Friday, September 25, 2015

It's All Uphill From Here, Paula, But You've Got The Moxie And The Spirit. I Wish You Well.

     Just spent 45 minutes with Paula Hawks, who will likely be the Democratic nominee for
Paula Hawks
She Thinks She Can, She Thinks She Can
(photo from
SD's lone U.S. House seat next year. 
Running against incumbent Republican Kristi Noem, who began the year with $800,000 cash after raising $2.4 million for her run against Corinna Robinson in 2014, will be incredibly tough for Hawks, the Democratic state rep from Minnehaha County.  She told me today that her first campaign finance report, coming soon to a political blog near you, isn't going to amount to much, mainly because she's just started her fundraising program.  According to her, it's going to take between $1 and $1.5 million to mount a campaign against Noem, who will probably have no trouble raising substantially more than that.

      Corinna Robinson in 2014 raised a fraction of what Hawks thinks it will take to run her campaign during this cycle.  Robinson, who got 33% of the vote raised about $150 thousand in 2014, which goes a long way toward explaining why she lost to Noem by about a 2-to-1 margin. I'm guessing that as this cycle's challenger, Hawks will fare better in the fund raising derby because she's already an elected official in South Dakota with a more established network of friends and contacts. Robinson, who had a brilliant military career that spanned a couple of decades before coming home to run for Congress, was hampered by the fact that her long absence from South Dakota gave her too much of an outsider's persona, which became glaringly apparent in her few debates with Kristi Noem. Bright and promising as she is, Robinson just couldn't quite match up, nuance for nuance, with issues that Noem understands through and through, simply because Noem's lifelong presence in South Dakota put her in contact with them on a continuous basis. 
     Hawks won't be at a disadvantage on that front. As a high school science teacher, daughter of farmers in the eastern part of the state, wife of a rancher from Faith, she probably knows the ins and outs of South Dakota as well as anyone, particularly when it comes to matters involving the same
agricultural community that spawned Kristi Noem.  During our visit I probed Hawks on issues like country of origin labeling, medicaid expansion, defunding of Planned Parenthood, ethanol, the Keystone pipeline, meatpacker concentration and a few others.   She was responsive and knowledgeable.  As an elected official, Hawks knows how to engage the public.  Most appealing to me is that she really didn't come across as an ideologue with a fixed and inflexible approach to any of
SD Dems Can Relate
(photo from
the topics we discussed. I have no doubt that during her forums with Noem, Hawks will come across as conversant on any subject that comes up and reasonable about her position on it. 

     There's not much more to expect from an elected official. Given all the built-in political and financial disadvantages that Hawks is willing to confront, her campaign will be a long shot.  But her knowledge of the issues, her upbeat persona, her million-dollar smile . . . well, there's a realistic chance that she'll catch fire. We all saw what a breakthrough debate performance can do for a candidate last week on the national stage, when Carly Fiorina came from the back of the pack to challenge for the GOP presidential nomination.  Hawks has it in her to do the same thing here and I'm glad she's giving it a go.


  1. From reader John Wrede (with his permission), who posted this on my facebook page: "We received a campaign letter and request for financial support from her. The letter says she will fight for corn ethanol. That position establishes automatic disqualificatin of our support. The biggest energy and environmental catastrophe this state has ever promulgated doesn't need perpetuation at the hands of democrats or independents. The republicans created the mess and they need to be held fully responsible for cleaning it up! My entire point is this; Demonstrated knowledge and support for conservation and well informed ecological management of life sustaining natural assets such as soil, water, air, wildlife, forests and rangelands, etc. should be a prerequisite for service in making public policy simply because all life on this planet is now fully dependent upon the quality of man's stewardship. (This congress and past state governments have not demonstrated any steward ship at all) Hawking support for a land management practice for no other reason other than to secure a particular voting block is neither stewardly nor is it in the genuine public interest in my opinion."

  2. Well, Mr Wrede, that seems a little narrow-minded and short-sighted on your part. As Dems, we have fallen victim to that type of thinking far too often. We convince a strong and viable candidate to take on a challenge and then fail to provide support 'cuz the candidate takes one position we can't seem to swallow. I'm kinda tired of 2nd place and have committed to help Ms Hawks in whatever way I can.
    One way we can all help is by pushing Noem to declare her intentions re: 2018 Gov race. She seems to ne more than a little interested. If she wants to run for that office, I think we should relieve her immediately of her obligation to serve us in Congress so she can focus all her energy on the job she seems to really want.

  3. To my friend John Wrede: I have several friends who refused to vote at all in the contest between Noem and Herseth-Sandlin because of her vote against Obamacare. Well, of course, they contributed to the election of a person who has accomplished nothing in her congressional service, and has joined in the multiple votes to repeal Obamacare. In other words, those who refused to vote shot off their nose to spite their face. I agree completely with you about ethanol, but I can't let a single issue control my vote, especially when both candidates agree upon the single issue.