JENNIFER HEALY KEINTZ
TAMARA ST. JOHN
Three-Way Race For SD House
Two incumbents and one challenger are running for two seats in the South Dakota House of Representatives from District 1 in the general election on Tuesday.
District 1 includes Marshall, Day, and Roberts Counties and a portion of Brown County.
Democrat Steven McCleerey of Sisseton and Republican Tamara St. John of Sisseton are seeking re-election to twoyear terms, while challenger Jennifer Healy Keintz of Eden is vying for a House spot for the first time.
Following are responses to a questionnaire from the Marshall County Journal from the three candidates.
Describe your personal background.
Jennifer Healy Keintz: My husband Corey and I live outside Eden with our four-yearold daughter, Amelia. I’m a real estate broker and co-owner of Dakota View Realty & Auctions. I was born in northeast South Dakota and both my and Corey’s families have lived in Marshall and Day counties for generations. I earned my bachelor’s and master’s degrees from South Dakota State University. After 15 years working in marketing strategy and research, I moved to Eden in 2013. I’ve become involved in the community and currently serve on the Glacial Lakes Area Development (GLAD) board, the Strand-Kjorsvig Community Rest Home board, and Community Advancement for Roslyn and Eden (CARE).
Steven McCleerey: I have three children, eight grandchildren, two sisters, and a mother. I farm south of Sisseton, raise wheat, corn, soybeans, alfalfa, and a cow/calf operation. I’m on a hospital and nursing home board in Sisseton, lifetime member of Farmers Union, active in church and on the Credit Union board. I’m presently your District 1 Representative and on the following committees: State Affairs, Commerce and Energy, Retirement Law, and Military and Veterans Committee. I previously served on Education, and Health and Human Services.
Tamara St. John: Archivist, historian and curator of collections for the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate. Lifelong South Dakotan, member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, born and raised in District 1.- Attended Sisseton Public Schools, studied at Sisseton Wahpeton College, and independently studied museum collection care and cultural heritage tourism from George Washington University. Board member of the South Dakota Tribal Tourism Alliance. Board member of the South Dakota Humanities Council. Delegate with the Her Vote. Her Voice. project of the SD Historical Society to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Women’s right to vote. Mother of two sons, two daughters, and have a daughter-in-law and a new grandson.
What would be your strongest attribute as a District 1 Representative?
Keintz: I spent 15 years working as a researcher and another seven years in real estate. I’ve become very good at listening and asking questions. Those skills will serve me well as a legislator, where my priority will be to make certain the needs of District 1 are addressed in Pierre. I will listen to the concerns of my constituents and serve District 1 as an ethical, logical voice in the state legislature.
McCleerey: Experience and a platform of serving the people, not myself. A good listener and the ability to want to solve problems for others. I know my district and the occupations in it.
St. John: The number one reason why I believe I can best serve the people of District 1 is because of my unique perspectives, ability to listen and willingness to research. I understand that our region is very diverse and unique. I pledge to do my best to represent those from all walks of life. If I don’t know the answer, I’m not afraid to ask the tough questions to seek those answers.
If elected, what would be your number one priority?
Keintz: Health Care. Rural healthcare is a necessity – and our access to essential services continues to disappear. I will fight for the funding needed to continue providing quality care in our nursing homes, clinics, and hospitals, including reallocating funds to allow for a cost-neutral Medicaid expansion. South Dakota is leaving approximately $300 million a year on the table, plus an additional $280 million in economic growth opportunity. It’s time to put aside partisan politics and expand Medicaid.
McCleerey: The people are the No. 1 priority. Next to that, health care and keeping people safe and healthy, keeping our nursing homes open, and keeping our hospitals viable in our district.
St. John: As of now, one of the most important issues is COVID-19 response and recovery. South Dakota received $1.25 billion from Congress through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. As of now, the State of South Dakota has until December 30, 2020, to use these dollars for COVID related purposes. As a current legislator, we met for a special legislative session on Oct. 5 to amend the FY2021 state budget and to provide for authorization of the expenditures of these funds. COVID-19 has impacted all facets of life. Education, healthcare, businesses and everyday life. It will be critically important that we continue to dedicate resources and attention towards recovery from COVID-19.
What would be your number two concern?
Keintz: Economy. Family farms and small businesses are our heart and soul in rural South Dakota. I will advocate for policies that support them and help them thrive. Our rural areas shoulder a bulk of the tax burdens while our roads – essential for everything from transporting grain and livestock to supporting tourism at our lakes and parks – are frequently in disrepair. Our revenue sources and spending priorities need to be re-evaluated.
McCleerey: Educating our youth, and hopefully to bring back career building education or tech training in high school. We need more plumbers, carpenters, welders, and young men and women in agricutlrue.
St. John: Good government in every issue. One of my top priorities will be making sure we, as a state, continue to live within our means. I’m supportive of providing resources and programs for the most important issues like public safety, education, and healthcare, etc. all while being good stewards of taxpayer dollars such as Education. I want to make sure our teachers have what they need to continue to educate our future leaders. I’m also going to be bringing legislation that promotes more suicide awareness and prevention as well as Mental Health and Telehealth. As a member of the Mental Health of First Responders Task Force, I’ve learned a lot more about our current needs and capabilities. I want to assist in bringing resources to reach those who need assistance wherever they are in life. This is true for first responders, students, those battling addictions and many more.
Medical and recreational marijuana are on the ballot this fall. What are you stances on those two issues?
Keintz: I fully support Initiated Measure 26 (medical marijuana). It is most commonly used for pain control and is a safer alternative to opioids. Medical marijuana has also been effective for treating seizures, Parkinson’s disease, PTSD, and other conditions. Treatments are decisions for patients to make with their doctors, and legalizing medical marijuana offers another option for health care providers that has been shown to be both effective and safe.
Amendment A (recreational marijuana) is a bit more complex. Personally, I dislike marijuana use. Evidence shows it’s not a gateway drug, but it certainly has its downsides and we do have a serious problem with meth and opioid misuse that is killing people and ruining lives right here in Marshall County. I understand why many people are hesitant to legalize any drug. That said, it is important that we look past our personal feelings and evaluate the evidence.
States that have legalized recreational marijuana for adults are finding that use among young people does not increase and law enforcement efforts can be refocused on serious crime. Estimates indicate that marijuana legalization in South Dakota would generate tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue, with half of that earmarked for education. Money is taken out of the hands of the real criminals and used for the benefit of the people. Legalization will also create legitimate, good paying jobs. Adult users will have access to safe product from reputable distributors.
South Dakota has some of the harshest marijuana laws in the country. Lives have been ruined by a single possession of a small amount of marijuana. I favor removing marijuana from the criminal justice system and regulating it like alcohol and tobacco.
The other factors to consider with both ballot initiatives is that Amendment A also requires the legislature to pass laws by 2022 regulating the cultivation, processing, and sale of industrial hemp. This is important legislation for our ag producers who want to take advantage of this lucrative new market. A constitutional amendment will also prevent the legislature from repealing IM 26 (medical marijuana), as they did with IM 22 (the anticorruption measure passed by voters in 2016).
As the mother of a young child, and the aunt of teenagers, I continue to have mixed feelings on recreational legalization, despite the evidence, and I understand that others do, too. Ultimately, this will be up to the voters and I will support that decision.
McCleerey: Without a doubt, medical marijuana needs to be passed and regulated in the state. There are many families waiting to be normal families, and seizures are hindering that ability. There are a number of health issues that can be helped from medical marijuana.
There are benefits to recreational marijuana, but controlling its usage through the state and legal system and law enforcement will take some time and planning. It will have beneficial and financial advantage, and the legislature will need to decide that. Keep in mind, marijuana is like a sedative and calming like alcohol, that can be disruptive and very active in some individuals demeanor and thought process.
St. John: I truly believe there is a place for medical marijuana. I have concerns with recreational marijuana because we take an oath as legislators to uphold the U.S. and state constitutions. We would have a great deal of work to do with it being a schedule one drug and currently illegal under federal law.