Sioux Falls Democrat Kadyn Wittman formally announced her campaign for District 15 House yesterday. Her opening issues make clear she’s ready to embrace the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. On her campaign website, Wittman sandwiches standard economic development-speak with calls for a more inclusive and just South Dakota:
All South Dakotans, regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation, deserve equal protection and care.
- Advocate for consistent and explicit non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people across key areas of life, including employment, housing, and education.
- Bridge the financial gap facing many working families following the birth or adoption of a child as well as personal or family illness requiring leave from work.
- Champion paid parental leave for all South Dakotans, including fathers.
South Dakota must continue to strive for innovation and growth.
- Promote private sector development and job creation in order to attract and retain talent.
- Work with public sector institutions and top-level decision-makers to take initiatives and explore alternative ideas that lead to sustainable solutions and growth.
- Help to grow a strong network of South Dakota businesses.
All South Dakotans, regardless of socioeconomic status, deserve access to safe and affordable healthcare.
- Give pregnant people in our state access to safe, affordable prenatal and post pregnancy healthcare.
- Promote mental health resources and shift funding towards community-based treatment programs.
- Improve the access and delivery of health services to rural and medically underserved communities [Kadyn Wittman, District 15 House campaign website, retrieved 2022.01.22].
Wittman’s biography page emphasizes Wittman’s social justice credentials, highlighting the sense of justice and equity she developed watching her parents fight for accessible services for her wheelchair-using brother, her service to the poor and houseless during the pandemic at the Bishop Dudley Hospitality House, her organizing efforts for Black and transgender South Dakotans, and her current work at the Multi-Cultural Center in Sioux Falls. This leftish résumé (far from radical, but providing easy fodder for any substanceless Republican challengers who want to cry Liberal!) carries an endorsement from an unexpected moderate Democrat, Billie Sutton’s 2018 running mate Michelle Lavallee:
We always ask ‘where are the good people with a willingness to run for public office?’ I think we have found one in Kadyn [Michelle Lavalleee, quoted in Kadyn Wittman, “Meet Kadyn,” District 15 House campaign website, retrieved 2022.01.22].
Lavallee got Sutton’s nod in 2018 because she underscored his cautious conservatism bipartisanship. Lavallee spent more time affirming the “we all ride horses” narrative than embracing the unapologetic progressive Democratic agenda that Wittman offers. Lavallee was a lifelong Republican before her 2018 conversion. Just months before accepting Sutton’s invitation to run as a Democrat, Lavallee endorsed Republican theocrat Paul TenHaken over Jolene Loetscher, a Democratic candidate arguably only half as openly progressive as Wittman. That Lavallee now would throw her endorsement behind a vocal progressive Democrat who is running in a District represented by the Suttonesquely pragmatic and bipartisan Democratic House Minority Leader Rep. Jamie Smith suggests that either (1) Lavallee has a friendship with Wittman that transcends political spectrum tests or (2, and I wish for this explanation!) Lavallee has enjoyed ongoing transformation from a comfortable establishment Republican to a Democrat who recognizes her party must stop surrendering to the GOP narrative and make the case that the Democratic, progressive, liberal worldview offers real solutions to real problems for real South Dakotans.