3,834 South Dakota Democrats Are Demanding Change
March 31, 2010
In case you haven't heard, Kevin Weiland made an 11th-hour decision not to run in the Democratic primary for Congress against Stephanie Herseth Sandlin.
While I share the disappointment expressed by many, Kevin's departure from the race doesn't change my belief that our current Representative has veered from the priorities important to everyday people.
Sadly, Representative Herseth Sandlin talks a good game, but consistently takes a walk on some of the most important issues facing our country. She says we need to curb the harmful effects of climate change, but then votes against the most important energy reform legislation of our time. She says she has worked for reforming health care since she got into office, but when sweeping and historic health care reform legislation had a real chance for passage, she not only voted against it on multiple occasions, she actually advocated for its defeat.
It's been difficult to count on Stephanie to do what's right. During health care, she joined every Republican member of the House and Senate by voting no. She sided with Republicans and big oil companies by voting to allow drilling in Alaska. She sided with the NRA when she voted to allow firearms in our national parks and loosen the ban on handguns in Washington, DC. And she joined supporters of discrimination when she voted for a Constitutional Amendment to ban gay marriage.
On issue after issue --the big ones -- the ones that prove a politician's mettle and define their character -- Stephanie has gone astray.
I'm not alone in how I feel. In the short six days of the Weiland for Congress campaign, nearly 4,000 South Dakota Democrats signed petitions seeking an alternative. What if we had two weeks or 30 days to gather signatures? No doubt we could have increased the number to 10,000 or maybe even 20,000.
We can hope that 4,000 Democrats joining together sends a strong message to Stephanie. The disappointment in her voting record reaches far beyond the four walls of my office and it comes from some of the most experienced and respected people in this state. It includes former congressional staffers, her former campaign chair and chair of the Republicans for Herseth Committee who switched parties to become a Democrat. Those who signed petitions include hundreds who gave campaign contributions and gave their time to help her win past elections.
I've learned a lot about the political process over the last week. What stood out most was the energy and excitement that I saw from these 4,000 Democrats who showed a hunger for new leadership. I hadn't seen anything like in South Dakota before. It was energizing. People put their lives on hold to follow their convictions. You've all inspired me to continue to speak out when I see injustice, when my convictions conflict with a political leader -- whether Republican or Democrat.
In the final 24 hours of this six-day-long Weiland for Congress campaign, I saw the best of politics and the worst. The best was the engagement of everyday people who believed they could make a difference. The worst was Stephanie's use of typical Washington political tactics to pressure Kevin from challenging her in the Democratic primary. She recruited House Democratic Leaders (minus Speaker Pelosi) to put pressure on Kevin. She nervously sought help from current and former Democratic elected officials from South Dakota. And she was even calling Kevin to ask what political favors she could provide in order keep him from running.
In the final moments before the 5 pm filing deadline, Stephanie and her Congressional staff were negotiating with Kevin, language to include in a joint statement if he agreed not to run. At the same time, one of my staff was sitting in his car outside the Secretary of State's office with petitions containing 3,834 signatures from passionate Democrats from every part of South Dakota.
When all was said and done, Stephanie's only promise was to vote against any effort to repeal the health care bill. In reality, there is virtually no chance that repeal could pass the House or Senate and even if it did, I believe President Obama would veto it. So she conceded to nothing. Nothing.
Has Stephanie learned anything in the last week. Does she understand the anger and disappointment felt by thousands of South Dakota Democrats? Will our feelings be taken into account when we need her vote on the big issues?
Or will this last week's activities -- and her success in getting Kevin to back down, embolden her even more?
Only time will tell.
We need to continue using our voice and our vote -- challenging politics as usual and pressuring those who oppose issues containing the fundamental corps beliefs that make us Democrats. It's simply too important.
So I respectfully ask you not to be discouraged or disappointed. We didn't lose yesterday. We sent a powerful message to the Congresswoman that her re-election doesn't matter to us when she walks away from the big issues.
Thanks for your commitment and advocacy!
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