FORT PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Jennifer Slaight-Hansen of Aberdeen is no longer chair of the South Dakota Democratic Party.
She was recalled from office Saturday in a vote by the party’s central committee Saturday.
The result was weighted by counties, based on votes cast in the 2022 election for governor. However, no one voted against recalling her. Several committee members abstained.
Annie Bachand, the Pennington County Democratic chair, was the first to speak against Slaight-Hansen. Next was Erik Muckey, the Minnehaha County Democratic chair.
Bachand said she had originally voted for Slaight-Hansen as chair. “I became acutely aware of challenges as the result of witnessing her failure to follow the constitutional responsibilities of a chair as outlined in both the state Democratic Party constitution and by the outlining of the rules as articulated by Robert’s Rules of Order,” Bachand said.
She continued, “Specifically, let me begin with the overall view that in Robert’s Rules of Order that no rule can take the place of tact and common sense, and the interesting thing about utilizing tact and common sense is, we as Democrats at times can have many varied views. We have about fifty people here today and about fifty of us have different opinions. So let’s take the unique willingness of leadership to be willing to listen, to coordinate, to collaborate, most importantly to communicate, what is going on.”
Susan Wismer of Britton, a former legislator and the 2014 Democratic candidate for governor, spoke somewhat in defense of Slaight-Hansen. “I kind of worked with Jennifer the last several years. She’s been a very dedicated party member up here and faces some real difficulty, and has historically been frustrated with the effectiveness of the state office,” Wismer said.
“I’m pretty concerned that all of this could have been trumped up by the fact that she stepped on a lot of toes in Sioux Falls. The only reason I haven’t made any bigger noise up to this point is I gotta respect the legislators deciding that things aren’t going to work out, and of course I do not appreciate what I’ve heard about her reactions to being challenged,” Wismer added.
But when the roll call reached Wismer, she too voted yes on recalling Slaight-Hansen.
Slaight-Hansen has seven days to file an appeal. The appeals committee then would have 13 days to consider it.
The central committee will vote September 16 in Rapid City for a new chair and any other office vacancies.
Vice chair Shane Merrill of Parker presided over the meeting Saturday at Drifter’s. He automatically became interim chair after the recall vote went through.
“This has been a long, difficult process for all of us,” Merrill told the group as the meeting concluded.
Slaight-Hansen, a former Aberdeen city council member, had been the party’s vice chair and was formally elected chair in February. She became acting chair after the death of outgoing chair Randy Seiler last spring.
Since then, a variety of allegations have surfaced against Slaight-Hansen regarding her management, and the party’s new executive director, Dan Ahlers, a former legislator, stepped down last month, saying he couldn’t work with her.
Slaight-Hansen had told news organizations in recent weeks that she welcomed the chance to explain her side of the story, but she didn’t attend the meeting Saturday or participate online.
South Dakota Republicans elected a new party chair earlier this year, too, choosing state Sen. John Wiik of Big Stone City.
Dan Lederman of Dakota Dunes didn’t seek re-election to the GOP post he had held since 2015.
Some delegates criticized his leadership during the 2022 South Dakota Republican convention in Watertown.