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Meet the South Dakota District 7 legislative candidates

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Meet the South Dakota District 7 legislative candidates

Lauren Franken

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Every two years, state House and Senate seats are up for re-election and contenders within a state’s districts race for the openings.

Candidates in South Dakota’s 37 House districts and 35 Senate districts are vying for the 72 open House seats and the 35 open Senate seats. Candidates elected to S.D. House and Senate seats work alongside the governor to propose the policy based on the interests of the constituents they represent.

The city of Brookings and parts of surrounding townships make up District 7. Currently, there are five candidates competing for the two open District 7 House seats, and two candidates running for the single Senate seat.

In 2016, District 7 elected Democrats Spencer Hawley and Linda Brandt to the district’s two state House seats.

The five candidates racing for Hawley and Brandt’s open seats are Republicans Doug Post and Tim Reed, Democrats Zachary Kovach and Bill Adamson and Independent Cory Ann Ellis.

In an interview with Brookings Radio, Post said he was running to fulfill a familial tradition of service. Some of his primary ideologies, according to his campaign Facebook page, are pro-life, religious liberty and limited government.

His opponent, Republican Tim Reed, served as Mayor of Brookings from 2009-16 until he resigned with one year left on his term to run for the S.D. House seat he currently holds.

Reed is running for re-election, but his counterpart, Democrat Spencer Hawley, is ineligible for re-election due to term limit.

In an interview with SDPB Radio, Reed said that during his last session in the House he was working on a sexual assault forensics bill, which clarifies where the responsibility of costs of emergency room evaluations lie.

Going forward, Reed is focused on mental health accessibility

There are two Democratic candidates competing for the House seats.  

Zachary Kovach is the youngest candidate in the race for District 7 House. The senior political science major is using his voice, as a current student at SDSU, to advocate for more affordable college costs and universal healthcare.

“Right now I’m $50,000 in student loan debt and my health insurance plan is to not get injured,” Kovach said in an interview with SDPB Radio.

Kovach’s Democratic opponent, Bill Adamson, was a professor of economics at SDSU for nearly 30 years and is focusing heavily on bargaining for funding on behalf of the state’s education system.

According to his campaign Facebook page, Adamson’s main goals are to fund K-12 and higher education systems, promote workforce development and stimulate economic growth, ensure access to affordable health care and support a fair tax system.

Adamson said prominent issues in K-12 education systems are evident here in Brookings, in that, the school district does not have the means or resources to support the city’s growing population, which is problematic for students, teachers and community members alike.

“If you’re not going to have a good quality education system — if you don’t have a quality education system — you won’t have good workforce development,” Adamson said in an interview with SDPB Radio.

Independent Cory Ann Ellis is running under the campaign slogan “Declare your Independence” and is persistent in her mission to serve the Brookings community.

“A sense of duty and service to others runs deep for me and that’s why I’m motivated to answer this return call to service as a representative for my community,” Ellis said in an interview with SDPB Radio.

The prior service Army Reserve mechanic is running for office after realizing  it “was just time to stop asking my representatives to take action on behalf of the under-represented … and instead step up to represent my neighbors myself.”

Ellis credits her success to the teachers she had during her secondary and post-secondary education, which is why she, like many other candidates, is focusing on bettering the quality of funding for South Dakota’s education system.

The candidate said her position as an Independent would be beneficial in the legislature because of her ability to bring out the good elements of both of the parties and combine them to form solutions that better the quality of life for her constituents.

South Dakota’s state legislature has held a Republican trifecta since 1994 — which means the party has had a majority over the state House, state Senate and governor’s office for 24 years.

In the 2016 election, the South Dakota House increased its Republican majority from 58-12 to 60-10 and the Senate increased its Republican hold from 27-8 to 29-6.

There are only two candidates vying for the sole District 7 Senate seat.

Republican V.J. Smith looks to maintain his party’s control over the District 7 seat. His opponent, Independent Mary Perpich, ran for the District Senate seat in 2016 as a Democrat but was ultimately bested by Republican Larry Tidemann — who is ineligible for re-election to the Senate due to term limit.

Perpich had originally planned on running for Senate again as a Democrat this year but was forced to switch to Independent after an incident in which her Democratic petition was successfully challenged and all 66 signatures were declared invalid.

Perpich was an associate professor in SDSU’s journalism department from 1986-04 and she currently serves as the chair of the Brookings County Democrats, a position she has held since 2009.  

Perpich is an active supporter of human rights, and was recently endorsed by Equality SD.

The only other contender for the S.D. Senate seat is Republican V.J. Smith, who served as South Dakota State’s assistant athletic director from 1990-96 and the executive director of the Alumni Association until 2006.

In an interview with SDPB Radio, Smith said the legislative priority for District 7 is South Dakota State University.

“Support of that university is paramount,” Smith said.

The ongoing race for District 7 House and Senate seats give a platform to a variety of candidates who hold a variety of differing opinions, but education is at the center of all of them.

State House and Senate seats are not to be confused with the ongoing U.S. House of Representatives race.

Representative Kristi Noem relinquished her seat in the U.S. House to run for Governor. The four candidates currently vying for her spot are Tim Bjorkman, Dusty Johnson, Ron Wieczorek and George Hendrickson. The winner will represent the state of South Dakota at the national level.

Republican Kristi Noem’s gubernatorial campaign is challenged by Democrat Billie Sutton, who previously held the title of state Senate minority leader.

The U.S. Senate won’t be up for election until 2020 when Republican Mike Rounds’ seat will become available.

You can vote for South Dakota Governor, U.S. House and District 7 House and Senate seats anytime between now and Nov. 6.

The District 7 polling place is located at the Brookings County Auditor Office on 520 3rd St. The office is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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Meet the South Dakota District 7 legislative candidates