With 2014 coming to a close, we wanted to reflect on our shared accomplishments over the last 4 years. Because of you, South Dakota is a better place, and the South Dakota Democratic Party is better positioned to deliver more for working families across the state.
Here are 14 accomplishments through 2014.
1) We raised the minimum wage. Joining with our friends in organized labor, the South Dakota Democratic Party spearheaded an initiated measure to raise the minimum wage to $8.50 an hour with annual cost of living adjustments going forward. In 60 short days, we hired 1 Field Director and 10 organizers, recruited over 500 petition circulators, and submitted 25,681 signatures from registered voters to put our initiated measure on the ballot. This November, 55% of South Dakota voters said Yes on 18, giving 62,000 South Dakotans a raise.
2) We stopped Governor Dennis Daugaard’s corporate giveaways. At the same time Governor Dennis Daugaard was cutting education and healthcare, he proposed a nearly $20 million per year corporate giveaway program. With your help, the South Dakota Democratic Party filed 22,791 signatures to refer Daugaard’s measure in 2011, and nearly 56% of South Dakota voters rejected corporate giveaways in 2012.
3) We helped create Building South Dakota. After voters rejected Daugaard’s corporate welfare bill, Democrats worked with Republicans to create an economic development bill that works for all South Dakotans, not just the wealthy big corporations. The Building South Dakota fund invests in infrastructure, economic development partnerships, career and technical education and schools with many english language learners, affordable housing, and new or expanding businesses. That’s the kind of good work we can accomplish for South Dakota when we hold the GOP accountable and work together.
4) We stopped Governor Dennis Daugaard’s disastrous education reform bill. After drastic cuts to education, Governor Dennis Daugaard proposed an education reform bill that reduced local control, stripped teachers of workplace protections, and added more bureaucracy. The bill passed by one vote in the state house in 2012, but you all helped refer the measure, and again 67% of South Dakota voters rejected Daugaard’s bill.
5) We stopped the GOP’s “Turn away the gays” bill. In 2014, Republicans wanted to enshrine discrimination into South Dakota law by allowing businesses to turn away same-sex customers. You said no way. Sen. Angie Buhl O’Donnell started a no discrimination petition that generated over 6,000 signatures, and she gave that petition to the bill’s sponsor. The measure died after the public outrcy that you started.
6) We protect the right to vote in Indian Country. The SDGOP has a long history of disenfranchisement in Indian Country, but this year, the South Dakota Democratic Party served on a Help America Vote Act task force that funded satellite voting offices for in person early voting in Indian Country. Some counties still intimidated voters and others still needed a push to protect the right to vote, but we’re doing our part to end the SDGOP’s “Separate But Equal Access to the Ballot Box.”
7) We tripled our Founders Club program. Executive Secretary George McGovern started the Founders Club, our sustaining donor program, in the 1950s so the Party had the resources it needed to build county parties and recruit candidates. Over the last two years, over 160 Democrats like you tripled our Founders Club program to give a total of $6360 a month. With the DNC’s additional $5,000 a month State Partnership Program contribution, our ongoing revenue matches our ongoing expenses nearly dollar for dollar for three full time staff. Imagine what we could do with 6 full time staff.
8) We started the Young Elected Legislative Leaders program. How do we get more young people involved in the Party? We hear that a lot in the office, and in 2013, we answered. The South Dakota Democratic Party started the first ever Young Elected Legislative Leaders retreat in Pierre for high school Democrats who draft bills, debate legislators, and decide issues on the state senate floor. 28 students participated in 2013, and the program was so successful among students 48 high schoolers participated in 2014.
9) We started the YELL Fellows program. Know what YELL students told us after the retreat? They didn’t want to stop after the weekend. They wanted to find more ways to make a difference right now. So we formed the YELL Fellows program where we paired 21 Democratic candidates with 21 YELL Fellows who knocked thousands of doors and made thousands of phone calls.
10) We helped our legislators raise more money. Want to know how we paid for the YELL Fellows program? We helped our Democratic legislators raise more money – a lot more money – at house parties, events, and retreats. Through the Majority Project PAC, Democratic legislators raised twice as much money through the 2014 cycle than they did through the 2012 cycle.
11) We made gains in the State Senate. Democrats held only 5 seats in the state senate after the disastrous 2010 election. With strong candidates, proper trainings, and a focus on turnout, we gained two state senate seats in 2012 and 1 state senate seat in 2014, making the South Dakota state senate – one of only 14 legislative chambers in the entire country in which Democrats gained seats in 2014.
12) We dominated the earned media. When it comes to generating coverage of important issues, the South Dakota Democratic Party rocked this election cycle. No other issue dominated the US Senate race more so than the Mike Rounds EB5 citizenship-for-sale scheme that generated 12,500 articles about EB5 and Mike Rounds. Our initiated measure to raise the minimum wage also kept focus on issues facing working families as we generated 2340 articles across the country.
13) We thanked Senator Tim Johnson at our “Tribute to Tim” McGovern Day Dinner. Over 850 people at lunch and dinner attended McGovern Day to pay tribute to Tim for his 36 years of service to South Dakota. But you weren’t the only ones. Senator Jon Tester from Montana delivered a key note, and we had videos from Senators Tom Daschle, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and even Vice President Joe Biden!
14) We elected a new Chair to lead us through the next four years. Your South Dakota Democratic Party state central committee elected Ann Tornberg of Beresford to lead our party going forward as Chair with Joe Lowe of Piedmont as Vice Chair. Ann helped create YELL, presented at McGovern Day, co-chaired the 2014 State Democratic Convention, and recruited nearly 30 people to join the Founders Club.
We can continue to do good for South Dakota with your help. Please consider joining the Founders Club with a monthly sustaining contribution of any amount and tell us how you want to be involved.