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Opinion: South Dakota voters need to critically examine candidates and leadership.

Updated: Apr 22

So, what’s so bad about single-party rule in South Dakota? It makes voting easier, you know who’s gonna win before election and what difference does it make; both parties are gonna feather their own beds, anyway, right? Unfortunately, that’s true of more Republicans than of any Democrats. In the last few years, we have seen our Republican SD legislators and governors outperform in the lack of accountability, transparency and lobbyist influence. Even overturning the will of the people, at least twice, because they believe SD voters aren’t smart enough to know what they’re voting for. The most egregious incident was not, in our opinion, the medical and recreational marijuana initiatives, but the overturning of an ethics commission several years back.

Without getting into the weeds too deeply, here’s a brief summary. In 2015, SD received an F grade in a state integrity investigation. Under then Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard, the grade was disregarded saying that in “a state with high trust in state government, familiarity and cordiality,” there was no need for such burdensome laws. Never mind the scandal of two years earlier, when a Republican cabinet secretary committed suicide while under investigation of theft of $500K in grant money, for double billing his expense accounts and selling green cards to immigrants in exchange for job investments. It even touched previous Republican Governor Mike Rounds, though he was not found guilty of any wrongdoing.

The stink of that scandal wasn’t enough for the Republican legislature to honor the will of the people, who approved Initiative 22 in 2016 demanding an ethics and accountability board. The measure was ultimately defeated in 2018 via a Constitutional amendment measure, led by the South Dakota Republican Ballot Question Committee and, of course, without disclosing their funding sources in opposition to the amendment.

Single-party governance is not healthy for our state. It enables exploitation of the most vulnerable in preference of the elite and privileged. Our supermajority Republican legislature and executive branch have ignored and reversed citizen initiatives, trampled on the rights of trans kids and athletes, effectively obstructed women from legal abortion pills without multiple visits to their physician and are pressing for a Constitutional amendment requiring a 60% supermajority to pass any citizen initiative. Like Medicaid Expansion Amendment D, which will be on the November ballot and has huge support in SD, but may fall short (as most 3/5ths thresholds do) if Constitutional Amendment C scheme passes in the June primary. Amendment C has been proposed, endorsed and funded by Americans for Prosperity founders, out-of-towners, David and Charles Koch. The same Koch brothers of Tea Party fame.

Someone famously said, “Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.” Seems odd that we need to apply that adage to our state’s politicians. Are they accountable to the electorate? Do they suppress their political rivals? Do they leave room at the table for other voices, even those with whom they may disagree? Do they spend more time furthering their political ambitions jet-setting around the country or working full time here at home? Do they strong-arm state employees to give their daughter a special licensing exception and then give payola to said state employee to seemingly buy her silence? Or how about a television studio taxpayers funded in the basement of the capitol for spreading the governor’s propaganda while also wasting state tax dollars on rugs and chandeliers at her residence? All this without a whisper of complaint by her party’s legislative leadership.

As we approach this election season, we hope South Dakota voters critically examine not only each candidate but the leadership of both political parties.

John Durajczyk, Minnehaha County Democratic Party member

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