Top South Dakota Democratic Party officials step down amid financial struggles

Published: Oct. 24, 2019 at 4:41 PM CDT
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Two top officials in South Dakota’s Democratic Party have resigned after a federal report showed continuing financial problems. The new acting chairman for the party said they're moving forward and handling all financial problems.

Chairwoman Paula Hawks and Executive Director Stacey Burnette have stepped down from their positions as of Wednesday after the Federal Elections Commission report came out.

Vice-Chairman, now acting Chairman Randy Seiler said he's confident it was for personal and professional reasons and the party will continue to pay off all debts and move forward.

"The party is clearly in need of strong leadership," State Representative, Michael Saba said.

The departure of two top officials was a shock to democratic leadership. Some Democrats said they were concerned and wondered where the party would go from here.

This news comes after a Federal Election Commission report showing the party has a debt of $47,000 that's built up over the years.

"There were issues with respect to the financial management of the party over the course of the last several years," Seiler said.

He says he respects their decision to step down and will move the party forward, but right now he does not wish to take over as chairman.

"Democracy works best if there are two active, vibrant political parties in a state and certainly we want to give voters the opportunity to have a choice when they go to the polls," Seiler said.

Seiler said the issue is being addressed by refiling and re-correcting FEC reports and continuing to chip away at the debt. And while they do that, State Representative Saba believes this is the time for the party to excel.

"Right away I recommended that we look to the Native Americans for leadership," Saba said.

He said votes for the Democratic Party come heavily from Indian country. Saba argues that the way things have been done isn't working that well and it’s time to try something new.

Saba added that it makes sense to turn to the state's Native American population for leadership because of their historic support for democrats. Seiler agrees saying that the state party is committed to diversity and inclusivity.

Democratic Party leaders will be having an emergency meeting with the Executive Board this Saturday. They will be discussing how to move forward and start talks of electing a new chair.