Democrat Tom Jones and his Republican opponent John Chicoine are vying for the District 17 state Senate seat. The two men are battling to replace Republican incumbent Eldon Nygaard, who is set to retire after two years in the Senate and four years in the state House of Representatives.
Jones is running for the state Senate after representing District 17 in the state House for two years. He has lived in Viborg, S.D., with his wife Linda for 33 years, and is a member of two studies for the legislature this year: a summer study that is looking at education and a watershed task force that looks at water resources and defense for eastern South Dakota.
As he runs against Chicoine, his main platform issues are around: developing the local area’s water defenses, getting farmland back into production, passing education funding and raises for state employees. Jones said the education summer study he is a part of looks at issues like funding for higher education and tuition.
As the state is known for its tight fiscal policy, Jones said he promotes a balanced state budget.
“We need to be fiscally responsible, not fiscally frugal,” Jones said. “There is a big difference between the two.”
Jones said the state has focused on cutting spending too much, and it is time to start spending a little more on deserving projects.
John Chicoine is a retired chiropractor from Parker, S.D., and has lived there with his wife, Paula, for 42 years, according to his campaign website. In this time, he served on the Parker City Council and School Board, and was a member of several organizations including the Pioneer Memorial Hospital Board and the Southeastern Enterprise Facilitation Project.
Platform issues Chicoine said he hopes to improve if elected include preserving rural health care, economic development and agriculture. He said the state needs to do a better job bringing more small businesses into the area.
“Our young people are our most valuable asset, and we need to try to keep our young people in the state,” Chicoine said.
He, like Jones, said the state needs to better fund higher education.
“We need to be more creative about addressing the problems students have,” Chicoine said.
Both candidates said they are advocates for student involvement in local politics.
“The person you elect is going to be your representative to the legislature,” Chicoine said. “Students have a voice, and if they get involved and learn something about local politics, they will be a more effective voice.”
Jones said student concern is vital.
“(Students) need to see some of the issues that will effect them down the line, and there is no better time to take concern with the issues,” Jones said.
Both candidates made it a point to remind students to register to vote.
According to South Dakota Secretary of State Jason Gant’s website, students can register to vote at the county auditor’s office, which is located in the Clay County courthouse in downtown Vermillion. For a full list of registration sites and requirements, those interested can visit