SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Ahead of the November 8 election, KELOLAND News is speaking with the candidates for South Dakota’s lone spot in the United States House of Representatives.

Incumbent Dusty Johnson and Libertarian Collin Duprel visited the KELOLAND studios to discuss election integrity, inflation, student loan forgiveness and why they want to represent the people of South Dakota in our nation’s capital.

Dusty Johnson

Republican Dusty Johnson has served one term in the House of Representatives and is most proud of his Ocean Shipping Reform Act bill that he says was the largest reform of the nation’s shipping laws in a generation.

“It is already having a big impact on our supply chains,” Johnson said.

If re-elected, Johnson wants to focus on the $31 trillion deficit and government spending.

“I voted against every trillion-dollar social spending package of this administration,” Johnson said.

Switching gears to the recent attack on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi, Johnson said that nobody should be making light of what happened and that everyone should be disgusted and condemn the attack.

“We have a lot of political violence in this country, certainly more than we’ve had traditionally, and we see that it’s increasing,” Johnson said. “And it doesn’t just manifest itself in an attack on Paul Pelosi. A few years ago Republican Steve Scalise, he’s the number two Republican in the House– I serve with Steve– he was gunned down by another political extremist.”

Johnson said that both politicians and citizens should step up “their game” to make cities safer and make people feel better about being Americans.

On the 2020 election, Johnson said there is no doubt that President Joe Biden won the 2020 election.

“I’m glad that you’re asking but listen on January 6, I was on the record,” Johnson said. “This is not something South Dakotans need to wonder about; I voted to certify the results of the 2020 election.”

That being said, Johnson believes there are things that still need to be done to make our elections stronger but he reiterated that there is no evidence of wide-scale fraud.

“Joe Biden is the legitimate president of the United States of America,” Johnson said.

When asked whether he would support a Trump 2024 run, Johnson said he’s focused on the 2022 election, but he hopes the Republican primary for 2024 is “robust.”

“Let’s get a lot of people in these primaries; let’s have the conversation,” Johnson said. 

Turning to agriculture, Johnson said he’s proud to be a leading voice in the House on ag and meatpacking issues.

“We have passed out of the House, my Butcher Block Act, which puts $500 million into helping small and regional packers expand their capacity,” Johnson said. “Not the big four boys, but people smaller than that. That’s going to make for a far more competitive environment.”

When it comes to inflation, Johnson said there’s a three-pronged approach to reducing inflation.

“We know that the definition of inflation is too many dollars, chasing too few goods,” Johnson said. “Federal policy has made both halves of that equation worse.”

Johnson said the federal government overspent on COVID, sending trillions of dollars out into the streets.

“Secondly, energy affects the price of everything,” Johnson said.

Johnson said Biden has been wrong on energy and his decisions have cost this country.

“Which is why my plan to make sure that people have the ability to buy E-15, 15% ethanol, rather than just E-10 at the pump is gonna make a big difference on price provided we can get that done,” Johnson said.

Johnson went on to say that the workforce participation in the country is the lowest it’s been in decades.

“People have a tendency… to focus on the unemployment rate but that means you’ve got to be on unemployment insurance to count on that number,” Johnson said. “We shouldn’t focus just on people who are getting a UI check; we wanna focus on people who are getting checks from any other type of government program. We need those people to work; that’s how they’re going to improve their life.”

Johnson is in favor of term limits as long as they’re not too short and give more power to the executive branch.

“I think if you hit the right target, if you find the sweet spot, it’s gonna change the psychology of Washington. Remind these guys that nobody should go to Washington, D.C., for 40 years,” Johnson said. 

Johnson said that in addition to term limits, he supports holding members of Congress accountable. 

“I’ve been a real leader on a bill that says you cannot buy or sell stocks if you’re a member of Congress or a family member,” Johnson said. 

Johnson concluded his conversation by saying that Biden’s plan to forgive student loan debt is “absolutely terrible.”

“There is no doubt in my mind that it is going to make things a lot worse,” Johnson said

Johnson said that the decision is a slap in the face to anybody who has paid off their loans.

Collin Duprel

This election is Libertarian Collin Duprel’s first outing as a candidate for elected office and he wants to bring common sense to politics.

“This country has gotten pretty polarized over the last decade in the camps we’re in with whether we’re really far to the right or really far to the left, whether we’re deep Republicans or deep Democrats and what my candidacy does, it brings us back to a place where we can look at both sides of the issues and say that polarization doesn’t help but a little bit truer course down the middle might,” Duprel said.

When asked if he recognized the legitimacy of the 2020 election results, Duprel quickly answered, “Yes.”

Duprel believes less government spending would help inflation.

“The only way we reduce inflation is by empowering the American dollar. We can’t keep shipping billions and billions of dollars overseas and spending it on programs that never benefit Americans when a lot of them can’t even afford to pay their rent,” Duprel said.

He’d like to see term limits in place for federal legislative positions.

“I would make term limits be so that a House of Representatives member, like the office I am seeking, could only serve in that term for six years, two-year terms. And then you could only be in the Senate for two terms, six years each again,” Duprel said.

While he believes people go to Washington, D.C. with the best of intentions, he feels the longer they are there, the more likely they are to be corrupted by political lobbyists, money and power.

“I think that we fight back against that corruption by bringing new blood in all the time with the best ideas to represent the people,” Duprel said.

He’s also proposing something he calls the Blue Collar Politicians Act. It would require salaries for Congress and the President to match the average salary of the people they represent.

“The average South Dakotan only makes $60,000 a year and if we match that salary to their representatives, then we would have representatives who understood the world that their people lived in.  When they’re making two, three, four times as much as the average person who votes for them, they have no idea what that quality of life is like,” Duprel said.

While Duprel doesn’t think student loan forgiveness is the worst plan, he doesn’t approve of President Biden pushing a plan on his own. He would rather have Congress be part of the debate as he believes there is a need to overhaul the student loan system.

“The interest loans that have been charged to students have been predatory and they’re forced on 17 and 18-year-old kids as soon as they’re getting done with high school. And they don’t really feel like they have another option,” Duprel.

He wants to see tech schools promoted along with on the job training. He says he does see how a student loan forgiveness program could have an economic impact for those with debt.

“The economic upside of that might be that they’re injecting that money back into the economy and that they’re buying homes and houses and cars and everything else that they could then purchase instead of always trying to cover that interest for a student loan that was predatory to begin with,” Duprel said.

Duprel is not in favor of funding the war in Ukraine anymore.

“It’s not a matter of empathy, it’s a matter of reality. And it’s like we talked about earlier, my platform is ending foreign financial aid completely. I empathize with Ukraine, but I do not think it is our war to fight,” Duprel said. “We’ve got to make the hard choices and recognize that as a nation, we cannot afford the burden of the rest of the world’s problems anymore.

When it comes to health care in America, he’d like to see doctors lead the way.

“I don’t think the federal government ought to be able to come into your doctor’s office and tell you what you can do with your body, whether it is continuing a pregnancy or taking a vaccine. When you open that door, it’s not going to be closed again,” Duprel said.

He says the U.S. needs mandatory country of origin labeling for beef.

“Ranchers have asked for it for decades and our elected officials continue to ignore them,” Duprel said.

Duprel says the big four beef packers–Tyson, JBS, National Beef and Cargill–control more than 80% of the beef market and inflate the prices to make what they want.

“We need to strengthen those antitrust laws. Make sure that these big beef packers are being competitive again and not using corporate monopolies to push out the little guy,” Duprel said.

If elected to the U.S. House, he’s committed to visiting the border within 60 days to talk with law enforcement, immigrants and people who live on both sides of the border.

“We need to make sure that we have a secure border. That’s pretty basic because human rights abuses will occur in this country if we encourage illegal immigrants to come across undocumented,” Duprel said.

He’d like to see changes to the immigration process.

“We need to expedite the process for people to come here legally and make it easier for them to come here legally if they don’t have a criminal history because we want them to become taxpayers in our society. We want them to contribute to our society,” Duprel said.

Election Day is November 8.