Mr. Ehrisman treats us to an annoyingly anonymous report (taking shots at individuals but not giving one’s own name? tsk, tsk) from the South Dakota Democratic Party’s executive meeting from Saturday. Amid the unconstructive snarkification, we learn that the SDDP ran a surplus this year of $100,000.
A hundred grand left over from the 2016 election? That’s a lot of dough that could do a lot of practical good for building the party. I return to the suggestion Briggs Tople offered and I seconded at the SDDP’s listening meeting in Aberdeen a couple weeks ago: open party field offices. Our party leaders warned that field offices cost a lot of overhead. $100K would cover a lot of overhead.
Let’s suppose we can land an office space for $2,000 a month. (Earlier this fall, I was hearing lower rates for downtown spots in Aberdeen.) A year’s rent would be $24,000. At that rate, we could cover rent for an Aberdeen office and a Rapid City office right through the 2018 election cycle and have a little extra left for utilities and postage. Or we could focus on this year, open extra field offices in Brookings and Vermillion, and focus on fundraising activities that would allow each office to pay its own way in 2018. Of course, with four SDDP staff members available, we may only be able to staff three field offices (keep the party exec in Sioux Falls, scatter the other three staffers across the state as full-time organizers)… at which point we can debate which campus community offers more opportunity to mobilize young Democrats for petition drives, voter registration, and get-out-the-vote activities (my vote: Brookings, for proximity to more voters and donors, but I’m open to counterarguments from Mark Winegar and others!).
What good would field offices do the party? I suggest, in no particular order…
- Visibility: Every day people driving down Main Street (and yes, we go downtown, where all the lights are bright, where foot traffic happens for petitioners) see a big, proud banner shouting “South Dakota Democrats!”
- Regional Organizing: Every day there’s a staffer working that town and every burg within 90 miles, hunting up donors, recruiting volunteers and candidates, rebuilding and checking in with county party chapters, promoting petition drives, and registering voters.
- Local Activist Synergy: The field office provides local progressive groups (Student Democrats, Green groups, labor organizers, ballot question committees, local foods promoters, gay-straight alliances, pipeline protestors…) a place to meet and a resource person who can help them find information, connect with public officials, and promote their Dem-friendly causes.
- Media Access: The field staff work the local media, making sure the weak weekly fluff from Rounds, Noem, et al. is balanced by statements, columns, and interviews from Democrats, including the staffers themselves and leading local Dems.
Allocate that money now, State Dems! An active presence in two or three communities beyond Sioux Falls is an investment that will pay off in good press, good connections, and more money in the coffers!