Race For Senate Seat
Three candidates are running for the lone seat from District 1 in the South Dakota Senate in the Democratic primary election on Tuesday.
Jason Frerichs has held the seat for the past eight years but could not run again this year due to term limits.
Candidates for the open position include Thomas Bisek of New Effington, Allison Renville of Sisseton, and Susan Wismer of Britton. There is no Republican candidate so the winner of the primary election will be elected to the position.
The Britton Journal sent questionnaires to the three candidates and their responses follow. No information was provided by Renville.
Describe your personal background (family, occupation, etc.).
Thomas Bisek: Bisek and his wife, Rachelle, have been married for 25 years. He resides on a Century Farm and has been a farmer for 37 years.
Susan Wismer: Wismer and her husband Mark reside in their hometown of Britton, where they raised their three children: Clark, Kate (Likness), and Kelly. She is a CPA, and she and her sister operate Britton Bookkeeping and Tax Service. Wismer is completing her fourth term in the South Dakota House of Representatives, serving from 2009-2014 and 2017-2018. Wismer currently serves on Judiciary, Taxation, and Government Operations and Audit Committees, and served on Appropriations Committee for her first six years.
What attributes do you have that you think would serve you well in the Senate?
Bisek: My participation in the areas noted below have given me a substantial amount of experience as a public servant. All the positions listed involve the ability to work cooperatively, identify issues, solve problems: Local Government township official 27 years, current chair; South Dakota Association of Towns and Townships, Executive Board/Treasurer five years & current; Directory Tri-County Association, seven years & current; President Bond Alliance, five years & current; RC Technologies, Board Member, two years & current.
Wismer: I am a moderate in the mold of my family members who also served District 1: Art Jones and Curtis Jones. I challenge Pierre regularly on the importance of being honest with our citizens about the real cost of underfunding education, highways, nursing homes, and other state responsibilities. As Democrats, District One legislators speak for unrepresented citizens all over the state, so we have to be well-versed in many issues. Legislators should have an open mind and be able to listen to both sides of an issue. That’s what you’ve got with me.
Economic development in rural communities is crucial for their survival. What do you think are the top two priorities for economic development in District 1?
Bisek: 1. We need to focus on making changes, if we want change. We are going to have to approach economic development with an open mindset. We need to think outside of the box and adapt innovative ideas and strategies. This is such a difficult issue. There are brilliant people with brilliant ideas in South Dakota. We just need to keep working to find solutions. It is going to take some work and we are all going to have to participate. So, what can South Dakota offer? We are leaders in agriculture and we can diversify more. We have rich cultural diversity and history we could bring forward and use to develop revenue. We also offer the beauty of wide open spaces, wildlife, and natural resources. We need to recruit businesses that will “complement” our states assets. And we need to recruit armies of tourists to come and visit us. We need to do a better job capitalizing on our state’s true wealth.
2. The ongoing depopulation of the rural areas and the new “dot com” economy has placed our rural businesses in a deteriorating situation. The State of South Dakota has begun receiving additional revenue from taxation of internet retail business. It would be nice if we could work toward a solution where individual businesses kept a portion of the state sales tax they collect. This would be one option to help small rural businesses stay operational.
Wismer: 1. Workforce development that both educates and establishes local employer connections so that young people can see the path to successful careers in South Dakota.
2. Healthy community institutions such as schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and recreation opportunities. When teachers and care-givers are fairly compensated and have safe, respectful working conditions, we have done more than any fancy top-down economic development program can do. District One communities are in danger of losing their nursing home, as happened last year in Rosholt, if we don’t address this.
What do you think is the most important issue facing South Dakota right now and what would you do about it?
Bisek: I feel there are many big issues. Choosing one issue over another would be, to say the other issues don’t carry as much weight, when that is not the case. However, I feel we need more balance. As our State matures we are seeing fewer people living in the rural areas and a higher concentration of people in the urban areas. In many instances, this drowns out rural legislative voices. Rural residents need to have their votes and voices count. If we can’t get the support we need legislatively, we need to take charge ourselves. I would like to see the rural people themselves work more closely together on issues. The pros and cons of local issues are best understood by the residents, and business owners themselves. I am interested in seeing the rural communities thrive and would do anything I could to help.
Wismer: High medical insurance premiums, caused primarily by South Dakota’s refusal to expand Medicaid with nearly $1 billion federal funds and cover 40,000 uninsured residents, and Congress’ failure to establish stable insurance market conditions. Sometimes I find myself reminding the legislature of facts and solutions that should be as plain as the nose on your face, and this is one of them.
In addition to that most important issue, list your next three priorities that you would address as a District 1 Senator.
Bisek: I would like to help work toward reducing illicit drug use and addiction in our area. I also would like to be part of the non-meandered water discussion. And lastly, I feel we should work toward improving our infrastructure. We need to work towards improving our rural roads and bridges. We should also work towards improving access to high speed broadband for our residents.
Wismer: State funding: South Dakota’s patched together revenue stream, with its high property taxes, video lottery, and contractors excise tax, hasn’t been updated for 30 years. Stocks and bonds are assets just as much as farmland and houses and Main Street businesses, but they pay no state taxes! I will continue to work toward modernizing our regressive, inefficient, outdated revenue structure.
Nonmeandered waters issue: I supported the compromise bill last summer, but there is more work to be done on settling the issue of flooded private land.
Opioid and meth epidemic, and Juvenile Justice Reform: The state shifted much of the juvenile justice burden back to the state a couple years ago when they closed all of their juvenile detention facilities and instructed the court system not to detain juveniles for most crimes. It saved the state a lot of money, but it cost locals both in dollars and in good school learning environments. That affects our ability to swiftly address drug abuse issues as well. I pushed hard for answers and faster solutions, and that work needs to continue.