Lawrence is SD GOP chairmanMarketing professional, true believer replaces Rep. Tim Rave.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capitol Bureau
FORT PIERRE — With Craig Lawrence of Sioux Falls as their choice for new state-party chairman Saturday, South Dakota Republicans turned to one of the state’s most successful advertising professionals and political campaign messengers.
Lawrence, who recently completed the sale of his interest in the Lawrence & Schiller marketing firm, said he was preparing to retire and do ministry work until he received an invitation from Gov. Dennis Daugaard on Dec. 22 to consider taking the post.
Lawrence said he was later encouraged by former Gov. Mike Rounds, who has already announced his 2014 candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democrat Tim Johnson.
No other candidates ran for any of the Republican state posts Saturday during the central committee meeting at the Casey Tibbs rodeo center in Fort Pierre.
The selection of Lawrence signals further acceleration in the shift of tactics by South Dakota Republicans in even greater use of social media technology, which had already begun under executive director Tony Post the past two years.
Lawrence succeeds state Sen. Tim Rave of Baltic, who was chairman for two years. Rave had followed then-Sen. Bob Gray of Pierre, who was chairman for four years.
Lawrence called on Republicans to remember three numbers: “Fourteen, 50 and 100.” He said they refer to the 2014 elections, the 50 years since Republicans last held all of South Dakota’s seats in Congress and the goal of 100 percent victories in the upcoming elections for U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, governor and all other statewide offices.
He also offered a theme: “We’re Republicans because we believe tomorrow is worth fighting for,” he said. “Tomorrow is worth fighting for. South Dakota is worth fighting for. Our grandchildren are worth fighting for.”
Dan Hargreaves, an Aurora County Republican who is president of South Dakota Right to Life, nominated Lawrence, and the seconding motion came from former state Rep. Al Koistinen of Codington County.
Hargreaves recalled how President Ronald Reagan in 1983 asked Lawrence to head a Year of the Bible campaign that remains in operation. Hargreaves described Lawrence as “a strong conservative.”
“If elected, I will be your servant, not your leader,” Lawrence said.
Former state Rep. Kim Vanneman of Ideal was chosen as vice-chair to succeed Kristi Wagner of Whitewood. Vanneman wasn’t able to attend, but Lawrence announced some news about how he plans to proceed. He said he and Vanneman will be co-chairs. “Kim and I are equals,” he said. “We talked about it the other day.”
The new treasurer will be Pierre lawyer Justin Bell, who moves up from assistant treasurer. He replaces Brett Koenecke, who works in the same law firm and will now be an assistant treasurer. The new secretary is Sara Frankenstein of Rapid City, a lawyer who has been involved in several high-profile election lawsuits. She replaces Matt Konenkamp of Rapid City.