Three candidates from three political parties are vying for a two-year term in the S.D. Senate in District 30 during the general election Nov. 6. Incumbent Lance Russell seeks reelection after first withdrawing from the race to seek the Republican nomination for attorney general. He is challenged by Democrat Kristine Ina Winter and Libertarian Gideon Oakes.
Russell, 48, a Hot Springs attorney, has served 10 years in the legislature, both in the House and the Senate. The incumbent state senator, Russell won a June Republican primary to run for state Senate, then withdrew to seek the Republican nomination for attorney general—which he lost—but was subsequently chosen by District 30 Republican party officials to replace himself on the ballot.
Russell said, as a taxpayer and father who is raising the fifth generation of his family in southwestern South Dakota, he wants to preserve what has made this a wonderful area to raise a family, while creating opportunities for youth to be able to stay here and raise the next generation.
Russell said his legal education, along with years of political experience and being former executive director of the S.D. Republican Party, give him the ability to make proper decisions. All too often, he said, legislators rely on bureaucrats to understand legislation, and all too often, those bureaucrats do not have the interests of the taxpayers in mind.
“I have and will continue to put the interests of the taxpayers ahead of the government’s interests,” he said.
Reform of the property tax system, the criminal justice system and the way state schools are funded are issues he sees facing the state.
“Rural schools are having a tough time. Almost all the schools in this legislative district have suffered since the governor increased the sales tax and shifted most of the new money to the large schools,” he said. “Although my efforts in fighting the governor’s tax were unsuccessful, I plan to have another bite at the apple during the next gubernatorial administration.”
Russell said state government has had a tough few years, pointing to the EB-5 and GEARUP scandals, along with the way closing STAR Academy was handled.
“I am very concerned about cronyism and mismanagement and plan to work to improve the transparency and efficiency of state government,” he said.
Winter, 63, the Democratic candidate, is a retired professional civil engineer. She decided to run for a seat in the state Senate because she is called to contribute using her talents, skills and experience.
She said. “I am running because I believe government provides vital services to the citizens and the citizens deserve the best government possible. Excellence in government provides quality services at the best price for the short term and the long term.”
Winter, also of Fall River County, has served as president of two Rotary clubs, governor elect of a Rotary district, director of the Southern Hills Economic Development Corporation and a trustee for Fall River Health Services. She said her 30 years of experience as a civil engineer in highways for a state agency allows her to understand infrastructure and the relationship between federal agencies and state agencies.
She added the oversight provided by a stronger representation of the minority party can help with accountability and oversight of programs.
It is important to preserve healthy land, air and water while also attracting new industries compatible with a healthy environment, she said.
Investing in public education and healthcare for all citizens is vital, she said. Emerging technology will impact our lives and businesses, she said, and therefore legislators need to be informed on technological innovation.
Winter is concerned about the loss of population from the rural areas of the country. She believes the loss of young people needs to be addressed.
Trust in government and government institutions is suffering, she said, and the only way to solve a problem with trust is to be unwaveringly trustworthy.
Her approach, if elected, is to ask these questions of every proposed legislation:
• Will it help or harm the environment?
• Will it help or harm the state?
• Will it help or harm District 30?
• Will it promote the general welfare of citizens and communities?
Oakes, 33, of Keystone, is a realtor and small business owner who is campaigning on the tag line “Life. Liberty. Limited Government.”
Oakes, a Libertarian, is a fourth-generation South Dakotan whose great-grandfather and namesake, Cecil Clyde “C.C.” Gideon, brought his young family across the plains to the Black Hills in 1918.
“I tell this story so you know when I say I have an interest in making sure the central and southern Black Hills are well-represented in Pierre, I mean it from the bottom of my heart,” he said. “Because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t only be letting my constituents down, but generations of my Black Hills ancestors who worked their whole lives to make our region great.”
Oakes has served on the Keystone Board of Trustees, Keystone Rural Fire Protection District, Keystone Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Holy Terror Days Association Board of Directors, United Way of the Southern Black Hills and Black Hills & Badlands Association Board of Directors.
“I’m not a career politician,” he said. “I’m simply a husband, father, small business owner and community volunteer who is actively working to keep our community strong and economy vibrant.”
Oakes said he is the only candidate who has hired and employed over 125 employees in the last decade.
“I know how government affects Main Street, because I am part of Main Street,” he said. “If you’re looking for proven conservative leadership and someone who knows what it means not only to balance a budget, but to listen to feedback and make the tough decisions that need to be made, I encourage you to vote for me.”
Oakes said the biggest threat South Dakota faces in an out-of-control, power-hungry federal government. He is pro-life, pro-firearm and pro-Constitution. If elected, he will “proudly” co-sponsor a bill recognizing citizens’ constitutional right to carry firearms. However, it isn’t his goal to create a bunch of new laws.
“If the legislative session was a football game, I’d be playing on the defense line,” he said. “My primary goal in Pierre is not to create new laws, but to defend my constituents from bad ones. Any law which seeks to increase our tax burden or limits our individual liberties can expect to be hit fast and taken down hard.”
Private property rights, property tax reduction with correlating spending cuts and fighting against eminent domain are other areas Oakes said he would focus on if elected.
Oakes said there would be a learning curve if he is elected, but he believes the point of having a true citizen legislature (and routinely voting out those who would make a career out of politics) is to keep our representatives in Pierre as closely connected to the people as possible.
“I promise that I will always listen to those I serve,” he said. “I’m running to give voters a viable alternative to the choice between a career politician that’s been in government for nearly 20 years and an income tax-supporting, big-government liberal candidate. If you believe that government is more often the problem than the solution, I’m your best choice for state senator.”