Friday, June 27, 2014

South Dakota Democrats Begin Convention With Quiet Determination. . .

And a bit of defiance.

Deb Knecht, South Dakota Democratic Party Chair began the breakfast session challenging the conventional wisdom that South Dakota Democrats face totally unwinnable races in November. Claiming to relish the challenge posed by those who claim something can't be done, Knecht saved a pointed barb for national groups that have written off South Dakota. "They don't know the kind of people we are in South Dakota, Knecht said. They don't know how hard we work."

In the session's main address, Representative Bernie Hunhoff, South Dakota House of Representatives Minority Leader told conventioneers, "South Dakota can do better. We have to do better."

Giving a brief history lesson, Hunhoff reminded delegates of recent party successes such as the effort to repeal HB 1234, Governor Daugaard's effort to alter the state's education system. and the Building South Dakota program. Using those efforts as a predicate, Hunhoff predicted that Medicaid expansion will happen in South Dakota and that Republicans who recently voted en bloc against it will vote en bloc for it.

Hunhoff drew a contrast between the small group of Democrats in the legislature and their Republican counterparts. "Those in power are cautious and timid," Hunhoff said. "It's not power, not the way they use it."

Hunhoff began his speech saying government contained two kinds of people; those who want to make things better and those who keep their hands on the brakes. He returned to that idea to conclude his speech by saying the South Dakota Republican Party's resolution advocating President Obama's impeachment was an example of that party "not trying to improve South Dakota." It was, Hunhoff said, "another example of the party in power keeping their hands on the brakes."

I hope the above paragraphs suffice for those like Joe Friday who want "just the facts." Having never attended a political convention before, I was unsure what to expect. Like most South Dakotans, these Democrats are a friendly and welcoming group. In fact, they take pride in the fact that their legislative caucus meetings are open to the public. In a few brief remarks before sending delegates off to committee meetings, Ann Tornberg, a convention co-chair, made it point to contrast that practice with the Republicans' closed sessions.

Granted these are folks are true believers, but there was a sense of confidence that predictions of a bleak November could be proven wrong. (I suppose I could have titled the post Heidelberger not the only optimistic South Dakota Democrat.)

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