With the U.S. presidential election ending almost a year ago, preparations are already underway for the 2018 midterm election.
In South Dakota, there are six local candidates running for U.S. Congress. Democratic candidates are Chris Martian and Tim Bjorkman. Republican candidates include Dusty Johnson, Shantel Krebs and Eric Terrell. Lastly, George Hendrickson is running as an independent candidate.
All candidates have different viewpoints, experiences and stances on issues that affect South Dakotans. Voting will take place on June 5, 2018. The general election will begin on Nov. 6, 2018.
Not only are congressional candidates preparing for the midterm election primary date that’s soon to come, but so are USD students.
College Democrats hosted a town hall with Bjorkman on Oct. 9. The town hall marked the fifth for Bjorkman since he announced his candidacy in July.
Brett Ries, the College Democrats president, said other political figures such as Billy Sutton, the Democratic candidate for governor, will be coming to campus Nov. 1, among other candidates.
Ries said College Democrats is also working with Clay County Democrats and expressed the difficulty in getting people motivated during an off election year.
“There’s always room to get involved with a campaign,” he said.
College Republicans are doing similar events as well.
Jaedon Foreman, vice president of College Republicans, said College Republicans have had a few events to get congressional candidates to campus.
“We had Dusty Johnson (Oct. 12), he had an event at REDS that we had some members go to,” Foreman said. “Shantel (Krebs), we are working with her (and) members of her campaign to get her to campus. She is pretty busy with her schedule as secretary of state.”
Foreman said College Republicans is trying to form a debate with College Democrats and working on reaching out to Republican governor candidates Kristi Noem and Marty Jackley.
College Republicans is also reaching out to different student organizations to plan events for the midterm election.
“One of our big things this year is working with student orgs,” Foreman said. “So we are trying to work with College Democrats of course, trying to work with Yotes for Life, the pro-life group on campus, we’re reaching out to Spectrum (and) CREW is another one we’re trying to work with.”
A way to keep discussion moving is to talk about various topics effecting South Dakota, Ries said.
“One of our first meetings we talked about DACA… and we talked about Betsy DeVos’ Title IX comments,” he said. “We’re doing an LGBT meeting here pretty soon because it’s LGBT Heritage Month here in October and then in November we are having a Planned Parenthood spokesperson come and working with Students for Reproductive Rights to have a joint meeting for that and show people what the laws are here in South Dakota.”
Foreman said students should get involved in the political process.
“I think it’s pretty crucial, because we have a lot of things coming up,” Foreman said. “I think that affects people here in South Dakota. It affects our students, it affects people in Clay County, health care especially with students (because) some of them have to pay the mandatory fee.”
Returning to traditional Democratic values
Personal responsibility, diligence and perseverance are fundamental to what the Bjorkman campaign believes in, he said.
Bjorkman announced his candidacy for the U.S Congress in July. Since then, his campaign has worked on forums, town halls, fundraisers and campaign stops.
Alex Fall, field director for Bjorkman’s campaign, said he believes in Bjorkman.
“There are a lot of people right now in South Dakota that are hurting and are looking for people to stand for them,” Fall said. “Tim is not only the candidate, but also the person that will stand for the people, not corporations. That is why I am working for him.”
Fall said 180 people have signed up to volunteer for Bjorkman so far. Fall said Vermillion community members and students should get involved in the election.
“Vermillion, like many towns in South Dakota, has its own unique problems,” Fall said. “But a lot of them relate back to lack of access to health care, lack of access to training and job opportunities and for college students in particular, the pressure that college debt puts on kids.”
There were several issues discussed among students and faculty at the townhall on Oct. 9. Bjorkman said those who want to seek public office need to be cognizant of what elected officials say.
“I do know that it’s the people in the communities who actually try to help people on a regular basis and that we people who seek to serve us all need to be very attentive to what (elected officials) have to say,” he said.
An optimist running for congress
Johnson said he wants to bring his positive attitude to the nation’s capitol.
“People have always liked leaders who are solution-focused rather than problem-focused. We have a lot of people in this country who are good at complaining about problems,” Johnson said. “But that’s not what makes America great. What makes America great is ingenuity, innovation, willingness to roll up our sleeves and get to work, and that’s the attitude I’d bring to Washington D.C.”
Johnson said during his political career that he ran against an 18-year incumbent for the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and saw many improvements.
“We reformed and revolutionized that office making (and) integrating technology and good business practices and to so many different areas of our mission, and as a result really served consumers and rate payers far better,” Johnson said. “We created an environment where investment and energy telecommunications is welcome. We saw substantially improved telecommunications service to South Dakotans during my time on the commission.”
Johnson was re-elected to the PUC for another six-year term in 2010. However, Daugaard asked Johnson to serve as his chief-of-staff.
“The chief-of-staff is the chief operating officer for state government, which is a four billion dollar enterprise with 13,000 employees, so the chief-of-staff is really in charge of execution for the governor’s goals for the state,” Johnson said. “It’s a big job, the average tenure is 18 months in this country for a governor’s chief-of-staff.”
Johnson said college students should get involved with the midterm election.
“I think college students have a real opportunity to make an impact on their country. College students often have the energy, the idea and work ethic needed to really help run a campaign or run a country,” Johnson said. “Those people who do get involved will have an incredible chance to turn our country into what they want it to become.”
Martian, Krebs, Terrell and Hendrickson weren’t available for interviews before this article was published. The Volante will continue to cover candidates’ platforms as the race progresses.