South Dakota Democratic Party Chairman Ben Nesselhuf has been getting assistance from an unusual source in his efforts to build a stronger political organization.
“Republican legislators in Pierre have been doing everything they can to make my job easier,” he said at the Beadle County Democratic Forum on Thursday.
He cited GOP support for extreme legislative initiatives that are not supported by most South Dakotans and off-beat comments by some legislators.
Nesselhuf served in the House and Senate for 10 years before taking the helm of the state party in December.
“We’ve done some polling and results indicate that South Dakotans do not support Governor Daugaard’s key proposals,” he said.
Poll results show South Dakotans oppose the planned 10 percent reduction in education funding by a margin of 56 to 39 percent. Independents oppose the plan by 55 to 40 percent.
The governor’s plan to redirect 22 percent of the contractors’ excise tax, or about $16 million a year, into a slush fund used for incentive payments to corporations locating in South Dakota is opposed by a margin of 62 to 19 percent. Only 25 percent of Republicans support it.
Nesselhuf said freshman legislators frequently identified with the Tea Party movement have made some strange comments, including the suggestion that eliminating the sales tax on food would “be a financial incentive for obesity,” and comparing South Dakota teachers to Nazis.
A Vermillion native, Nesselhuf is the first South Dakota Democratic Party chairman to serve on a full-time basis.
“We did some research and found that one characteristic of a strong state party organization was a full-time state chair,” he said. Previously, it was an unpaid position while a hired executive director ran day-to-day operations.
State party headquarters is at 335 North Main Avenue in Sioux Falls. Other staff members include Zach Crago, legislative director, and Marley Prunty-Lara, communications director.
The party’s new Web site is at www.sddp.org and it also has a Facebook page.