke How do you get past the difficulties Democrats have had in the past? [The proper opening answer: “What difficulties? We’re gonna win!” and insert Dean scream.]
Hawks: I have a deep passion for what I do, and that passion is contagious. It shows a genuine desire to do the best for others.
Gehrke: Will this be “fun”? Can you feel excitement in the face of so much cynicism about politics?
Hawks: If I weren’t having fun, I wouldn’t be doing this [Absolutely the right answer!]. It is fun, a great opportunity to get to know people.
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Hawks’s first turn at the live campaign mic brought no disasters (though I’m sure Pat Powers will work himself into another onanistic frenzy trying to turn message into reality by declaring this run-of-the-mill interview into the worst political interview in history). But I have high expectations of my Democratic candidates. South Dakota Democrats can’t just do no harm; they have to do damage to the GOP incumbent’s record and complacency. Most of what Hawks said in this interview was correct and intelligent; now Hawks needs to add swinging punches every time she takes the mic to make Noem afraid. Charge hard, Paula!