Back in 2016 after Paula Hawks lost her race for Congress to now Governor Kristi Noem, who mopped the floor with her on a 64/36% basis, Hawks laid a lot of the blame on the South Dakota Democrat Party’s and at her predecessor’s (SDDP Party Chair Ann Tornberg’s) feet declaring:
The former state legislator and teacher from Hartford said the South Dakota Democratic Party needs to reorganize at the top if it wants to win campaigns moving forward.
“I think that what we’ve seen in the last year is that what we’re doing isn’t working,” she said Tuesday. “We do need a shake-up.”
The comments underscore a disagreement within the party about how much blame to place on its current leadership, which has been at the helm for less than two years.
In fact, in 2017, Hawks was so convinced that she needed to be in charge of the Democrat Party, she attempted a coup of the Dem Party organization, and noted by gosh what she’d do if she were successful in ousting the chair at the time, Ann Tornburg and take over. In part…:
- I will vigorously pursue the formulation and dissemination of a strategic plan of action. Within 30 days of my election, I will have called together the Executive Board of the South Dakota Democratic Party to create this document, which will provide a roadmap for communicating a progressive message, engaging voters and citizens at the grassroots level. This cannot be one person’s idea of what needs to be emphasized and executed, but the coming together of the elected leadership of every part of the state. The needs and desires of the southeast part of the state are different from those of the western part of the state and the northeast and central parts of the state. We must focus all of those priorities and bring about a centralized message that identifies the mission of the South Dakota Democratic Party.
- I will expand fundraising efforts and make them a much larger priority. The money is out there – we just have to get people to take it out of their pockets by showing them we have a plan that can work! There is no excuse for the chair of the party to be spending tens of thousands of dollars of personal money to fund the state party instead of fundraising from partners that grow our influence. We must focus on finding new ways to engage people that sparks their passion for supporting their party. We do this by hosting events more often than twice a year and in more locations than just Sioux Falls and Rapid City. Engaged people will support the party with their money, and when people make that kind of investment, they tend to be more engaged! This is a positive loop of support and involvement.
Upon her selection as State Democrat Party Chairwoman back in late March, Paula Hawks opined in a statement in the Argus leader that..
“2020 has the potential to be a great year for Democrats, and I can promise that the staff and I will work hard every day to win back the U.S. Senate and House seats that are up for election, to break the GOP’s supermajority in Pierre, and turn South Dakota blue for the Democratic nominee for president,” Hawks said in a statement.
So.. With all of those declarations, what’s the 411 on the Dem Party since Paula was elected in March, and took over officially in late May? What has Paula and the State Democrat Party actually accomplished?
- The Dem Party claims they haven’t, but they appear to have fired staff. After firing/not firing Aaron Matson, their communications director, they’ve only issued 2 passing press releases in August, and one in September.
- Dems hired a new Executive Director, Stacey Burnette, reportedly spending half-again as much as they were paying the old one.
- Democrats finally ponied up that they had been misreporting funds to the FEC, and are actually facing debts and obligations of around $47k+. Including nearly $6000 owed to the Sioux Falls City Convention Center for a many months old bill, and additional hundreds owed to a local Sioux Falls Mailing company.
- It hasn’t been issued yet, but a fine is yet to come from the FEC in connection with all that misreporting, further putting state Democrats in debt.
- Democrats reported that they are currently spending more than they are taking in via donations, even after taking into account that the national Democrat Party has them on a monthly welfare stipend that they depend on for life support.
- Democrats have canceled at least one fundraising event, and possibly more.
- Democrats have shut down their offices in both Rapid City and Sioux Falls.
In the latest from what I’m hearing, Dem leadership seems to be shying away from joint appearances with Republicans. While Ann Tornberg would go head to head with Republican officials in appearances, word is that Paula isn’t doing that, and you won’t see Stacey Burnette doing that either. Likely because they dread the whole Democrat party falling apart thing coming up.
AND (and and and…) despite prior promises of working with her executive board to come up with a strategic plan, there are now reports that Paula is eschewing making decisions with her executive board, and is making them based on consulting with those that she terms party “players.”
Apparently before the SDDP party leadership is supposed to make a major decision, like closing offices and canceling yearly events they must discuss it with the Executive Board (E-Board). Party Chair Hawks and her new ED decided to do these things without consulting the E-Board. Some members of the E-Board asked how this happened without their consultation, Hawks supposedly responded that she consulted the ‘Players’ in the party, and they were ok with it.
If you really think about it, with their long laundry list of problems, what we’ve seen from state Democrats in the last six months just doesn’t seem to be working,
Maybe they need a shake-up?