Is a GOP revolution about to begin? Lederman coming to Saturday vote with surprisingly strong candidacy for SDGOP Chair

Is the Lederman revolution about to begin?

Dan Lederman’s candidacy for Chair of the South Dakota GOP arose several weeks ago after current chair Pam Roberts had provided direct notice that she did not intend to run again, triggering a search for the next chair. In each instance where they had approached people, they were turned down flat.

While this was going on, Lederman, the former Senate Assistant Majority Leader, heard about the vacancy, and had expressed interest in the past in leading the GOP, but was passed over at the time of previous vacancies.

And in the ensuing vacuum that had presented this time, he made a fateful decision. He decided he was going to buck a tradition nearly as old as he was. He was going to run for Chairman of the Party, and return the seat to being selected by the party’s governing body, the Republican State Central Committee. And the phone calls began.

Shortly thereafter, Roberts was convinced to run again, and a letter of endorsement was released from the State’s top elected officials. (And maybe some weren’t quite made aware of a challenger.)

The race was on. And so too was the revolution.

Did Lederman start the revolution that’s currently bubbling amongst the party members?  It’s been brewing for a while, but it has been a long time coming, and has become more evident in the past few years.

20-25 years ago, the party’s operations were quite active, with the party operations being comprised of an Executive Director, a Communications Director, a Finance officer who handled FEC reports, and for many years, a legislative campaign person added during election cycles.

From there, the party evolved. Staffing has changed with FEC reporting duties being farmed out due to their ever increasing complexity and a fine that was levied at one time for a mistake arising from that ever increasing complexity.  But, it for a long time, it made the effort to have a significant staff presence who worked with candidates and counties.

It had traditionally been based in Pierre, but in recent years, the SDGOP had made efforts to shift focus from the center of the state to a place where 1/3 of the state’s people live, focusing many of their activities in Sioux Falls.

Not a bad move, and arguably one that made sense, given that it represents an area where the GOP has the most challenging aspects of its mission to elect voters, it is where the state’s media is largely based from, and there’s a significant donor base there.  But this notion was a constant fight with traditionalists who wanted it back in Pierre.

So, the argument was made that after several successful election cycles was that it was too expensive and not worth the value to maintain in the eyes of some. So, boxes were packed, and offices were moved back to the sleepy little government town from whence it came, back within the protective confines of the city of Pierre.

To save money, the party was largely left in those boxes, even going without a director for a significant amount of time. Shutting the doors in an off year made sense monetarily, as it allowed the party to raise and squirrel away money for the 2016 election year.  In February 2016, the party finally hired it’s sole full-time staffer, Executive Director Ryan Budmayr, who has been working hard to meet the challenges of the demands of the party. But he’s still only one person for a party that boasts over 250,000 registered members.

But two years after the office in Sioux Falls was shuttered, one has to wonder if the party’s period of near complete dormancy stoked the flames for the revolution which has Lederman as figurehead?

The party has done a good job of raising money. And starting several cycles before, they have done a great job of electing Republicans. But if those were the only tasks, why not set up a PAC and call it a day? And if those were the only things of importance, why is there this degree of unrest.

This political party stuff might be easy if there wasn’t all those darn people you have to worry about.

Seriously, though, there are many reasons cited by those in the rank and file of the State Republican Party as to why they’re willing to consider upending 40 years of tradition, where the Governor’s selection of Chair is accepted as the word of God.

Ultimately, many of them seem related to a lack of communication, as well as a growing want for self-determination. There are examples, some of which persist today.

As related to me by an attendee at the Yankton forum, from his wheelchair parked in the front row of the audience (as pictured here) Tom Bixler, who is sometimes viewed as a quixotic figure in politics declaring his candidacy for various offices with impossible odds, offered a particularly biting critique.

Bixler asked David Wheeler, who is running for vice chair on a slate with Current Chairwoman Pam Roberts to replace vice-chair Drake Olson who moved out of state, “Why can’t I e-mail the chairman?” Wheeler replied “You can, she has e-mail.”  To which Bixler shot back “Then why isn’t it on the website? She’s the head of the party, but her e-mail isn’t on the website!

Ouch.  And that’s only one of the anecdotes I heard from that meeting.

And it doesn’t get any better when you look at other aspects of the SDGOP website, which underline more communication issues. Such as the part where it notes who our elected officials are.

At least, those who were our elected officials in years gone by, as you can see from the roster of Senators, including State Senator Mark Kirkeby. Who hasn’t been a State Senator since 2014.

And looking at the below screen clip of House members, only one is actually in the House of Representatives at this writing. Erickson resigned in May of 2014, and Hickey in 2015, with others falling away since then.

These are not things that illustrate to the party’s rank and file effective communication with the rest of the world, much less the members of the party who volunteer their time, effort and their hard earned dollars towards the cause of electing Republicans to office.

The website is just one example, but among the grassroots, there’s a distinct impression that there’s been a problem with communication for some time, which has resulted in a disconnect.

Calling it a disconnect might be putting it lightly. As I talk to people across the state, I get the feeling that a few of them feel more than a little put out.  So put out that people who have been foundational to the SDGOP for years, and in some cases decades, are open to a change in direction – including abandoning a decades old tradition of allowing the Governor to choose the chair – even if it risks the possibility of him withdrawing his support.

The most shocking evidence of this disconnect is the fact that the National Committeeman and National Committeewoman – two of the top people in the party – passed over the current chair, and endorsed Lederman for the office on the basis of his promised change.

What was one of the planks on which they lent him their names? More Communication:

“…a visionary Chairman must be effective with social media. As Assistant Majority Leader in the South Dakota Senate, Dan filmed weekly YouTube videos with his colleagues. He opened Twitter accounts to communicate Republican achievements.  He created and maintained websites, raised  money through online sources, and generated email updates to voters across the state. He’s tech-savvy and will lead our state party into creating a winning social media platform.

While we support Dan based on his qualifications, we made the commitment to publicly endorse Dan after the current Chair told each of us the week of President Trump’s inauguration that she was not going to run again for the SDGOP chairmanship. Dan enthusiastically wants the job, and he has the experience and passion to lead our party into a successful future.”

If that doesn’t hammer home the reality that the rank and file of the party are dissatisfied with the lack of communication from the party, I’m not sure what does.

Much like in any campaign, there’s evidence that the long knives have come out, with saboteurs and insiders seeking to derail the Lederman effort. And there are those preaching doom and gloom, and sharp words are being exchanged.  Ultimately, the Republican Party would be better served if some of the doomsayers would encourage people to vote for the candidate of their choice, or make a convincing case why their person was better as opposed to running the other person down.

The Governor himself is out making phone calls requesting that delegates retain Pam as chair. Others who believe the same or who support Dan should be doing the same before the vote is held.

Regardless whether the “Lederman revolution” succeeds or the insurrection is put down by the palace guard – the fact there is a strong challenge should serve as an extremely loud wake-up call that the people who make up the Republican Party have an expectation that their grievances will be heard, they want a say in how the party is ran, and that the leadership of the party needs to be accessible, vocal, and in the trenches with them.

It’s not enough that they raise money and win. The people who help make that possible also think they should have a seat at the table that’s more than being called to Pierre a couple times a year and dismissed.

Call it a revolution, or call it a renaissance.  But no matter who wins tomorrow, the grassroots of the GOP is putting it’s foot down, and issuing a call that it’s a new party.

42 Replies to “Is a GOP revolution about to begin? Lederman coming to Saturday vote with surprisingly strong candidacy for SDGOP Chair”

  1. Troy Jones


    I read your entire post and think it missed the point.

    We have a contested election between two people who have different strengths, weaknesses, and visions of how the Party can best assist Republican candidates get elected from top to bottom. This is a good thing in and of itself. Its not a revolution, renaissance, or anything like that. Its having a choice.

    Further, if there people “putting their foot down” (whether I agree with them or not I don’t care), I’m not impressed with them. Its what “snowflakes” do when they don’t get their way. Go to the meeting, if you’ve made a decision rationally articulate your rationale, if you’ve not made a decision listen to all arguments and vote your best judgment. People who put their foot down and don’t get there way also go home and pout. There is no room on the Central Committee for pouters and whiners (or bad winners) so I hope everyone with an attitude of “putting their foot down” just resign after the meeting (even if their candidate wins).

    1. Pat Powers Post author

      When I say putting their foot down, I’m referring to the people insisting they have more of a say in party affairs.

    2. William Beal


      You usually have good insights, but I’m going into my 5th term as County Chair and your “snowflake” comment comes from someone “outside looking in.”.

      I’m not sure you’re aware of how reinvigorated the State Central Committee was during Craig Lawrence’s tenure. His vision and active engagement “lit the fire” in the party. The lack of vision and engagement over the past two years left many of us realizing how much it’s needed for the party going into the future.

      You and Pat may not have been aware of informal member discussions seeking a change, but those started long before any candidates were announced.

      The political landscape has shifted and the status quo cannot meet the challenges we’ll face in 2018 and beyond.

      Craig lit the fire, Dan’s merely picked up torch!

  2. Anonymous

    I’m also going to throw out there a few other reasons people are probably looking for a change.

    1. County Party political committees work to recruit candidates. They get to know these people very well and even if they don’t agree with them all the time they still work hard to help them win. When Daugaard comes in from out of nowhere and endorses legislators in Senate primaries for whatever reason he is not only upsetting a legislative candidate but probably the county central committee that has worked with the candidates when they were in the House or early on in the recruitment process. Most central committees go to great lengths to maintain neutrality. But in some instances leadership in central committees might also have privately held alliances or friendships with those Daugaard is opposing. It makes it more personal.

    2. And I think this is a big one. When in the past 40 years has a Republican Governor named Janklow, Mickelson, Miller, Janklow or Rounds called for a Republican Presidential nominee to withdraw from the ticket? On the 8th of October Thune and Daugaard both called for the next president to withdraw. Many of these GOP stalwarts of the county parties were working hard for the presidential candidate and others had even gone to the national convention in support. Thune and Daugaard did not go to the convention. I believe this really hurt.

    3. Lederman is a really good candidate for Chairman. He’s a networking machine. He’s likable. He’s hard working. He’s ambitious. He cares. He’s dedicated. He’s served at the County Chairman level for a decade. He’s ran for office and won. He’s been a leader in his caucus in the Senate. He likes picking up the phone for 5 minutes and saying hey. He likes picking up the phone and asking for a donation of $50 or $5,000. He would actually go to the RNC meetings. I don’t believe most chairs ever go but send the ED or the National Committee people. He would be engaged at every level.

    4. Daugaard is not running again. The future of the SD GOP is not Dennis Daugaard’s to decide no matter how much he tries to throw his weight around.

    1. GOP

      Those reasons make sense. Remember, on (4) that Rounds, Noem, and Thune were on the letter as prominently as Daugaard. Just because Daugaard has been the biggest party funder in the past 6 years doesn’t mean the others don’t matter. They will be here for years to come.

      Also: don’t believe for a second that all weren’t aware Lederman was attempting a coup. Do you really think there is anything that happens in these circles that Thune and Rounds’ people don’t hear about?

      1. William Beal

        “Do you really think there is anything that happens in these circles that Thune and Rounds’ people don’t hear about?”

        The correct question is not that they “hear about what happens,” but WHEN do they hear about it?

      2. Anonymous

        I have heard that Rounds’ staff was not aware that Dan was running when asked. I think this is a question that should be asked at the meeting. Were they aware that someone else was already running when asked for their endorsement?

  3. Anonymous

    Hardly any money was spent by the state party helping Republican legislative candidates. We were told the money that was being amassed was going to be saved for the 2018 governor’s election, whom ever that would be. Many on the Executive Board pressed for some help for candidates in tight elections. After that, some money was used for a few mailings and a little direct financial help. Good, hard-working candidates, their messages and supporters is why the Republicans gained more seats. And yes, communication is lacking.

    1. Anon

      This is really an unfair statement. The Party has been working hand in hand with the GOP House and Senate PACs for the past two cycles including helping those PACS raise money specifically for legislative races. The contributions go directly to the legislative PACs and to the candidates…which has obviously worked very well considering there are now only 16 Dems left out of 105 seats.

  4. Red

    All of this complaining is pretty remarkable. The SDGOP just had another incredible cycle where they won almost everything and raised a ton of money… and is in a very strong position going into the 18 cycle. There is always room for improvement, but our party is far from being broken. In fact, we are now so strong we apparently don’t have anyone left to fight but ourselves…which is very sad to see.

    1. Anon

      If you think the current Republican incumbents are secure you haven’t been to a legislative Crackerbarrel this year.
      The SDGOP let IM-22 slip past them. big mistake.

      1. Anonymous

        It’s not the repeal that is hurting but the messaging. Mickelson is delivering blows to IM 22 but the media is not reporting on it. The SD GOP is not getting the message out either.

        I believe a lot of SD Republicans want a fighter. Just like Democrats want a fighter.

      2. Anon

        A Republican Party fighting anti- corruption measure would have been a big mistake. It was smart to let AFP take the lead on that fight. If Republicans keep fighting anti-corruption legislation they will start losing elections.

        1. Anonymous

          They could have passed something in the legislature instead of kicking the can down the road. Their inaction is why im 22 happened.

    2. Anonymous

      a ton of money? seriously have you seen what was raise dint he past…the only thing is this year they didn’t spend it…Pam’s mentality always was save it for 2018…forgetting or not caring about the ballot measures

  5. Anon

    I’m curious why this hasn’t been picked up by the mainstream media? I recall several stories when Barth was running against Tornberg. Granted, they have a little different system for electing their Chair but still.

  6. Troy Jones


    Whether it be the party, non-profits, private business, or public businesses, parties who “put their foot down” are cancers. I’ve yet to have seen a single one positively contribute to turn-arounds, change in directions, or new initiatives.

    I have no problem with people assertively articulate their views. In fact, I think it is healthy especially when the contest (people and issues) is about things that are significant, relevant and meaningful. But, every person who “puts their foot down” are bad winners (those on the other side don’t want to follow) and even worse losers (they not only won’t follow but they become subversive).

    Regarding the snowflake comment, I stand behind it. People who put their “foot down” can’t handle when it goes the other way. Instead of carrying water for the elephant, they will put holes in everyone’s pails and think they are doing the right thing.

    1. Anonymous

      Quit complaining Troy. If someone wants to protest or “put their foot down” it is that persons right. Just because they are fed up doesn’t mean they don’t offer legitimate concerns or solutions.

      Donald Trump put his foot down big time in the last election and everyone kept telling him to shut up and go away.

    2. William Beal


      Perhaps I wasn’t clear, the comment “putting their foot down” wasn’t made by anyone I know that’s actually on the State Central Committee, and have yet to meet any that meet your definition of “snowflakes.” Hence, my comment of “outside looking in.”

      I can’t attribute any of the “snowflake” comments that have appeared on this blog to ANY member of the State Central Committee, nor do I believe it fair to attribute that attitude to any of those who will actually vote this weekend.

      If your comment was directed at me, while I’ve made the comparison of the current state of the SDGOP to a PAC myself, I have no intention of resigning should the candidate I support should fail to win.

  7. Anon

    The people posting here saying the party is in great shape going into 2018 and things have never been better remind me of tourists on the beach oohing and aahing over how fast the tide has gone out. “Look at that! The tide just went out really fast and look how far! Let’s go beach-combing!”
    Meanwhile the people who actually live there are heading for the tsunami evacuation routes.

  8. Anonymous

    I think one has to wonder what value is a robust GOP office given our success. The active party people who are involved in the county organizations and state conventions feel dissed and pissed because they have been left out and see their influence all but gone.
    Is the Leaderman coup a grasp back at statewide power and control of the party? While maybe not leading to more success at the ballot box I do believe it would instill a greater sense of purpose for those willing to volunteer for the party that has been hollowed out.
    Or is Leaderman more interested in sticking it to the governor and then who supported Pam and who supported Dan party?
    I hope grudges won’t carry on regardless who wins and at the very least, it’s a wake up call to future governors that it’s not necessarily in their best interest to cater and support those few people in the party that only support them. We are all on the same team and with no real threat from democrats to galvanize us, we could too easily turn on ourselves and drive good people away from running for office and wanting to volunteer.

  9. Troy Jones


    Nothing I said was directed at you. You assess, articulate, advocate and move on.

    The people who “put their foot down” are bad winners and bad losers. Yes it is their right to be such a person who in the end never really accomplish anything except good at yelling. They are just the Republican/conservative version of the liberals protesting all over the country- ineffective and hurting their own cause both in the near-term and long-term. And, these people who compare themselves to Trump have a deluded sense of themselves (plus are stupid). With treatment, you can fix delusions but you can’t fix stupid.

    1. Anon

      Troy quit obsessing over the “put their foot down” line. For one, it was Pat’s own words, who knows if any Central Committee members have said anything of the sort. The point is that there are clearly people within the Party that want to see it run differently and are taking this opportunity to make that point clear to the leaders.

    2. Anonymous

      “Nothing I said was directed at you. You assess, articulate, advocate and move on.”

      No need for name-calling, Troy.

  10. Troy Jones

    Kelly: Good advice. Thanks.

    Anon: I’m not obsessing but I am assuming Pat has a sense of the attitude of those supporting Dan. It is an attitude I sensed from the very beginning from Dan’s supporters on here. So I presume it exists to some degree. So, out of desire for a strong party (no matter who wins), I am giving my outside assessment and warning based on experience in a multitude of environs of people with that attitude. If nobody with this attitude exist or exist at minimal numbers, my comments are without application and not relevant to anything.

    I have absolutely no problem with people wanting a different direction or them advocating of that direction. I just want in the end that whether or not they get their way, the party moves forward together as determined by the collective will of the Central Committee.

    1. Anon

      Fair enough. I would agree that regardless of who wins tomorrow, everyone needs to come out of the meeting united. Hopefully the winner takes steps to unite both sides of this battle. If it is Pam, she needs to show that she got the message from those who have grown unhappy the last 2 years. If it is Dan, hopefully he works to make sure that he and the Governor can have a solid working relationship (the Gov needs to do that as well).

      All in all, I think it is very healthy that we have a debate from time to time about who we are as a party, and how we want the official party apparatus to conduct its business.

  11. Pat Powers Post author

    Guys, it’s a discussion about two good candidates. Please keep it civil, on topic, and don’t just sit there and bash the other side, as we all have to work together when it’s over.

    Save the bashing for the Democrats.

  12. Anonymous

    Anyone but Leaderman, The funny thing is. in small rooms. on the chamber floors of Pierre or at conventions you all have at one time or another heard the discussion of Leaderman as the “Frank Kloucek” of the Republican party, Maybe even made the comment yourselves???? Maybe worse? Why for heavens sake are we now saying he is the right person for the job? Most of the discussion from Pierre was how happy they are he is gone. Is this truly the best person the state has to run the party? If I am not mistaken he tried and failed to seek office as a Dem as well. Please make the correct decision. I am not saying Pam Roberts is the right person either, but we have had enough shenanigans the last few years and Leaderman will only create more.

  13. Dormancy

    Par, you got it right when you used the word dormant. Pam let the party go dormant – no ED for a year, no show at Lincoln Day dinners, no communication to the party activists, and on and on. Easy to save money when you don’t do anything to build the party. She obviously didn’t like the job and told everyone she was done. Now they prop her up and make her run because they don’t like Dan. These are the same people who disavowed our Republican presidential candidate.

    Time for the party to come out of dormancy!!

  14. Karon Gubbrud

    I was at that election, and felt the sense of optimism, energy, and excitement. It was very evident everywhere in the room! Having attendance at the Central Committee meetings suddenly surge in numbers, and having everyone there truly excited about this new direction of the state party, both have to be seen as very positive things. Compared to the state of dormancy many of you describe, the vast majority of people at that meeting were now energized, involved, and very interested in what was going on that day, and in the ideas and agenda put out by the new Chair, after the election. The state party appeared to have definitely come out of its dormancy, and were eager and ready to get to work!

    Our whole country has gone through a re-birth, and re-vitalization during this past election cycle. Millions of people, who had become very frustrated and apathetic, were suddenly inspired, encouraged, energized, and involved! That was a wonderful thing to see! Why is anyone surprised to see that same sort of renewed interest in having a much more personal, direct, and active, involvement in our state government, and our state party? Having more of our county party committee members, our state party leaders, and our citizens, want to be more actively and directly involved in our belved Repyblican party, and wanting to have more say in how we move forward, is a wonderful thing!! Let’s celebrate that renewed energy and interest!!


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