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Epp: SD Dems Need Urban Focus, Steady Leadership

Hey, Todd, I ain’t heard no fat lady!

Not content to wait until November 9, former Democratic activist and current KELO Radio producer Todd Ep writes a pre-mortem of the South Dakota Democratic Party’s performance in this year’s election. Epp sees a party with no bench and no resources that might as well run soup cans as statewide candidates to win its default one-third of the popular vote. What do we have to do differently, Mr. Epp?

Until the state Democratic Party figures out that it can’t continue to see Republican and Independent voter registrations surge while Democratic registrations stagnate; that until it can’t continue to be ruled by rural interests; that it can’t ignore the new “cube farm” economy; that it can’t ignore Minnehaha and Lincoln Counties; and until it stops the revolving door of party leaders, Democratic tomato cans will be all we’ll see on election days to come [Todd Epp, “SD Democrat = Tomato Can = 33.3% on Ballot,” KELO Radio, 2016.11.03].

What? South Dakota is shifting from rural to urban? We can find votes in the metroplex? And we need to stick with our leaders and build experience and institutional knowledge instead of rotating after every election?

As I’ve told other people, I’ve got too many doors (in my case, almost all urban doors) to knock on to spend much time thinking about internal party issues. We have an election to win, and, somewhat contrary to Epp’s pre-mortem, some of us will. (My fearless prediction: Right now I’m beating Al Novstrup by five votes… so I’d better go knock on more doors, and you’d all better get out and vote!). We can sort out future party strategy on November 9, when we see how well current party strategy fares on November 8. Forward!


  1. Curt 2016-11-04

    I agree with you, Cory. Let’s focus ‘like a laser’ on the 2016 election for these next few days and on future elections starting on, let’s say 11/10 (I’m planning to take the 9th off).

  2. Douglas Wiken 2016-11-04

    The Democratic Party focuses on rural areas? I have missed that. We assume the party is campaigning hard in Rapid City, Mitchell, Aberdeen and Sioux Falls because we never see hide nor hair of them in the boodocks.

  3. David Newquist 2016-11-04

    The South Dakota Democratic Party has never lacked for people to criticize the leadership and tell them what to do and how to do it. Unfortunately, the party has taken some of that advice. What it lacks is people to actually get out and do the work.

    I recall when something needed to be done, a telephone call would trigger a telephone tree and volunteers would show ups to address envelopes, make phone calls, or even knock on doors. The ones who showed up were all older people. As they died and drifted off to nicer climes, there were no names to replace them with. There were no people around who understood what was actually effective and were willing to get up, go out and do it.

    National campaign organizers watched carefully as Rick Weiland put on a superb campaign, visiting every town in the state, most of them twice, talking about plans and issues. But in the background, the good Democrat experts kept up a drum beat about him having lost past elections and not being the level of candidate needed. If Jesus Christ came waling down the Missouri to be a candidate for Congress, the savvy Democrats would denigrate him because he had bunions.

    I often feel that the Democrats had successful year, many of them would feel lost because they had noting to criticize or give advice about.

    The party has a money problem. The last time it showed some strength in the state legislative races was when Howard Dean designated money to go to state campaigns and the party was able to hire workers.

    We have provably more knowledgeable and articulate candidates than the GOP has in Jay Williams and Paula Hawks. But what level of verbal or active support is coming from the party? It’s the usual scolding. We have hard evidence in those incidents that occurred in Charles Mix County, the end issue of EB-5 and Gear Up, of what single party government has produced. But how many Democrats have taken up action for reform?

    What the Democratic Party members have not figured out is that jaw bones don’t influence people and win elections. Action does. In South Dakota Democratic asses are only for sitting on, not for shaking and moving.

  4. David Newquist 2016-11-04

    I mistakenly hit the post button while trying to correct the typos.

  5. Roger Cornelius 2016-11-04

    Excellent observations David.

    South Dakota Democrats have become a party of whiners and critics, nothing seems to make us happy or energized.

    One of the easiest things in the world to do is say “no” or that something can’t be done. South Dakota Democrats seems to have crafted that art to perfection.

    No, Rick Weiland can’t win. Whine
    No, Jay Williams can’t win. Whine some more.

    No, Paula Hawks, can’t win. Whine again and be proud that when our candidates lose you can at least say “I told you so”.

  6. BlackHills76 2016-11-04

    When you have a candidate like Jay Williams stating that he’d like to see every semi-automatic firearm banned in the U.S. your not going to win in South Dakota. As a SD Democrat I early voted for Thune exactly because of this reason.

    With that said, Paula Hawks did get my vote. I had a conversation with her at the CSF in Rapid City she was very much in line with SD values when it comes to protecting the 2nd Amendment. I really enjoyed visiting with her and I think she’d be an outstanding Congresswomen.

    I’d have no problem volunteering or helping with the Democratic Party in my area, however I get the sense that moderate Pro-gun, Pro-life Democrats are no longer welcome in the State party. It’s too bad, because there are a lot of other issues that we can agree on whether it’s marriage equality or economic issues. I feel like a lot of us moderates have been pushed away unless we agree with the National party agenda.

  7. leslie 2016-11-04

    the very very active pennington dems I am a part of, have been running on caffeine, a tiny upstairs office we can not afford, donated phones, autos, gas, food, and yes I hear these mentions of whining, not doing the work that essential, and other myths roger and dave suggest, but for the last 3 presidential elections I have not personally witnessed. but I do see dems with 30-40 years service that don’t make a dime for their leadership and service in the trenches. guess who’s on the phones on a Friday night? A big name. everyone of us dems need to be involved. Bernie was a great inspiration but his values were barely dissimilar from Hillary’s, Paula’s and Jay’s. Where is Stephenie, where is Have you noticed how many measures are on the ballot. EB5 and Gear Up are going to take republicans down in the dem camp and perhaps the independent camp. Republicans seem to be taking down Hillary signs. Such is the hate that pervades from the party of succession, misogyny, discrimination, sedition ect. as Thom Hartman summarized brutally at the end of his program today. We don’t need to add to their dysfunction.

    76, guns are something Hillary respects, the @nd Amend., and reasonable regulation most republicans of your persuasion should support. Paula will be fantastic, and thank you kindly for voting for her. We will work with you. Bernie would work with you. Let’s work together and bring in dissatisfied republicans and independants that recognize ourn true values for the smoke screen of the greater republican party.

    the radio ad today by the credit industry slandering the 36% cap is perhaps the worst I have ever seen and they have clothed themselves completely within the wraps of the trump/republican party. expose them. join us!

  8. jerry 2016-11-04

    Williams should never talk about guns because guns are more important than agriculture here in the state. Who needs COOL when you can get that smoke wagon out and just caress it with much love. The 2nd Amendment is the right to bear arms, not the right to a specific type of arm, just the right to bear them. There is also pesky 1st Amendment, the one that gives you the right to make an opinion or free speech, which is exactly what Williams did. Semi automatic weapons here and kind of a show that you are a poor shot, that is what my dad always said, and it is true. Hunting is having the nerve and the confidence to make the shot not just blaze away. My aim is true.

    Interesting that you call yourself a moderate and you use the word pro life. That ain’t being moderate, that is being something totally different. Real supporters of women’s issues and their rights would call into question your description like I just did. I think pro choice is the what is just and fair to women. Marriage equality is no longer a Democratic issue or a Republican issue, it is the law and we can all now just move on to something else. I happen to agree with the new platform that is now being discussed as the way forward for this country. It really is a shame that you do not feel that you support that agenda as it does cover the issues that you claim to support. In South Dakota, there are some great folks that are running for office that can look you in the eye and tell you how they actually feel. You know, like Williams and Hawks did. Glad you voted, at this time of the year you just never know what the weather is gonna be like, but it looks like a nice day on Tuesday. You never mentioned the presidential race…puzzling.

  9. leslie 2016-11-04

    …Stephanie and Brendan? …2nd Amend….sorry

  10. Roger Cornelius 2016-11-04

    I refuse to get sidetracked by 2nd Amendment issues when I know that there is not a president that is going to take your precious guns away. A reasonable debate needs to be continued on gun violence in this country. When we see that a child is shot and killed or wounded every other day in this country something is seriously wrong.

    Same thing with the pro-life issue or abortion if you wish to call it. republicans have been suckering their voters into this debate for decades with no clear resolution. The fact of the mattern it is a woman’s right to make her own choices, period. The Law says so.
    As long as republicans and some Democrats hang onto these issues, they will ignore the republican inspired corruption this state has endured for 40 years.
    The same goes for taxes, let’s talk about abortions and the 2nd Amendment instead pounding republicans for their 40 years of raising taxes and fees and than blaming Democrats.
    This year I have made all my campaign donations to local candidates around the state. Our South Dakota candidates don’t get the national support they deserve and that is a damn shame.
    Apparently the state party and local candidates aren’t even getting enough local financial support either.

  11. Roger Cornelius 2016-11-04

    A friend in Omaha, NE emailed me this evening from Metro College where Bernie was campaigning hard for Hillary, Bernie whipped the crowd into a frenzy and shamed Trump for what he is.
    Is Bernie supporting Hillary only half heartedly?

  12. Porter Lansing 2016-11-05

    Exactly, Dr. Newquist … All negativity gets you is left behind and God knows there’s plenty of negativity and getting left behind throughout Democratic South Dakota. Acting like a sour Republican is fine, if you’re a sour Republican.

  13. mike from iowa 2016-11-05

    I find it hilarryous that 2nd A voters can’t figure out that the pols that support their claims about the 2nd A would be the first in line to take your guns when those pols do something that upsets gun nuts.

    No one needs to take your guns. There are plenty other ways to neuter gun nuts-pun intended.

  14. BlackHills76 2016-11-05

    I find it funny if I am a pro 2nd Amendment Democrat then the party line followers who just follow the agenda will basically tell you to get lost. Sorry, but you’ve got a lot of South Dakotans (both R and D) with a semi automatic rifle or pistol in the house. This is the reason why Williams extreme gun control positions won’t sell well in SD. Paula Hawks had a much more reasonable position and told me straight up she’d be a strong defender of gun rights. Mix that in with her other positions she would be good for SD. I’m a part owner in a ranch/farm operation, a teacher, and a retired SD Army National Guard Officer. So there are a lot of different issues I care about.

    I guess I should re-phrase my “Pro-life” position. I’m pro-life in my own personal beliefs and believe other options to deal with an unwanted pregnancy are better options then abortion. With that said, I’d prefer to make those other options easier and more available, but I do not personally think Roe v Wade should be overturned. It’s their body and their choice. Maybe some will find fault with me because I don’t think it’s the best choice to deal with this, but I’m free to my opinion. I also would prefer to see the death penality ended in our State.

    Now maybe my opinions mean that I should not be in the “new” State Democratic Party, but I do have common concerns. I know around here you’ll get mocked for being a moderate, but I form my own beliefs and options and don’t like being a bobble head for any platform.

  15. Douglas Wiken 2016-11-05

    Black Hills 76, you must be awfully thin-skinned. There is room for all your perspectives in the SD Democratic Party. I have attended a lot of Democratic meetings and never heard anybody mocked for moderate perspectives.

  16. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-11-06

    Sorry to be late coming back to this conversation—I was busy working on my object lesson in Democratic victory. ;-)

    David, Roger, how do we overcome the do-nothing whining? How do we remobilize old Democrats and mobilize new Democrats?

  17. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-11-06

    BH76, I’ll welcome you in the party, but you’ll throw overboard a true progressive just because he disagrees with you on gun policy? That openness has to go both ways and look at the big picture. Here’s my big picture question on policy: how have semi-automatic weapons helped us reduce the national debt, raise South Dakota teacher pay, protect voter rights from elitist Republican legislators, or stopped corruption in Pierre?

  18. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-11-06

    Leslie, keep up the good work in Pennington County. What can the state party learn from your local activism?

  19. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-11-06

    (Bernie Sanders in Omaha for Clinton? Hmm… how hard are Trump’s closest primary challengers working for him?)

  20. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-11-06

    Douglas, I’d suggest that it’s those of us inclined toward some left-of-moderate views who face more friction than the moderates who set the party agenda.

  21. Douglas Wiken 2016-11-07

    I have been around the SD Democratic Party long enough to remember Democratic Central Committee members who still detested FDR and bad-mouthed McGovern behind his back even as they fawned all over him in public. There are remnants of that attitude still in the SD Democratic Party, but most of them are dead by now. Of course, the old progressive Republicans are also almost all deceased.

    In terms of real progress, the GOP is irrelevant.

    Democrats like Stephanie Herseth, Daschle, and Johnson rarely made strong cases for progressive or liberal positions in SD preferring to be as Republican-like as possible. That might have worked for them for a time, but the long-term result was a state with few strong advocates for liberal, progressive policies and perspectives even as SD media became loaded with conservative perspective and ever-present GOP mythology.

  22. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-11-07

    Douglas, can advocates of progressive/liberal positions reclaim a place in the SDDP and the SD Media? can we win back voters, if we just offer that message and messengers willing to represent those positions? Are we victims of our own silence?

  23. Douglas Wiken 2016-11-08

    Liberal and progressive ideas must be sold until people think they are their own ideas. Democratic liberal silence is golden for Republicans in SD.

    I don’t know, but candidacies like yours probably open a few eyes. McGovern’s first wins in SD didn’t come because he and his issues were already loved here. He worked his butt off campaigning all over. He got into organizations where he could be known for good work apart from politics.

    I don’t know for sure what will work, but what Democrats have been doing in SD has not been working.

  24. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-11-09

    Our silence is sweet music to our opponents—I must remember that.

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