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Republican primary candidates make their case

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Olson and Derby crowd

Incumbent House District 34 Reps. Jess Olson and Mike Derby visit with constituents Wednesday during a Republican primary candidates' meet-and-greet session at the Hilton Garden Inn in Rapid City.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is Part Two of Two on the state House and Senate races in the Rapid City area, due to the amount of candidates running for office, covering Districts 33, 34 and 35. Part One published Thursday, covering Districts 30 and 32.

Twenty Republican candidates for Rapid City-area House and Senate seats participated in a meet-and-greet session Wednesday at the Hilton Garden Inn, taking the time to tell voters why they are running for office.

The meeting was hosted by Elevate Rapid City, and featured the candidates Republicans will see on the June 7 primary ballot in legislative districts 30, 32, 33, 34 and 35. In all, 23 candidates will have competitive primary races for the June GOP ballot. Three of the candidates were unable to attend Wednesday's meeting.

No Democratic candidates participated, as there are no competitive legislative primaries for Democrats in districts 30, 32, 33, 34 and 35.

During the meeting, the candidates were given two minutes each to introduce themselves.

District 33

Incumbent Sen. David Johnson, R-Rapid City, will run against Republican Janet Jensen for the sole Senate seat.

Incumbent Rep. Phil Jensen, R-Rapid City, will seek re-election. State Rep. Taffy Howard announced her bid for U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson’s current seat. Curt Massie, Janette McIntyre and Dean Aurand will run as Republicans while Rapid City Planning Commissioner Vince Vidal will run as a Democrat for the House seat.

Phil Jensen and McIntyre did not attend Wednesday's meeting. However, McIntyre sent a supporter to speak on her behalf and Phil Jensen's wife, Janet, spoke on his behalf.

Massie is originally from Belle Fourche, where he grew up on a farm and ranch there that he now leases. He's lived in District 33 for 22 years and worked for the South Dakota Department of Revenue. He now owns a private business tax consulting company.

Massie said he decided to run to improve education in the state, contribute to a better climate for business growth, and to fix the tax structure.

"I'm a big supporter of our education system. I believe a community needs good schools and a good education system," Massie said. "I believe businesses are the economic foundation of our community and our state. When we have a healthy business climate, we're going to have a healthy state. We're going to have a healthy communities. So I want to go to Pierre because growth is coming."

Dean Aurand.JPG

Dean Aurand, who is running for District 33 House, discusses the reasons why he is running for office during a Republican primary candidate's meet and greet session Wednesday at the Hilton Garden Inn in Rapid City.

Aurand said he moved to the Black Hills 37 years ago to start a business and laboratory that employs several people in the field of science, technology, engineering and math.

He said he decided to run for office to preserve the quality of life in the Black Hills and keep a talented workforce in South Dakota.

"I'm committed to holding those values that we have, but I think it's time for a fresh conservative approach in Pierre that focuses on those South Dakota values on limited government, on public service," Aurand said. "We've employed a lot of STEM people from the area and we want to keep the college graduates here."

McIntyre was unable to attend Wednesday's meeting. Her supporter who represented her, Bill Freytag, said McIntyre was in Ireland and unable to return to the United States in time for the meeting following a positive COVID-19 test.

Freytag said he worked with McIntyre when she was an executive officer at the Black Hills Home Builders Association. He said they "effected a lot of change in Rapid City" through their work with the Home Builders Association and that McIntyre is extremely responsive through phone calls, emails and listening to constituents.

"She's a conservative, there no question about the conservative values — you wouldn't have to question any of those," Freytag said.

Janet Jensen.JPG

Janet Jensen, a candidate for District 33 Senate, discusses the reasons why she is running for election during a Republican primary candidate's meet and greet session Wednesday at the Hilton Garden Inn in Rapid City.

Janet Jensen said Phil Jensen was unable to attend because he was on "grandpa duty," watching a young grandchild pending the imminent birth of another grandchild. She said they have been small business owners for 33 years and also own some rental property.

Jensen said she is pro-life, a supporter of the Second Amendment, and is concerned with wasteful government and the overuse of public-private partnerships. She used a quote usually attributed to Benjamin Franklin in which it is claimed he said, "When people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic."

"The best way really for businesses and families to thrive and be successful is to reduce the burden of unnecessary regulations and to ensure that government is never an obstacle for families and businesses," Jensen said. "People are capable of achieving extraordinary things if they have the liberty and the opportunity, the freedom and the opportunity to do so."

David Johnson.JPG

Incumbent District 33 Sen. David Johnson discusses the reasons why he is running for re-election during a Republican primary candidate's meet and greet session Wednesday at the Hilton Garden Inn in Rapid City.

Johnson said he is a long-time Rapid City resident and has operated a company with his family for 45 years. He is a U.S. Air Force veteran and is the president of Rapid City's chapter of South Dakota Right to Life.

He said his re-election campaign is about truth, honesty and openness with constituents.

"When I ran for office and stayed in office, I use 'three Cs' in the following order of priority. First, the Constitution. Don't let people attack the Constitution. That's number one," Johnson said. "After the Constitution is your constituents — honor what your constituents want. And third is conscience. Put your conscience into the 'three Cs.'"

District 34

Incumbent Sen. Michael Diedrich, R-Rapid City, is the only candidate running for the district’s Senate seat. Because there is no primary for his seat, Diedrich did not participate in Wednesday's meeting.

Incumbent Reps. Jess Olson and Mike Derby will face Republican Jodie Frye in the primary and Rapid City Ward 5 Council member Darla Drew and Jay Shultz, who are running as Democrats, for the House seats in November.

Jess Olson.JPG

Incumbent District 34 Rep. Jess Olson discusses the reasons why she is running for re-election during a Republican primary candidate's meet and greet session Wednesday at the Hilton Garden Inn in Rapid City.

Olson has served in the House for four years. She was on the committees for taxation, education, military and veterans affairs, and local government.

She said she wants to focus on property tax relief, specifically for senior citizens and disabled military families. Olson also said she wants to continue to bring policy that is conducive to economic growth and also touted a bill that assisted in funding for adoption and foster care.

"The other thing that I focus on is finding efficiencies in our government. I worked in health care and I know firsthand how important that is to keep costs low so that our taxes don't go up," Olson said.

Mike Derby.JPG

Incumbent District 34 Rep. Mike Derby discusses the reasons why he is running for re-election during a Republican primary candidate's meet and greet session Wednesday at the Hilton Garden Inn in Rapid City.

Derby is a business owner in Rapid City and has served in the Legislature for a combined five terms. He is on the committees for taxation and transportation, and also sits on the executive board for the legislature. Derby said if he is re-elected, he will run for majority leader in the House.

He said he is proud of five bills that he was the prime sponsor for that made it to the governor's desk and his leadership in the House.

"One of the things I'm also proud of is the last two years I made every vote, even the hard ones, and my last vote was for the impeachment of the Attorney General. I did vote for the impeachment that goes to the Senate now," Derby said. "My goals are to be on the Summer Study Committee for property taxes."

Jodie Frye.JPG

Jodie Frye, a candidate for District 34 House, discusses the reasons why she is running for election during a Republican primary candidate's meet and greet session Wednesday at the Hilton Garden Inn in Rapid City.

Frye has lived in Rapid City for 50 years and is a small business owner in downtown Rapid City. She said she has been involved behind-the-scenes in local government and advocating for parents and students at school board meetings.

Frye said she is running for office because she's "not exactly thrilled with how legislation has been going." She said she is pro-life and is concerned with crime in downtown Rapid City, high property taxes and food security in South Dakota.

"Agriculture is our number one business — tourism was our second — and we're in the top five ag producers in the United States. Yet we have bare shelves, and I don't think that should ever happen here in South Dakota again," Frye said. "I would like to help achieve some goals where we never have to worry about bare shelves."

District 35

Incumbent Sen. Jessica Castleberry, R-Rapid City, is the sole candidate for her Senate seat.

Incumbent Reps. Tina Mulally, R-Rapid City, and Tony Randolph, R-Rapid City, both seek re-election, but will face Box Elder Mayor Larry Larson and Elizabeth Regalado in the June 7 primary as Republicans and David Hubbard and Pat Cromwell as Democrats.

Larry Larson.JPG

Larry Larson, a candidate for District 35 House, discusses the reasons why he is running for election during a Republican primary candidate's meet and greet session Wednesday at the Hilton Garden Inn in Rapid City.

Larson said he has lived in the area since 1975. He is a former teacher and school administrator, retiring following a 40-year career in education.

He said he is running because of the unprecedented growth in and around Box Elder and Ellsworth Air Force Base, but is concerned over a lack of housing and infrastructure.

"With all the things happening with Ellsworth Air Force Base, I'm concerned that we don't have affordable housing for that matter much housing available at all. We have a lot of land but we need the infrastructure," Larson said. " And so we're working on that at the city level but as a state — I think we need to work harder."

Liz Regalado.JPG

Liz Regalado, a candidate for District 35 House, discusses the reasons why she is running for election during a Republican primary candidate's meet and greet session Wednesday at the Hilton Garden Inn in Rapid City.

Regalado said she moved to the area after her father was stationed at Ellsworth and decided to settle here. She is an attorney.

Regalado said she is running for office because she wants to give back to the community and she is concerned over the challenges that District 35 faces with economic growth.

"I genuinely believe that our region is at a crossroads and that we need strong and effective leadership going forward," she said. "I think to be able to address the concerns that the community has including cost of housing, availability of housing, infrastructure, and our property taxes requires that we really plan ahead and plan for the future."

Tina Mulally.JPG

Incumbent District 35 Rep. Tina Mulally discusses the reasons why she is running for re-election during a Republican primary candidate's meet and greet session Wednesday at the Hilton Garden Inn in Rapid City.

Mulally is running for a third term in the House. She has served on the committees for local government, agriculture and natural resources and appropriations. Mulally and her husband own a small ranch and a beekeeping operation.

She said she wants to run for re-election to reform tax policy, specifically by repealing the half-cent sales tax.

"I believe this state is incredibly strong economically. We have a balanced budget every year," Mulally said. "We need to reverse that sales tax because I think the people in this city need it. The people in this state need it. Inflation is killing us."

Tony Randolph.JPG

Incumbent District 35 Rep. Tony Randolph discusses the reasons why he is running for re-election during a Republican primary candidate's meet and greet session Wednesday at the Hilton Garden Inn in Rapid City.

Randolph is also running for a third term in the House. He is a small business owner and his wife runs a women's transitional facility for those coming from homelessness or prison.

He said he wants to run again to stand by his tenets of religion and morality. Randolph said he was proud to bring HB1113, which makes it a felony to force a woman to have an abortion against her will, or to threaten a pregnant woman with harm that causes the death of an unborn child. He said the new measure strengthened human trafficking laws.

"We love being about to serve people and to serve the community," Randolph said. "One of the things I am most proud of that got passed this year... was HB1113, and this bill — those in the human trafficking area — believe this would be a great tool to combat that."

Contact Nathan Thompson at nathan.thompson@rapidcityjournal.com.

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