South Dakota Republicans gather in Rapid City for GOP Leadership Summit and State Dinner
By: Ross Dolan, The (Mitchell, SD) Daily Republic
South Dakota Republicans will gather today at the Rapid City Civic Center for the GOP Leadership Summit and State Dinner — a chance to re-group, re-tool and do some party cheerleading.
Planned events are expected to draw about 300 party faithful, and will include a luncheon featuring Northern State University Coach Don Meyer as main speaker, mixed afternoon leadership sessions and a 7 p.m. state dinner with a keynote address by Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. U.S. Sen. John Thune also will attend.
But the day is really about charting a positive strategy for the 2010 election and leaving past defeats behind, GOP state leaders said.
“We’re looking out the windshield, not the rear-view mirror,” state GOP Executive Director Lucas Lentsch said, “but we’ve learned that elections can have consequences.”
While there will be some routine housekeeping, the day will focus on setting up an aggressive 2010 campaign, as well as attracting and developing promising leadership, Lentsch said.
The afternoon leadership summit will feature:
• Talks about the expanding role of women in the state GOP.
• The growing role of social networking media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and its impact on South Dakota, with George Alafoginis, deputy director of new media for the Washington, D.C.-based Republican National Committee. With 25 percent of South Dakota’s population listed on Facebook, Lentsch said, the impact of electronic social media can no longer be denied, but its use and acceptance may vary in urban enclaves and more rural settings.
• Discussions among GOP county chairmen.
“The Republican Party always does a good job developing good quality candidates,” said state Sen. Bob Gray, of Pierre, GOP state chairman, “but this year should be better than ever. I hear a lot of people saying the country’s offtrack and they want to step up and offer new ideas.”
Fiscal responsibility continues to be a unifying factor for the state’s Republicans, he said.
The state’s Republican women continue to favor limited government, said Rep. Shantel Krebs of Renner, GOP state vice chairwoman, but they also want some real answers.
“The things that are relevant for women are health care, retirement, education and, believe it or not, the price of gas,” Krebs said.
A greater sense of inclusiveness also is important to the party. “We’re here to reach out and make the tent bigger,” she said.
While there’s some anxiety among state GOP leadership about how to stretch an already tight state budget, Krebs said South Dakotans have already set a national mark to emulate when it comes to fiscal restraint.
South Dakota must continue to remain conservative, but it also must work to make itself more salable and business-friendly, Krebs said.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty most recently served as national co-chairman for Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential election.
He will share his vision of how the Republican Party can have electoral successes in 2010 and beyond, Gray said.