This is the first of a three-part series looking at the Republican and Democratic aspirants running in the 2018 election to replace Rep. Kristi Noem in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Secretary of State Shantel Krebs, looking to win the Republican nod for a place on the ballot, hasn't made much news yet. But as of last August, her campaign had compiled $230,000, probably a good start toward matching Rep. Kristi Noem's first campaign war chest of $1.1 million in 2010.

Her campaign is still fairly light on specifics, but some general impressions make it pretty clear just who Shantel is and the voters she wants to win over. She made a broad proclamation to the Rapid City Journal in September, saying that when Donald Trump was elected she was "all in" and that her motivating force is that she "wants to help him deliver results." Her slogan — "Get it done."

I admire that she rejects procrastination, but I wonder what the "it" is that she's determined to "get done." If "it" references her complete devotion and dedication to Trump and his policies, I wouldn't give Krebs much consideration as a congressional representative.

"All in" is inclusive, which sounds to me like she's determined to be a rubber stamp for the administration. If elected, would she have the mettle to assert some independence when White House policies may not be the best for South Dakota? For example, is she "all in" with Trump's hostility toward NAFTA? He's on the record as calling it the "worst trade deal" ever approved by the United States, yet the benefits to farm states since the treaty's inception a quarter-century ago are self-evidently positive, as our senior Sen. John Thune noted in a radio interview recently.

No doubt Krebs has her eyes on the huge margin of victory that Donald Trump got in the 2016 election in South Dakota and plans to ride some vestigial coattails associated with it. But given Trump and his administration's general hostility toward free trade, corn-based ethanol and wind power, my guess is that Krebs will be quick to reconsider the notion that she'd be a surrogate for the White House.

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I mean given what we know about Trump at this stage of his administration, who on earth would go on record as being one of his toadies? Aberdeen just lost a 400-job windpower-connected factory because of Trump's pro-fossil fuel policies. Is Krebs all in with that?

Her website provides a nice biography and the usual platitudes along the lines of making Washington "responsive" to the needs of our state but doesn't touch on many specifics. One exception: her hostility toward Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, aka Food Stamps. Oddly for someone claiming to be a voice for agriculture, she opposes the American Farm Bureau's unqualified support for the program, which someone with her farming background should know has been a boon for the agriculture industry.

Sellable as it will be to many Republicans in South Dakota, Krebs' "I'm all in with Trump" campaign is a risky venture. Next week, we'll see if her Republican challenger, Dusty Johnson, will make for a viable Republican alternative.

John Tsitrian is a Rapid City businessman and freelance writer. You can read more of his commentary at

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