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Dems Oust Chair, Can Get Back to Work

Shane Merrill from Parker is now in charge of the South Dakota Democratic Party. He was vice-chair until Saturday, when the SDDP State Central Committee voted unanimously to remove chair Jennifer Slaight-Hansen of Aberdeen. 59 SCC members were present in Fort Pierre or online for the recall vote; 57 voted aye on the recall, while two members sat on their hands and thus do not count.

No one who could have showed up and voted at Saturday’s meeting said, “Yeah, let’s keep Slaight-Hansen as chair.” Even former legislator and gubernatorial candidate Susan Wismer of Britton, the only person who seems to have offered the slightest defense of Slaight-Hansen’s performance during her six months in charge of the party, voted to remove her fellow northeast South Dakota Democrat.

So how about we consider this fracas over and let Merrill and Dan Ahlers, the party executive director who submitted his resignation last month over the previous chair’s poor performance but has continued putting in his hours at the Sioux Falls office, do the huge work that the South Dakota Democratic Party needs done, like…

1. Reversing the SDDP’s decline into third place in voter registration. The math said this embarrassing fall would take another couple months, but according to the current voter registration totals posted by the Secretary of State, South Dakota has 150,886 registered Democrats (down 32 since August 1), 151,109 registered independents (up 1,000), and 303,996 registered Republicans (up 435). The best immediate way to get on that task is…

2. Working the Central States Fair in Rapid City and the State Fair in Huron. Thousands of South Dakotans will be out and about at those last big summer events; Democrats should be at the party booths at those events telling everyone about the embarrassment and damage Republicans are causing South Dakota and the country and rallying them join and vote for the party that’s doing the real work of economic investment and justice.

The fairs are also great places for…

3. Circulating the petitions to codify Roe v. Wade and repeal the food tax. Dakotans for Health is circulating two petitions to place those bedrock Democratic policies on the 2024 ballot. Past votes and polls show that a majority of South Dakotans support both issues, and ballot measures have provided South Dakota Democrats with their greatest policy victories in the last 20 years. South Dakota Democrats can boost their fortunes by carrying these petitions and reminding voters that Democrats, in keen contradistinction to Republicans, support not only the majority’s policy priorities but also everyone’s right to vote on those policies.

Demonstrating they can do that practical work would help with…

4. Raising a ton of money. The South Dakota Democratic Party actually has more money on hand than the South Dakota Republican Party: FEC reports submitted Friday show the Dems have $43,973.59 on hand, while the SDGOP has $33,461.95 on hand. But the SDGOP also has Kristi Noem, Dusty Johnson, Mike Rounds, and John Thune with their big campaign coffers; the Dems have no statewide elected officials who can write big checks and rally big cadres of parade marchers and other volunteers. The SDDP thus needs more money to build its presence, support candidates, and make its case to the electorate.

Merrill has the chair until September 16, when the State Central Committee will meet in Rapid City to elect a new chair. But Democratic organizing waits for no election. Merrill, Ahlers, and the rest of the South Dakota Democratic Party need to be at the fairs, on the streets, and on the phones doing the work of building a party that can resist South Dakota’s oppressive one-party regime.


  1. All Mammal 2023-08-21

    The Democratic party needs a marketing strategy. The republicans have 100 million Russian-generated social media posts on their side.

    There is a memetic magic textbook that was made years ago with meme warfare tactics that would be wise to put to work for the benefit of the state, country and planet, by getting people to vote D. Flood peoples’ psyche with images of favorable D policies in real life action. And using humorous negative memes against the R’s is more effective than most people care to admit.
    That is how a hateful memetic frog named Pepe got the orange mushroom knob elected in 2016.

    According to the textbook, laughter is a fleeting moment of delirious chaos, which is when societal change is the most effective. Laughter lets in just enough chaos to get er done so a harsh or mean, yet funny meme, shared a couple thousand times can flip entire states’ voting outcomes. It’s worth a try. If you’re confident you won’t become a bad witch, that is.

    Memetic magic has been around since Thoth, aka Hermes Trismegistus. Think of, ‘Kilroy was here’ or Grumpy Cat, Scumbag Steve, Distracted Boyfriend, Troll Face or Rickroll. Society can be manipulated off of simple images that share a message with no need for explanation or translation. Memes are depicted on tomb walls in Ancient Egypt and Kek is the Egyptian god of memetic magic. He is a frog. Use him. For good.

    And use hot chicks. Most women can influence something fierce. Even a slight awareness of the use of can make a troll flattering.

    I’ll be waiting, DaveFN. Whatcha got

  2. O 2023-08-21

    How has Democrat voting correlated to voter registration? It seems to me that others, like me, have switched registrations ONLY for the purpose of being able to have a vote in elections. Often, the GOP primary is the only election happening. That is not to say there has been a philosophical conversion — only a want to have a say in my elected officials.

    I agree that there is a branding issue with the Democrat party, but at this point in SD, that well seems VERY poisoned. Even more precarious is that some of the lunatic fringe of the GOP is making some of the same points Liberals make.

  3. All Mammal 2023-08-21

    These advertisements should be passed around to help get the Roe vote and influence people to register D.
    First commercial plays at the beginning and the second one plays at 7:00. They are excellent examples of effective messaging. The second one gave me chills.

  4. ABC 2023-08-21

    Democrats are the left center wing of Republican Party, they vote for Republican crap in Pierre. Independents are the center right wing of the R Party. Republicans are the center right wing of Republican Party and their Mussolinini called a Trump.

    So we have 3 Republican parties in South Dakota.

    Opposition? Libertarians and Other.

    No progressive party at all.

    If South Dakota were in Europe, we’d be Hungary. Win one election, that’s all you need for crypto fascism to rule.

    D Party won’t be revamped.

    Replace it with a new Center left party.

  5. jerry 2023-08-21

    Uzbekistan is more like it. South Dakota could never qualify for European status.

  6. O 2023-08-21

    Michigan’s Gov. Whitmer could have added SD to her list: “Our message is simple: We will fight for your freedom. And you know what? Let’s go on offense. I’ll go to any state that restricts people’s freedoms and win business and hard-working people from them. I’m looking at you, Ohio and Indiana.”

    That’s what Democrats/liberals/progressives sound like.

  7. leslie 2023-08-21

    We could have had a Governor Wismer. We could have had a Governor Billy Sutton (perhaps not progressive enough, yet in this BRIGHT RED little state). Folks like them, and a little more recently past party chair Randy (RIP) have been extraordinarily highly qualified, gifted SD Democratic leaders. The argument over nominating Biden proved a slightly less outspoken progressive, extremely experienced candidate could save the day.

    Why we have crabs in the bucket pulling others back in the trap is part of the problem, as well as the heavy difficulty of winning elections in SD. We need the input and intelligence of EVERY party voter, every color Democrat and many independents, to pull out a major victory. But once it happens, Republicans will know their brand is exhausted.

    Be part of the solution.

  8. O 2023-08-21

    SD needs a Labor party. Once-and-for-all, determine who is looking out for the workers in this state; workers are the true, vast majority. Once we define differences through that perspective, it will become instantly clear whose interests our GOP friends TRULY represent (Hint: NOT the workers of SD).

  9. Arlo Blundt 2023-08-21

    I don’t know Mr. Merrill but I hope he’s deeply committed, doesn’t mind being broke, and has an unlimited amount of energy.

  10. 96Tears 2023-08-22

    This mob that calls themselves Democrat officials would string up George McGovern if he were reincarnated to push the Central Committee to do their jobs and for the puny Dem legislators to stand for something (smart and meaningful). Or just stand for anything. Instead, they crucified JSH and made her disappear for their sins of omission and commission — but, really, a lot more omission.

    Everywhere I look, I see bankable, relevant issues for Democrats. Real Democrats. Not posers. National politics? Statewide politics with these ballot issues? Dumb Republicans in Pierre being hoisted out of their elected positions for corruption. The daily gaffes, stupidity and cruelty commissioned by the incumbent governor. With all of that going on, where are they putting their efforts? Crucifying a well-meaning veteran Democrat whom they elected overwhelmingly hardly three months ago. She’s a volunteer, you idiots. What the hell did you expect in two months before you pulled the rug out from under her feet?

    So, what’s your plan to remove the ugly optics which made fools of yourselves? Our incompetent governor is running down to the border again to put her bigotry and naked pandering to fascists on full display and justifying more wasted state dollars to further her entirely self-serving national campaign. Is anyone working on a press conference, or at least a meaningful press release?

    How busy are those 11 Democrat legislators? Do they have 30 minutes to conduct a press conference and take advantage of Noem’s narcissistic, wasteful foolishness?

    Didn’t think so.

    Well, you don’t have Jennifer Slaight-Hansen to kick around any more. Who’s next to take the bullet because nobody is taking their own role in state politics seriously?

    Better yet, every last one of the Democrats who participated in the vicious smear on Jennifer Slaight-Hansen should do the right thing. Resign and get out of the way.

  11. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2023-08-22

    96, I appreciate the notion that frying Noem is far more important than frying JSH.

    But if the Dems who voted JSH all resigned, who would replace them? In whose way are they standing? And why is anyone letting anyone else stand in their way of getting involved in the fight for democracy and justice?

  12. tara volesky 2023-08-22

    Why are the Democrats so afraid of Noem?

  13. P. Aitch 2023-08-22

    Tara is making the common error among Republicans. They assume liberals think like conservatives.
    – In short, liberals are individual thinkers and conservatives are group thinkers.
    -,Asking why Democrats fear something as a group is an invalid question because we don’t group up until a crisis happens. e.g. The way Black women voted as a group, which led to the defeat of then President Trump.

  14. Jeff Barth 2023-08-22

    Group think at a kangaroo court.

  15. grudznick 2023-08-22

    Mr. Barth, is this Mr. Merrill fellow a reasonable sort? Might he not be bombastic, and full of hate, lashing out at all around him, and could he work with people in an agreeable fashion instead of being like Mr. Trump?

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