SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – There’s an ongoing fight for new leadership for the South Dakota Democratic Party.
Democratic state lawmakers and county-level party leaders are working on a recall of South Dakota Democratic Party chair Jennifer Slaight-Hansen. Slaight-Hansen was elected by the party and its executive board in February, but officially took over in April after former chairman Randy Seiler died.
Annie Bachand, chair of the Pennington County Democrats, told KELOLAND News she met with Slaight-Hansen this week. Bachand said Slaight-Hansen told her she won’t resign unless she’s voted out.
In this case, “voted out” means collecting petition signatures from 50% of the party’s state central committee to call a special meeting where two-thirds of the party could vote to remove her from her position.
“This has really unified the party. The party is unified on how to move forward on this,” Bachand said.
According to other media reports, SDDP executive director Dan Ahlers resigned from his position last week. Ahlers was hired in May.
Slaight-Hansen confirmed to KELOLAND News she does not plan to resign her position. She called Ahlers’ resignation unfortunate and that she had “no ill will towards him.”
“I think that he had a misunderstanding of what the job description was,” Slaight-Hansen said. “It led to some very frustrating conversations and a frustrating work environment.”
Slaight-Hansen said she doesn’t want to resign because she wants to keep moving forward with the plan in place. She did admit to breaking a rule in the party’s Constitution when she hired two summer interns without executive board approval.
“That is something that I overlooked,” Slaight-Hansen said.
The state central committee is the SDDP’s main governing body and it is made up of state party officers, executive board members, county chairs and vice chairs, two county committee persons and legislative district chairs and vice chairs.
Senate Minority Leader Reynold Nesiba, a Sioux Falls lawmaker, told KELOLAND News an active process by South Dakota Democrats is underway to recall Slaight-Hansen.
“Democratic leaders across the state of South Dakota stand to defend the South Dakota Democratic Party, its values, and its constitution,” Nesiba said. “We will emerge from this recall process stronger, more unified, and better positioned for the 2024 election cycle.”
Both Nesiba and Bachand said problems inside the Democratic Party started after Seiler’s death.
“Randy was a great human being and a good leader,” Bachand said. “He had a way of mentoring that was really remarkable.”
Slaight-Hansen said she was reluctant to share her side of the story but she is now reaching out to people inside the South Dakota Democratic Party to combat the recall effort.
“To have the conversation with them about where they’re at, what they’re feeling, what their expectations are of the chair,” Slaight-Hansen said. “Just trying to look at ways for us to move forward, instead of getting bogged down in something that I think has no value for the party to go forward.”