Republicans hear from candidates

By Charley Najacht

Over 120 people attended the Lincoln Day Dinner at Custer Corral Saturday evening.

Over 120 Republican party faithful attended the annual Lincoln Day Dinner at Custer Corral last Saturday evening and heard from two Republican candidates for governor and three for the U.S. House. County and state office holders were in attendance and introduced as well.

Emcee Keith Glover, chairman of the Custer County Republicans, limited each candidate’s speech to five minutes.

Kristi Noem, a four-term member of the U.S. House and former state legislator, will face current state Attorney General Marty Jackley in the June 5 Republican primary election for governor.

Noem said she supported President Trump’s tax reform bill that passed both houses of Congress and said it was “a privilege to work with such a great leader.

“But I am convinced we cannot reform government in Washington, D.C. We have to have strong governors,” she said. “Working with President Trump, we have done a lot of things for this area. We have kept the VA open in Hot Springs and the fish hatchery open in Spearfish. Those are a big deal to all of you.

“The governor’s race is about experience. We have had good leadership, but we have to change the way we operate,” Noem said, citing needed welfare program reform.

“We have to bring integrity, transparency and better management back to state government. Violent crime has doubled in our state the last 10 years,” she said, adding that parents need to be held more accountable.

Noem has experience as a small business owner and as a family farmer/rancher. She is an SDSU graduate.

Jackley is a Sturgis native and graduated from Brown High School there. He is an electrical engineering graduate of the S.D. School of Mines and Technology and has a law degree from USD.

“You know my values because you shaped my values,” he said. “Washington isn’t solving our problems.”

Jackley was off to Washington, D.C., this week to “fight for equality in internet sales” as he continues to work on the state’s claim before the Supreme Court that it should be allowed to collect sales tax on internet sales.

He said the state and municipalities are  losing significant sales tax revenue every time this doesn’t happen.

He pointed to the $21 trillion in national debt racked up by the federal government. 

“In­ South Dakota, the state balances its budget. School districts do, counties do. That’s what we do in South Dakota,” Jackley said.

“Action, leadership and vision is what this campaign is about. Agriculture is important. I come from a family farm at Vale,” he said. “I also recognize the importance of tourism to this area,” he added.

As attorney general, Jackley said he was committed to fighting crime, protecting consumers and making South Dakota a better place to live.

U.S. House candidates Shantel Krebs of Ft. Pierre, Dustin “Dusty” Johnson of Mitchell  and Neal Tapio of Watertown were next on the program.

Krebs, serving her fourth year as Secretary of State, said when she took office she encountered a mess left by her predecessor, Jason Gant.

“It was a crisis. There were stacks of paperwork everywhere. I couldn’t believe how much was in disarray. It was the least accountable office in state government,” she said. In short order, she said she had the office running smoothly and efficiently.

“I want to do the same thing in Washington. I want to help President Trump move the country forward,” Krebs said.

She described herself as a “fourth generation farm girl from Kingsbury County” who served 10 years as a citizen legislator in Pierre while running two small businesses in downtown Sioux Falls.

“Being a business owner is tough. Everywhere I go I’m told government is getting in the way. I understand how hard it is to make payroll,” Krebs said.

Her first goal is to reform government. Second is to earn a seat on the agriculture committee. Third is to “represent South Dakota values by protecting life and supporting the Second Amendment.”

Johnson is a former state Public Utilities Commissioner (PUC) and chief of staff to Gov. Dennis Daugaard. He was elected to the PUC in 2004 and served there until 2011 when he resigned to become chief of staff.

In 2014 he went into private business as vice president of Vantage Point Solutions in Mitchell, a position he currently holds.

“I’m pro life, Second Amendment and want to fight against government debt. I want to partner with President Trump and work against sanctuary cities and work toward regulatory rollbacks and border security,” he said.

Johnson, a Pierre native, is one of seven children in his family and a graduate of USD. 

“Hard work is what delivered me out of poverty,” he said.

“There is something wrong when an able-bodied 30-year-old can go on the welfare rolls. That’s wrong,” he said.

“I have experience and I want to earn your vote in the next eight weeks,” Johnson said. He was accompanied at the dinner by his sixth grade son, Max.

Tapio began his campaign early last year and was seen as a dark horse candidate, but is rapidly gaining momentum.

His SB200 got a lot of attention after he was elected to the state senate in 2016, the same year he became state director for the Trump campaign. That bill would have banned forced immigration in the state from the five countries identified by the Trump administration as those harboring Islamic terrorists.

He got his first taste of politics when he became an intern for Sen. Larry Pressler in Washington, where he found “there was no sense of urgency.”

He said being Trump’s point man in South Dakota was a tough job at first, but was thankful so many people started to come around. At one point, the state’s Washington, D.C., delegation and governor urged Trump to drop out of the race. 

“I predicted six months before the election that he would win,” Tapio said. “Politics is broken in Washington, D.C. The system is broken,” he said.

“The president takes a problem every day and says we’re going to work on it. We need people who also are determined to change things,” Tapio said.

“I supported President Trump in his battle against radical Islamic terrorism,” he said.

Tapio is a graduate of Morehead (Minn.) State University and has been a business owner for 20 years. Since 2010 he has been president of NT Sales and Leasing of Watertown which specializes in sales and financing of industrial cleaning equipment for the transportation, oil and agriculture industries.