Uniting Against the Extremists
by Focus South Dakota, Tue May 23, 2006 at 11:54:35 AM EDT
Focus South Dakota was formed in the 2004 election cycle as a 527 organization intended to alert moderate and swing voters to the dangers of supporting extremist candidates and positions.
In the 2006 cycle our main focus is repealing HB 1215 and letting the extremists know that their first attack on Roe will be their last
President Jody Severson of Rapid City has been active in South Dakota and national politics since the late 1960's. His clients have included Senator Tom Daschle, U.S. Senator Tim Johnson, U.S. Senator Ben Nelson, former Senator Bob Kerrey, the presidential campaigns of Dick Gephardt, Gary Hart and Bill Clinton and scores of other progressive candidates and ballot campaigns nationwide.
Vice President Jeff Masten of Sioux Falls is a former Chairman of the South Dakota Democratic Party. During his tenure as Chair, Masten successfully took back control of the South Dakota State Senate and set records for fundraising and event attendance. His previous tenure as a State's Attorney was one of the most widely publicized and successful in South Dakota's history. In addition to three decades of advocacy in politics and law, he is currently a radiation oncology physicist.
Secretary-Treasurer Jim Robinson of Sioux Falls has been involved in public affairs and political activity for 30 years, having served as Executive Director of the Democratic State Party and as Staff Director and statewide Campaign Manager for Tom Daschle. He has worked for many US Senate, US House and Presidential canidates in over 38 states. Robinson currently heads the state's largest and longest established opinion research firm.
The Honorable Jim Abourezk is a former United States Congressman and Senator from South Dakota, as well as an attorney, author and Navy Veteran of the Korean War. Abourezk, who was first elected to Congress at the age of 40, went on to earn a reputation as a maverick and trailblazer in the US Senate. He is serving as the attorney for FOCUS: South Dakota and is playing an active role in appealing nationwide for support for the organization's role in this fight.
Kimberly Scott is President of ConklinScott, a national political consulting firm specializing in fundraising, strategy and political relations for progressive candidates and organizations, labor and the national Democratic party committees. She has worked with over 50 Congressional, Senate and statewide campaigns, including the Presidential campaign of Bill Clinton. Based in Washington, DC, ConklinScott is the only national firm of it's kind with a 100% record of working with pro-choice candidates and causes.
Focus South Dakota's Role in winning the referral campaign
There are several aspects involved in winning a campaign like the referral of HB1215. Using its past role in South Dakota as precedent, and subject to coordination and agreement with SDCHF, the overall umbrella group acting as a clearinghouse for the referral effort, we are tentatively planning an effort with these broad strategic purposes:
* To identify and educate swing voters on the many defects of HB1215, and to brand the law as an extremist measure that is out of touch with mainstream South Dakota values.
* To make sure voters understand where incumbent legislators and challengers stand on HB1215.
* To respond aggressively to the far right's campaign finances, message, and tactics, and to prevent the far right from distorting the truth about the true nature of HB1215. For example, at the moment there is an effort by some within the "prolife" movement to invent a claim that HB1215 does indeed allow for abortions in some rape cases. These imaginative explanations range from Senator Bill Napoli's "sodomized religious virgin" exception to a more responsible-appearing effort to claim that there is a 72-hour window in which emergency contraception would be permitted and thus obviate the need for a specific rape exception. The argument is specious but gaining ground and must be stopped.
* To perform voter attitude research necessary to shape the message and maintain message discipline. At either end of the abortion spectrum, voter opinion is strongly held and not likely to change. The battle will be won or lost in the middle. Think of a small town, red state, Main Street Republican man or woman who thinks of herself as generally "prolife," but who has not heretofore been heavily invested in the issue and who is inclined to think that HB1215 goes too far, is too extreme, is a bad idea. If we win THEIR votes, we will win handily, but if we allow the far right to manipulate their generally anti-abortion inclinations, the story might well have a different ending. This will require a sophisticated and well-disciplined approach.
* In those and other ways, to use HB1215 as an opportunity to reshape the political environment of South Dakota and to do so in a manner so decisive that it provides an object lesson for prolife extremists nationally.