Great races, faces for Senate and Representative seats


The 2016 presidential race has monopolized news headlines, leaving little airtime for the elections that might have a larger impact on voters: the elections of their local senators and representatives. 

South Dakota has traditionally been a red state, but that has not stopped the constituency from electing democrats, who often do well in the House and Senate. 

The seat up for grabs in the Senate is filled by John Thune (former South Dakota representative 1997-2003 and current majority chief deputy whip in the U.S. Senate). Meanwhile, the sole House incumbent for South Dakota’s at-large congressional district is Kristi Noem (South Dakota Representative, 2011 to present).

While incumbents generally have an enormous advantage over their challengers, their ability to provide examples of past political experience on both the regional and national level creates much more credibility than a new name in the political circuit could hope to possess. Despite the inherent advantage of incumbents, many heads have turned toward the Democratic opponents Jay Williams (Senate) and Paula Hawks (House of Representatives). 

John Thune enjoys high approval ratings and voter turnout from his constituents. This is due to his work on the national and local levels and avid involvement in his committees, leaving Williams fighting an admirable uphill battle. However, where Sen. Thune succeeds in his duties, current Rep. Noem has reportedly been remiss in them, leaving Hawks with ample ground to challenge her.

One topic that has generated conflict between the two is Noem’s departure from the House Committee on Agriculture, which left South Dakota without a voice in the committee for the first time since 1957. 

This reasonably provoked concerns from even the staunchest of Noem’s supporters and turned their attention to the idealistic Hawks. 

Hawks has run an extremely effective series of townhall meetings throughout South Dakota, providing people the answers they need from a Democratic candidate in a heavily conservative state. She promises increased cooperation with Washington D.C., saying South Dakota’s number one industry should also be its top priority. 

Hawks also asserts that Noem has been largely negligent in her obligations to the Native American community. In light of the controversy over the pipeline in North Dakota, this accusation was well-timed and pertinent to current political discourse. 

If Hawks and Williams continue improving relations, and capitalizing on these key aspects of South Dakota culture and economics, they are well on their way to what will hopefully be a productive term in Congress.


Benjamin Hummel is an English and speech & communications major at SDSU and can be reached at [email protected]