KELOLAND News is helping you get to know the candidates on November’s ballot better.
Republican Dusty Johnson, Democrat Tim Bjorkman, Independent Ron Wieczorek and Libertarian George Hendrickson are running for South Dakota’s U.S. House of Representatives seat. For more information about all four candidates, KELOLAND News sent out a survey with a variety of questions. Each candidate got the same questions and we’ve provided their unedited responses below.
George Hendrickson has not yet responded; we’ll update this story when he submits answers. Ron Wieczorek refused to participate.
Name: Dusty Johnson
Family: Wife (Jacquelyn) and three sons (Max, Ben, Owen)
Occupation: Vice president at a telecommunications engineering firm in Mitchell
What were the best and worst parts of your first job? Best: Earning money and learning job skills. Worst: Having to gift wrap the presents people purchased; I was terrible at it.
Why are you running for office? I’m running for office because it still matters who runs this country. Our citizens deserve officials who focus on making progress, rather than on making political points, and I have a track record of getting things done.
What issue do you consider your top priority? 1. Building coalitions with members of Congress who want to get something done, 2. Passing the Farm Bill, and 3. Making progress on our national debt.
What is an issue that is important that doesn’t get the attention you think it deserves? Cybersecurity — we have many enemies who seek to do us harm and we need to be vigilant against their attacks.
Who is a person from the opposite political party who you respect? I respect almost every SD Democratic office holder with whom I’ve worked. I may have profound disagreements with them, but most of them worked hard and cared about our state and nation. Bernie Hunhoff, Paul Dennert, and Jim Peterson are examples of people who were gentlemen about disagreeing without being disagreeable. I’ve tried (usually with success) to do the same.
What is one fact about yourself you think would be a surprise to voters? As a junior in high school I purchased a retail store a block off main street. It was a fun but challenging experience to juggle school, extracurricular activities, the store, and two other jobs.
What is your favorite place in South Dakota? Custer State Park
Name: Tim Bjorkman
Family: Wife Kay, sons James, Johns, Sam and Seth
Occupation: Lawyer, former circuit court judge, and former member of the South Dakota Board of Pardons and Paroles.
What were the best and worst parts of your first job? I sacked potatoes for the IGA Grocery in Kimball when I was 12. The best part: The pay, 50 cents an hour, and what I learned. The worst part: There was always a rotten potato in the container so the smell was a challenge.
Why are you running for office? When our first granddaughter was born, I was in the midst of writing a law-review article on the life factors that cause a person to end up in prison. I saw for years from the bench the societal ills that much of the political left and right argue over but never really identify let alone address because they lack the political will to do it. And, as I looked into my first granddaughter’s eyes, my wife Kay and I had to honestly ask ourselves what kind of America we will leave behind for her and her generation if we continue to trust our government and children’s future to politicians seemingly more interested in a Washington career than in the next generation. I think this is a time that calls for less partisanship in Congress and more problem-solving, both strengths I bring to Congress.
What issue do you consider your top priority? We need to work in a bipartisan way to lower healthcare costs — now twice those of other developed countries, and work to ensure every sick person can again afford to see a doctor. The lack of access to healthcare is the real culprit holding people out of the workforce who are too sick to work; its costs are holding down wages as employers dedicate more and more to premiums, and fewer employers offer coverage. It is the chief problem manufacturers face selling their goods internationally because they have to drag the high costs of American healthcare into every product they build and market. And healthcare costs paid for by the federal government have reached $1.65 trillion annually. If we could get our costs in line with other nations, we could cover everyone and balance the budget, as Forbes Magazine has noted.
What is an issue that is important that doesn’t get the attention you think it deserves? Reform in Congress. We won’t get lower healthcare costs until we push back against Big Pharma, which keeps Congress from authorizing Medicare to use its bulk purchasing power from negotiating drug prices and from allowing drugs patented in this country from being imported back so we can pay costs closer to other nations instead of the 2 or 7, even 10 times what other nations pay. That begins with electing candidates to Congress who won’t take the PAC dollars. That’s why I refuse any PAC, Super PAC, corporation, and national political party money. And I support a host of related reforms: a term limits amendment; a law prohibiting Congress from fundraising while in session, and a ban on the corrupt practice of leaders charging members of Congress money known as dues to serve on committees, and based on how lucrative the committees are for fundraising.
Who is a person from the opposite political party who you respect? Historically, Abraham Lincoln. Living, John Kasich, Ohio governor.
What is one fact about yourself you think would be a surprise to voters? Some might know that I authored a book of South Dakota and American history, a biography set in the Great Depression, “Verne Sankey: America’s First Public Enemy,” published by the University of Oklahoma Press in 2007. Few likely know I have competed in USA Masters Track and Field and am a two-time Masters All-American, once in the Pentathlon and also in the Indoor 60 Meter Dash.
What is your favorite place in South Dakota? As our four sons were growing up, we tried to make sure we spent time there every summer to let them enjoy as we did its beauty, serenity and rugged majesty. I’m always so amazed — and proud — to think of the park and the entire Black Hills as a part of South Dakota!