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The Next Trail

July 11, 2012, 10:00 PM by David Brown

The Next Trail

It's been a little more than a month since the South Dakota primary whittled the field down for November's general election. But after a long campaign season, how are local politicians gearing up for the next race in just a few months?

There are giant steps District 13 House candidate Mark Mickelson needs to make before November and not just because of his last name.

"I like going door-to-door, I like meeting people and I like exploring the neighborhoods," Mickelson said.

But for now, his campaign signs and t-shirts sit in his office conference room, leftover from his vigorous two-month campaign and victory in the District 13 house primary

"I've been getting caught up on a lot of family activities," Mickelson said. "I've been catching a lot of my kids' baseball games."

"I'm taking the kids to soccer practice and baseball practice, baseball games," District 9 Senate candidate Deb Peters said.

But fair or foul, the political game starts up again very soon for both Mickelson and Peters. Mickelson says there's never a point where he isn't thinking about November's general election. But he wants to enjoy his summer, and he thinks the public does as well.

"If someone showed up on my door today asking for a vote in November, I'd say, 'Thanks for stopping.  Make sure to check back a little closer to the election,'" Mickelson said.

"There is a lot of voter burnout, especially in some heightened districts," Peters said.

The key for both Peters and Mickelson is finding the balance between relaxing and making sure they're ready to hit the ground running once the summer ends.

"You kind of always think about it and I think you get real active after Labor Day," Mickelson said.

David Brown: Have you figured out what you can do between primary season and election season?
Peters: Yes, raise money. That's the big thing right now is raising money.

Money may talk, but the focus is always on listening. That's why Mickelson and Peters are using this time to research what's important to their constituents.

"We continue to educate ourselves on the issues and meet with some of the experts on education and Medicaid and health care funding," Mickelson said.

"There's a lot of learning this time of year, a lot of interim summer studies in the legislature," Peters said. "So, there's a lot of stuff going on outside the public eye."

As a veteran of the legislature, Peters knows when to get in gear. But she's also weary of getting too relaxed.

"There's never really a time you can put your guard down completely," Peters said.

As for Mickelson, a newcomer to the political game, there's a bit more preparation.

"We do have a plan and we're fine-tuning it, putting the details around the plan," Mickelson said. "But we know how many doors we're going to go hit; we know the types of voters we're going to talk to. Our message isn't going to change; we're running for the same reasons we're running for in the spring."

In the end, the June 5 primary was more than a month ago.

"It was a big deal on June 6 and come June 7, it was gone.  It was done," Mickelson said.

And the winners from that day can't dwell on the past if they want to repeat their success in the future.

"The unknowns, we've dealt with them," Mickelson said. "We've planned for them; we've executed on them. And so, now, we're just changing them a little bit for a general election."

Mickelson says one of the things he doesn't have to worry about is the cosmetic side of campaigning. His brochures, logos and ads have already been established during the primary, so now he can focus on the more fundamental aspects of the job.

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