HELENA - Ted Dick, a state union leader, will be the Montana Democratic Party's new executive director, replacing David Benson, the party announced Monday.
Benson, who was hired in October 2009, was "released" from the position, Democratic Party spokesman Martin Kidston said. Benson's departure, he said, has nothing to do with the Nov. 2 election outcome, when Democrats lost a net 19 state legislative seats, including 18 in the House.
"The board met Saturday in Billings, and they simply wanted to set a new direction for the party," Kidston said. "They felt it was necessary to do that early in the campaign cycle."
State Democratic Party Chairman Jim Elliott of Trout Creek said Benson, a veteran of Minnesota and South Dakota campaigns, had done "a great job for that (2010) cycle."
"There was very little I think anyone could have done, considering the national trends," said Elliott, a former legislator. "I want to make it clear that our losses in the Legislature had nothing to do with the change in personnel."
But Elliott said the party has much different needs in the 2012 election cycle than in the 2010 mid-term election. In the upcoming election cycle, Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester is up for re-election and there is an open governor's seat, along with races for the other four statewide offices, all held by Democrats.
Elliott said the party was turning to Dick who is "a professional organizer" with "a passion for Montana politics" and who knows the state well.
Dick, 44, has been political director of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Health Care Northwest-Montana. He will take over the party job in early- to mid-December.
"I just want to help the Democrats move forward," Dick said. "There are a lot of great opportunities to help Democrats get elected in the future."
Dick ran the state party's Legislative Campaign Committee in 2004 when Democrats picked up nine legislative seats. He served as sergeant at arms in the Montana Senate in 2005 under then-state Senate President Tester.
An Iowa native, Dicks is a graduate of Central Washington University where he received a bachelor's degree in history and political science. He was involved in politics in Washington State and was a Clinton-Gore delegate from that state at the 1996 Democratic National Convention.
"I really came through the ranks in central committees and working at the grass-roots level," Dick said. "To start moving the party forward, we need to work at all levels, especially the grass-roots."
He said he has a "real affinity" and "love" for the Montana Legislature and looks forward to helping recruit candidates and working with the new crop of candidates.
"It's going to be fun," Dick said. "I can't wait."