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Two Democratic party leaders step down amid financial woes

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Two top officials in South Dakota’s Democratic Party resigned Wednesday in the wake of a federal report that showed continuing financial problems.

Chairwoman Paula Hawks and executive director Stacey Burnette stepped down after the Federal Elections Commission report that found the party’s federal campaign committee owes nearly $47,000 and has a negative balance of more than $8,000.

Vice Chairman Randy Seiler, who confirmed the resignations, assumes leadership of the party. The party’s executive committee plans an emergency meeting Saturday in Fort Pierre.

Seiler, a former U.S. attorney who ran unsuccessfully for attorney general last year, told the Argus Leader he’s not interested in taking over as chairman permanently. He said the party, which holds no statewide offices and is solidly in the minority in the Legislature, will carry on.

“The South Dakota Democratic Party is bigger than two individuals. The party represents thousands and thousands of dedicated and hardworking South Dakotans who are committed to the principles of South Dakota and the party. We’re going to make sure the party continues to move forward,” he said.

Hawks and Burnette had been in their jobs less than a year.

An FEC audit earlier this year of the party’s finances for the years 2015 and 2016 also found several problems, including failing to disclose debts and vendor obligations. The state party has closed its offices in Sioux Falls and Rapid City with its staff working remotely.

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