Campaign Notes: Dem House Candidate Paula Hawks on Dakota Midday

Democratic State Rep. Paula Hawks, 2016 U.S. House candidate
Democratic State Rep. Paula Hawks, 2016 U.S. House candidate

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 MatterTribal Lives MatterRed 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.

*   *   *
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!

20 Responses to Campaign Notes: Dem House Candidate Paula Hawks on Dakota Midday

  1. Douglas Wiken

    I heard most of it. Mostly positive, but extolling virtue of working with Republicans is not a winning strategy. She also needs to banish “uhhh” from her vocabulary. She might also start talking about opposition to Citizens United and refuse to take contributions from corporations or in amounts exceeding $100 per person. No matter what she does, she will never catch up with Noem on money, so she might as well make the best of that.

    She must answer the “How would my future improve with you instead of Noem?” question with every answer to every question about anything from anybody. Also must go after Daugaard on Medicare funding and Rounds insurance and E-B 5 at every opportunity or make opportunity. Let the world know that fawning to corporations is almost never in the interest of 99% of South Dakotans.

  2. Wait! Paula! Leo says don’t listen to me on painting Noem as Boehner’s lapdog:

    Another mistake she may be tempted to make is trying to copy Noem’s efforts to tie Stephanie Herseth Sandlin to Nancy Pelosi by attempting to tie Noem to Speaker John Boehner. I find orange skinned men who weep too easily disconcerting at best. Most South Dakota Republicans are not disconcerted in the least. Perhaps Boehner’s orange hue makes them nostalgic for the television program Alf. Pelosi, on the other hand, is a San Francisco Democrat. For most South Dakotans, that description is a pejorative only slightly less offensive than a short guttural verb that been appended with both prefix and suffix to imply that one has experienced carnal knowledge with one’s female parent [Leo Kallis, “A Minor Musing about the Paula Hawks Candidacy,” The Displaced Plainsman, 2015.08.04].

    I disagree with Leo with caution, but I say throw caution to the wind. Look for places where Boehner has acted against South Dakota interests or failed to round up votes for SD-friendly policies, and hang Noem with those failures. Anyone else care to advise?

  3. But yes, we all agree: challenge corporate personhood! Challenge the disconnect between Noem’s Republican rhetoric about liberty and the real oppression she lets corporations foist upon us.

  4. larry kurtz

    “throw caution to the wind:” practice what you preach, CAH.

  5. larry kurtz

    I asked Hawks where she stands on legal cannabis: she has yet to get back to me, another media outlet jilted like the Argus Leader and others were.

  6. for many reasons, reserve “red” for anything conservative.

    black lives matter is a great response, huge national issue and equally applicable here, of course

  7. is marijuana a political issue in SD?

  8. highlight noem’s gross incompetency in cross-examining IRS in committee. youtube lives forever, as well as twitter photo on the great wall!! her association with aaron schock shows huge lapse in judgement.

  9. Jeff Kroon

    I would have asked her what the difference is between a democrat and a socialist.

  10. Try google, Jeff Kroon, and report back to us.

  11. Part of what Rep. Hawks will face in this race involves having to diplomatically tell people with fake questions to f*** off, that’s not a real question. Like with Mr. Kroon, one such stock response she should have in her quiver is, “You can go ahead and google that.” One response would be simply to ignore bs questions if they are shouted at her. She should feel free to attack anyone acting particularly obnoxious. “Look, I dealt with teenagers as a teacher all the time, but you look like you’re old enough to be beyond name calling. … I’m not going to let you take over this meeting with namecalling …”

    Thank you Mr. Kroon for demonstrating the lowbrow tactics of morons.

  12. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to namecall. I meant that Mr. Kroon is demonstrating the lowbrow tactics that people of low intelligence or bad faith will bombard Rep. Hawks with. She shouldn’t give such people a chance to ask any followup questions, and she shouldn’t waste any time debating with them. She should simply ignore them, dismiss them diplomatically, or embarrass them as the situation warrants.

  13. Hang on—Jeff’s question, while a generic distraction tactic that avoids specific issues relevant to the U.S. House race, does not prove moronity. In what spirit do you offer the question, Jeff?

    Regardless of the spirit, I’d follow the standard tactic of changing the question into the question I want to ask and answer: “Jeff, what’s the difference between a socialist and a Republican who takes millions in government farm subsidies, makes a living selling government crop insurance, and works to prop up South Dakota’s economy with government money for infrastructure and a military base? Not much, right, Kristi Noem?”

  14. Well played, Mr H.

  15. mike from iowa


  16. Curt, I hope coming up with answers like that is part of the fun Paula Hawks is having.

  17. Jeff Kroon

    Cory…if you’re suggesting that there is little difference between the two parties,I’m in total agreement. Tired of Clintons and tired of Bushes. Politicians are self serving…do and say whatever it takes to get reelected. Term limits would solve some of that.

  18. Clinton vs. Bush? No way, Jeff—I’m hoping for a Sanders vs. Paul election!

    And no, I’m not saying there’s no difference between the parties. I am saying that, if there’s a socialism critique afoot, we can find as much evidence of socialism on Kristi Noem’s record and in the corporate welfare favored by the mainstream SDGOP. Now, what would Hawks say?

  19. Roger Elgersma

    If we want change we need to say what the changes will be. This is especially important in a red state since change is not the first thing on conservatives minds. So little one liners do not work unless they say something specific. The bigger the list of changes needed the more impact and the risk is that more changes give to more chances that each will alienate a few voters. But to be for change means real change and not just an attitude.

  20. Roger Cornelius

    Paula must be reeling from all the advice and criticism of the past few days, but the advice is free Paula, I hope you listen to us oldsters.

    Every question that Paula is asked has to be answered with a Noem angle, she is running against Noem after all. If she is asked how are doing today Paula, she answers with “better than Kristi Noem”.

    Noem’s Facebook page shows her obsession with government regulations and little else, she hasn’t moved the ball down the court much at all.

    Paula also needs to demonstrate to all South Dakotans, Republican and Democrats alike, just how much President Obama’s policies and the Democrats do for the average South Dakota Republican and how horrible the Republicans will be if they win the presidency and congress in 2016.
    If Republicans get their way, we can wave goodbye to all that federal aid that keeps this state afloat. They may actually end up having to use those sacred reserve accounts.
    Remember Paula, the Republican presidential candidates are all about chopping at the budget with little or no regard for the consequences.