Impressions from the 2022 State GOP convention: Not a bad event, but the dated format is showing.

After a couple half days, and all of Friday off for convention, I’m still playing catch-up and trying to unbury myself with work, so I’m not doing a lot of posting beyond pictures. But I did want to start to recap the convention.

The Republican State Convention has kind of morphed into this beast which seems to be a greater challenge to wrangle every year. Not wrangle in any definition of trying to pre-determine an outcome, but in terms of planning for event size, and “who is going to show up for this meal.”  No matter how much they plan and plead for people to pre-register, people just aren’t doing it. And in a phenomena which was not unusual to this convention but it happened in 2018 as well, there’s a faction who think that they are entitled to participation without paying convention fees, with some showing up feeling entitled to a free lunch.

Well, ..if someone tries to argue to the convention that it should be free, despite the event costing over $50,000 to put on, then this no-name blogger is going to say that the freeloader label might be accurate. You know, if it walks like a duck, etcetera…. Unless someone wants to go out and find someone to pay for everything, then they should not be trying to bankrupt the Republican Party by demanding everything be free. Which is just an odd position for someone claiming to be conservative.

I’m not sure how the GOP can combat those expecting free meals any more than they have. It was a battle they faced in 2018, (not for the 2020 on-line COVID convention), and again this year. And to address it then as in now, all days with party convention business had the registration fee, and on the day when they selected candidates, there was the free option for the Saturday when the votes were taken.

But even doing as much pre-planning as humanly possible, without the cooperation of the attendees giving them an RSVP that they were coming, the venue found itself overwhelmed at times by the people who just showed up, some of which who didn’t pay, or at least pay ahead of time.  It’s like some of the delegates knew R.S.V.P. is an abbreviation for a French phrase, and they rejected it out of hand.

On Thursday, at the event at Joy Ranch, they were able to handle it like champs at an excellent event with excellent food. But the hotel events… it was quickly evident that they weren’t as scalable. And how can you scale when 200 RSVP, and 300 or more show up wanting to be fed? It’s an impossible task.

At more than one event, organizers found themselves buying pizza, and the chair was trying to buy a group food elsewhere because the hotel could not ramp up quickly enough for all the extras. There were a couple of meals I found myself rolling through Taco Johns to pick up something on the way home out of town, because after the speech I went there for, two hours later it wasn’t worth hanging around for mediocre at best hotel food.

Those was just the meals. Hospitality suites? Been there done that.  I only did a quick loop on Thursday night.   Dozens if not hundreds of people jam packed in the hallway trying to get into an overly small hotel room.  It’s great seeing old friends, but, there’s this sense of Déjà vu.  And that illustrates something that’s more than a bit outdated about how we select sites and organize these things.

At the end of the convention, they announced that the recommendation of the Site Selection Committee that next two conventions were going to be in Pierre and Rapid City.  I literally groaned when I heard it.

Rapid City gives a glimmer of possibility if they have some imagination, but in Pierre, I predict we’ll be stuck doing this dance again at the Ramkota Inn, shoe-horned in the convention space, using the same beat-up podiums that we used at the last Pierre convention, and the one before that, clustered around the pool hospitality suites, and you could play a video of this and many other years’ conventions and not see any differences.

Why do I bring this up? Because we shouldn’t be doomed to a format we’ve been using for 40 years or more.

Among the presentations during the Site Selection Committee process, there was one from former Executive Director of the SDGOP, and now the Executive Director of Visit Brookings, Laura Schoen Carbonneau, that made a huge impression on me. Not because it was from my town, but because it offered a way forward with an update on how conventions could be done.  Not pushing the same format that we’ve been holding them in for the last 30-40 years, but making them more community-based.

The model that Laura offered was based on the Republican National Convention, where there is a central large venue for convention activities. There would be a larger hotel where the Party HQ is based, but they aren’t operating the entire convention there, because they know they can’t fit everyone there, and they operate accordingly.

Showcase events are off-site, and hospitality events are distributed elsewhere in the community such as downtown restaurants and other venues.

Most communities large enough to host a convention have mass transit or ride-share. And if you focus the hospitality venues to a certain area, such as a downtown, it is pretty darned manageable.

Some of the best events of recent conventions are those held away from the main convention hall.  Joy Ranch this time. Last time the convention was in Pierre, it was at the Riverboat in the Ft. Pierre park, and I could go on. Those events were good, so do more of that! Get us out of the cramped and dated hotel facilities.  And it would show more of the host community than trapping us all at the hotel, and condemning us to eat rubber chicken or overcooked sirloin. Or pizza, if you’re last one in.

I’d issue that challenge to the host committee for the Rapid City convention. Put us at events in community venues that can meet the need. Paraphrasing Joan Crawford’s character in Mommie Dearest, I’d declare with what I don’t think would be a singular voice – NO MORE RUBBER CHICKEN!  Yes, that would require us to take a break from many years of now-stale precedent, but I would argue that if it’s good enough for the Republican National Convention, there’s no reason we can’t scale down the model for our own purposes.

That’s not to say that the event this last weekend was bad. No, not at all, and noting how we could do things better is not to be meant as a complaint.  Everyone did a great job with the tools they had at hand in a convention that was overwhelmed with people.

Rather, it should be considered an opportunity to recognize that this convention has grown, and maybe the “one motel” model should be scrapped moving forward should instead be designed to see the best these communities have to offer.

18 thoughts on “Impressions from the 2022 State GOP convention: Not a bad event, but the dated format is showing.”

  1. There is next to nothing the South Dakota Republican Party should take from the Minnesota Republican Party, but convention registration is one. Have an upfront discounted price for pre-registration and a more expensive cost for registering a week before/day of the convention. The only way credentials are passed out is if the fees are paid. Give a ticket out that will need to be redeemed for lunches.

  2. If they don’t pay, deny entry. Let them look like fools for putting up a stink.

  3. This year’s convention had more than half the attendees being first time attendees.
    With out instruction, and a MAJOR lack of communication, many didn’t know what needed to be done before hand.
    Attendees should NOT pay to get into hospitality suites that someone else has already paid for!
    If there would have been a specific registration fee, and not so many things bundled together, that many didn’t want to participate in, maybe there wouldn’t have been as many problem.
    Being a precinct committeeperson is an elected position. The legislators, that are elected, don’t have to pay a fee to vote during session, why should an elected precinct committeperson?

    1. Veda, I could not disagree with you more.

      It’s a party convention, not the November election. If the participants don’t contribute towards the expense of putting the shindig on, then who should?

    2. The people you are referring to that didn’t know what to do clearly must be illiterate, as the GOP sent out multiple reminders on email and in the mail. Not their fault that you and the rest of the Tea Party members have room temperature IQs

  4. Even though I was not going to be a voting delegate, I intended to attend the convention to get better insight into the inner workings of the party. When I received the Eventbrite notification, I took note of the options and chose to pay to attend. I knew I could still go, but not take advantage of the meals and other events. I don’t understand the thinking of those, especially the voting delegates, who understood the options and chose not to pay. I suspect that many of those delegates only became delegates to attend the convention.

  5. I think there needed to be a lot more communication for the convention.

    The chair hand picked the committees(without letting anyone apply like has been done int he past) and there was very little communication about platform or resolutions until the week of the convention.

    Then the money and what you were paying for needs to be better communicated. If you want a meal you should have to pay for it, end of story. If you do not want a meal you should not have to pay to vote. I would be ok with a general fee to attend as there is a cost for the meeting space. Otherwise the party needs to go get donors to help pay, so the event is not a cost to the party.

    I think a lot of it was we needed better communication.

  6. PS–I agree with Pat moving it around to different places like Brooking would help. It was just in Pierre in 2018. It was in Pennington in 2014.

    When was it last in Brookings? Mitchell? Sioux Falls? (I don’t count the virtual one as actually Sioux Falls in 2020)

    How about Deadwood? Many events are held there every year and plenty of hotel space.

  7. Those who think they had to “pay to vote” do not understand that if everybody else agreed with them, we would have conventions in open fields with bales of hay for seats.
    The legislators do not have to “pay to vote” because the taxpayers pay for the building, HVAC, plumbing & electricity.
    The bills for private organizations’ conventions are not paid for by the taxpayers. As for “getting donors to help pay,” they did get donors. But eventually you run out of Other People’s Money.

    It is amazing that this needs to be explained to you.

    It is helpful to have people on platforms and resolutions who have been active in the party for a long time. Every year we have to work with people who do not know how some items are platform planks, some things are resolutions, you aren’t writing legislation in either, and both committees are trying to create consensus.
    Every two years people try to get resolutions in which are very divisive, believing that if they can get it into a resolution then everybody will accept their point of view.
    Every two years the platform committee has to deal with people who complain that it doesn’t have any teeth, that we should force elected leaders to follow it, and beat them over the head with it if they don’t. And every year we have to tell the newbies that the platform is a unifying statement of core beliefs. The platform isn’t a pit bull, it’s a lighthouse: not a weapon but a beacon.

    If you want to be on one of those committees the first step is to carry out your duties as a precinct committee man or woman for the next two years. Spend the next four months working hard to get the full slate of Republican candidates elected in your precinct. After election day you need to attend the county meetings and fundraisers, and do everything else in your job description (Section III of the SDGOP bylaws.) Then you might get to be on one of the committees someday.

  8. Excellent Anne and I concur the South Dakota GOP is a wide beacon of conservative thinking regardless of what moniker we are being called at the moment!!!

  9. Sioux Falls, Rapid City, and Aberdeen are the only cities in the state that have the hotel space to accommodate such a convention. I considered running as a delegate, but when I could not find an available hotel room in Watertown and faced the probability that, should I win, I would have to drive back and forth from Sioux Falls for three days, I quickly abandoned that idea. I know that that the activists in the smaller communities want to host the convention, but it is unrealistic! I am confident that one of the reasons that planning for the event and anticipating the turnout were difficult was that so many people only attended the convention on Saturday because they could not get a hotel room to attend more than one day.

    1. One of the things I have learned about the motel booking problem is that when an organization reserves blocks of rooms, they show up as already taken on multiple reservation sites.

      When you try to book a room online, you either end up on a corporate booking site, or a third party booking site. Both types will tell you there is no vacancy, because that’s what their systems show.
      If you actually call the front desk of the motel (look for a local phone number, not an 800) and talk to the concierge, you will find out they have plenty of rooms available, and you will get the discounted price.

      I hope this helps in the future.

  10. Why aren’t more people here willing to volunteer, rather than complain? If you can’t donate time, donate money.

    I’ve volunteered for a non-profit with a $250,000 annual operating budget with 9 members on the Board of Directors. This “volunteer” opportunity turned into a second full time job. I commend the efforts of the selection committee and the party overall. In the world, 10% do 90% of the work, while the 90% just complains while along for the ride.

    Who can someone reach out to should they want to help financially or volunteer in the process?

    1. start Monday. There are July 4th parades all over the state and every politician is looking for volunteers to participate. Put on a candidate’s T-shirt and show up.

  11. Good point. Taffy Howard wins the award for the biggest complainer there. She made a bad situation worse. For a FIRST TIME Convention attendee she led the whiners in more ways you can count. After her display of disagreeing with everything and her obnoxious, arrogant, ‘know it all’ behavior at every turn, I hope people saw her true colors and how she operates in our SD Legislature. She stole people’s time with nothing, NOT ONE productive thing coming from her or her angry crew. She doesn’t speak the truth either. We can restore our great SDGOP Convention as long as the biggest whiner ever and crew don’t return so spoil it again.

    1. Convention Spoiled, it wasn’t Taffy’s first convention.
      We had a virtual convention in 2020. Ed Randazzo had hastily written up a resolution celebrating Juneteenth, the Emancipation act, and the Republican Party’s legacy of being founded as the Abolitionist party. Could Ed have written it better? Yes, but we didn’t have time to tweak the wordage, and we understood what the message was.
      And Taffy lead the opposition. She was so desperate to draw attention to herself she came out in favor of slavery, and so eloquent that she convinced enough other delegates to have it voted down.

      She likes slavery, tried to bankrupt the party, declared she won’t vote for the ticket, and thinks the chairman has done a bad job.

      The sooner the voters in her district know how she represents them, whether in the legislature or in the party, the better.

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