RCJ has story on Democrats electing pro-lifer to chair party. Is she already reversing position? And if not, how does that affect the dems?

Seth Tupper at The Rapid City Journal is writing about a topic I pointed out last week; that Democrats have elected a pro-life chair to lead a party that is decidedly pro-choice:

Ann Tornberg, a 59-year-old retired teacher from Beresford, won the state chairmanship with 73 percent of the votes cast by party officials during a gathering last weekend in Oacoma.

During her unsuccessful campaign for a state Senate seat earlier this year, she advertised herself as pro-life.

The national Democratic Party platform includes a paragraph of staunchly pro-choice language, while the South Dakota Democratic Party platform’s only apparent reference to abortion is this sentence: “Every woman has the right to make her own medical decisions.”


Nevertheless, she does not think her position on abortion conflicts with the party’s platform, which she said is broad enough to include a spectrum of views on abortion.

When asked to define what the phrase “pro-life” means to her she said, “I believe it’s a highly personal issue. I side with South Dakota voters who in the past two statewide votes have also kept it a personal issue,” Tornberg said, referring to failed abortion-restriction ballot issues. “I reject government interference in trying to legislate against this personal decision, and I’m pro-life.”


“Maybe this is a move in one direction toward a more moderate wing gaining some strength,” Schaff said of Tornberg’s election. “Possibly she’ll be able to recruit some more moderate candidates that a more progressive chairperson would have difficulty recruiting.”

Read that here.

I think there are two big questions arising from the story the Journal did.

First, is this allegedly pro-life former candidate parsing her former support… and reversing her pro-life stance with a statement such as “I side with South Dakota voters who in the past two statewide votes have also kept it a personal issue?”  Because that doesn’t sound like any pro-life candidate I know. And in fact sounds decidedly pro-choice.

Secondly, is the move going to help bring back dems who have abandoned the party? Or is the liberal wing of the Democrat party still in control?

Is the life issue waning as a motivator in SD politics? And is it because “Life won?”

The National Right to Life News web site recently had an article which cited the life issue as one of the primary reasons that Mary Landrieu was beaten this last weekend in Louisiana.

As NRL News Today has discussed extensively, Cassidy’s victory raises to nine the gain for Republicans in the United States Senate. In addition to Rep. (and now Senator-elect) Cassidy, other winners included Dan Sullivan in Alaska, Tom Cotton in Arkansas, Cory Gardner in Colorado, Joni Ernst in Iowa, Steve Daines in Montana, Thom Tillis in North Carolina, Mike Rounds in South Dakota, and Shelley Moore Capito in West Virginia.

It is no doubt true that one reason Landrieu lost was because it was a Republican year and because there is such strong opposition in Louisiana, as there is almost everywhere, to President Obama. But there is a more fundamental reason that would have placed her re-election at risk in a more favorable political environment: she is pro-abortion in a state that is overwhelmingly pro-life.


Press Cross, a political science professor from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, told the Times, “Gradually Catholics started to listen to the abortion message and that issue started to really become a preeminent issue and as it did, they started to move to Republican Party.”

Read it here.

It was noted to be a big issue in Louisiana this year, but in the last few elections, the battle over abortion seems to have abated in our own state somewhat. Seven or eight years ago, I could do a post on the topic of abortion, and count on sixty or seventy fiery responses. Now, that’s not the case. It seems as if the ‘fire’ on the issue has diminished somewhat as far as being used to motivate voters.

For example, In the earliest parts of the US Senate campaign this past year or so, Annette Bosworth made a point to use the abortion issue in her campaign prominently. “ProLife From Conception to a Natural Death – No Exceptions No Compromises” screamed the title of a video she did as late as December 2013.

When coming out on the campaign using language that talks about “no exceptions, no compromises,” you would expect that the life issue would have played more prominently in her campaign. There was another video here, a facebook post there…. and after January, except for a mention of her stance her heavy campaigning on the issue was gone before the race really started.  After that, it was about anything but her earlier headline on the topic.

The Life issue is still important to many. But it doesn’t seem to have the emphasis it once had with the vocal electorate as a whole. Part of it could be that South Dakota has settled comfortably into it’s role as one of the reddest of the red states. Part of it could be that lacking ballot issues on the topic, abortion is not an issue of primary motivation to the extent it has been in the past.

In South Dakota, adopting a pro-choice position seems to be the near kiss of death in a campaign, except in the state’s few remaining red-free zones. And even those can be battle zones, except Republicans usually shy away from heavy campaign investment in those areas anyway because they so seldom produce a GOP winner.

But for the rest of the state, in the eyes of the electorate, being pro-life is a requirement. In one case this year when a Republican candidate’s position was miss-communicated prior to the Right to Life candidate brochure going to print, they moved Heaven and earth to get a correction made which misstated their position. Because they knew even an unintentional error on that issue would have been a problem.

In the US Senate race, Senator-elect Mike Rounds was the clear pro-life candidate in the race for US Senate, and had the undisputed record on the topic to match. Rick Weiland was unabashedly pro-choice. But the issue was never really taken up on the larger state stage as a ‘wedge issue’ or used widely in broadcast media to illustrate the differences between the candidates outside of the pro-life community. Why? Because based on the party differences, we already knew.

With few exceptions, the electorate in the state identifies Republicans as being the pro-life party, and Democrats as the pro-choice party, both with few exceptions. And those who are outside of the party norms on either side take significant static on it.  But, you can’t ignore who the voters have put in office – an overwhelming number of Republicans.

Which begs the question – on the greater statewide stage, is the life issue waning as a primary motivator for the greater electorate in state politics? And is the reason because “Life won?”

Fallout from today’s Right to Life Survey.

A couple of items in follow-up from today’s survey from Right to Life Survey that I posted.

In one instance, a Republican candidate who hadn’t responded to the survey was noted as being pro-choice, when that was far from the truth.  He’s working to rectify that error at the moment.

In another instance, Libertarian State party Chair, and Secretary of State Candidate Emmett Reistroffer took great issue with his notation of refusing to respond, noting how he’d worked on the Campaign for Healthy Families campaign (the pro-abortion side).

Also joining him in declaring their support for being pro-abortion was District 12 House Candidate Ellee Spawn who was noted by SDRTL & Project Vote Smart….:

She will fight to keep programs that deliver critical assistance to woman and children such as WIC and Planned Parenthood, to those that are truly in need and stand up to those who wish to reduce access to reproductive health services to unacceptable levels. A women’s medical decisions should be between her, her family, and her doctor Ellee will fight for the rights of all persons to legally marry in South Dakota.

Ellee didn’t refute the claim by SDRTL in the Reistroffer post. Although, in her second comment, some might say she overshared: