We asked North and South Dakota candidates for federal or statewide positions to tell how they would serve rural places. Here are the responses from those who answered our request.
As the population of many rural areas in the Dakotas has shrunk, the political voice of the residents of these places has often been diminished as well. How will you, as an elected official, respond to the needs of the rural places you represent? How will you work to make rural communities stronger and more vibrant?
Our state is experiencing the largest economic boom in the country right now, and while infrastructure development lags behind, it is starting to catch up. The population is declining in some areas, but rapidly expanding in others. Both energy and agriculture industries are growing, but we need to ensure that continues on a long-term basis, and in doing so produce more wealth in our rural counties. On a federal level that means rolling back the mountains of red tape and regulations that President Obama has piled onto ag and energy producers and small businesses, unnecessarily pushing up the costs and complexities of doing business. We need a predictable regulatory environment along with a stable tax structure that attracts investments. We also need to promote the development of all our energy resources, creating energy security and driving down the high fuel costs that can cripple agricultural producers and rural residents.
I grew up in Casselton and have spent most of my career living and working in small towns of North Dakota. The economic security of rural communities is very personal to me. I honestly believe that when our rural agricultural communities flourish, the rest of our economy will too.
In North Dakota, the oil boom is revitalizing many communities with economic opportunities and an influx of people. But with these opportunities also come challenges—from overcrowded schools to crumbling roads, our rural communities are changing, and not necessarily all for the better. I have fought and will continue fighting for the fair distribution of tax revenues to not only protect rural life, but also enhance and expand rural services.
My commitment is to the people—not to an industry, not to a party. That means I will work across the aisle to ensure that rural communities that helped build and shape our state remain prosperous.
No response from Jack Seaman.
As an attorney practicing in North Dakota, I know that the need for legal services in rural areas is critical. Often people in these areas don’t have access to legal services for civil cases such as family law, housing, and income maintenance. These communities have nowhere to turn for help. I would develop access to legal services by promoting solo and small firms in these communities. Every year new lawyers graduate from law school, and we should recruit these passionate and educated individuals into our rural communities.
The attorney general, as a member of the Industrial Commission, is on the board of the State Bank of North Dakota. In that capacity, I would introduce loan forgiveness programs for student loans and low-interest loans for solo and small-firm law offices. This would encourage and inspire the next generation of attorneys to settle and start businesses in rural communities.
No response from Wayne Stenehjem.
Secretary of State
No response from Al Jaeger, April Fairfield or Roland Reimers.
Greater efficiency in agriculture means fewer people are involved in the production of food, feed, fiber and fuel, resulting in out-migration from our state and rural communities. Although agriculture supports almost 25 percent of North Dakota’s workforce, it can actually generate more jobs.
The adoption of precision agriculture means more opportunities for service providers, such as computer programmers and technicians, diesel technicians, mechanical engineers, agronomists, logistic personnel, chemical applicators, implement manufacturers and more. A more efficient agricultural economy also requires more infrastructure—sewer, water, roads, and railroad services—which in turn create more jobs supporting vibrant rural communities.
Help is available. The Pride of Dakota program helps small businesses expand and develop markets for their products. Specialty crop block grants support research and development of new crops supporting more diversity and more jobs. We can have a more efficient agriculture and still grow our rural communities.
Agriculture is our top industry, and we need an agriculture commissioner who’ll stand up for the values that make us special. Having served anexpansive rural district in the state Senate for 10 years, I have seen firsthand the value of a strong rural advocate.
As a family rancher with a hometown of fewer than 600 people, I understand the challenges facing rural North Dakotans, because I live them. As an author and speaker, my ability to advocate for rural communities is sorely needed as we change and our rural economy evolves.
Our agriculture commissioner has many opportunities to strengthen the rural economy, overseeing economic partners like the State Bank of North Dakota and Housing Finance Agency, in addition to a seat on the Water Commission. Vibrant rural communities depend on agriculture’s success and investments that come from a leader who’ll make the case convincingly, and I will do just that.
I would do a better job of communicating to rural communities about the various programs designed to help them that go largely untapped. I’d also lobby to lower or eliminate ALL income taxes, push for a statewide consumption tax, and support efforts to use surplus funds to build state infrastructure. I’d like to see tax incentives for teachers, medical professionals, and business owners who choose to live in smaller communities. Oil has been good to our state, but it has also brought pollution and crime for which the oil companies need to take some responsibility. Oil has also purchased and corrupted our elected officials (just check their biggest donors!). As a Libertarian, we favor getting money out of government and ending fraud and waste wherever we see it. As a business owner and technology/communications expert I could transform the office into a sleek, modern office that serves ALL North Dakotans.
No response from Ryan Rauschenberger or Jason Astrup.
Public Service Commissioner
Regular election candidates:
I grew up in Bottineau, traveled the world as a U.S. Marine, and returned home to raise my family and serve my neighbor.
As chairman of the Public Service Commission (PSC), I have a responsibility to serve the needs of all North Dakotans, but I must admit that rural N.D. has a special place in my heart.
The energy boom in our state has created opportunity for growth in rural N.D. that hasn’t been seen for decades. We must do our best to find that balance between energy development and agriculture. My priorities are pipeline safety, enhanced telecommunications, and emergency response capability. Pipelines, properly constructed, and maintained, provide the safest way to move energy. The more energy moved by pipeline frees up truck and rail to move agricultural products. High-speed internet provides farmers and rural-based businesses the ability to reach customers around the state, nation, and world.
Finally, the PSC works with our “first responders” to make sure we all understand what is moving in our state. It is vital that the responders have the training and equipment to meet the challenges.
No response from Todd Reisenauer.
Special election candidates:
North Dakota has unprecedented opportunities to help rural communities not just survive but thrive. Rural communities are a precious component of our culture and quality of life, and I am very committed to giving residents from rural North Dakota a voice. I am doing that already in two key ways as a Public Service Commissioner:
1. The N.D. Public Service Commission holds public hearings in communities impacted by potential industrial projects. I consider every concern expressed and adjust projects whenever possible to ensure that they exist in harmony with the neighbors impacted. I am committed to listening to the people I serve.
2. I am working with a coalition of state, local and legislative officials to use North Dakota’s extensive natural gas resources for the benefit of communities not currently connected with natural gas. This has huge impacts for long-term economic growth and is a way to spread the wealth of the energy economy to places in rural eastern, central and southern North Dakota that are not realizing as many economic benefits.
No response from Tyler Axness.
As I traveled to all 311 incorporated S.D. towns during my campaign, I came away convinced that small towns are the backbone of our state. Both Congress and the president have ignored the needs of rural America, and as a result, there are tremendous challenges facing South Dakota small towns. If rural America is going to survive, we have to change course.
Here’s part of what I’m proposing:
Expand use of ethanol 30: E-30 is safe, cost-effective, better for the environment and a great market for corn producers. I will fight Big Oil and the EPA to expand the use of this product.
Put a moratorium on rural post office closures: The post office is vital to small towns and rural seniors. I will fight to protect rural post offices and Saturday mail service.
Reform the farm commodity program: Too many Farm Bill dollars go to huge, corporate producers who don’t need them. The program should be a safety net for family-scale farms not a pay-out to corporations.
No response from Mike Rounds, Larry Pressler or Gordon Howie.
Many people don’t understand rural America, how we drive 20 miles to get groceries or figure out what to eat without pizza delivery. But I do. I was born here, raised here, raised my children here and plan to grow old here. And I am really proud of that. I also understand there are unique challenges rural families, businesses and schools face. Ensuring broadband reaches into every community is important, as it can expand educational opportunities and improve access to health care. Keeping federal bureaucrats from telling us how to ranch and farm is a continuous struggle. Ensuring our agriculture economy has the proper safety nets to stay healthy is critical. I will continue working to address these challenges and preserve our way of life, so my children and yours can share in the tradition of life in rural America.
I will support legislation and grants to ensure under-funded and understaffed ambulance services can more effectively reach small populations and transport patients to local hospitals and tertiary centers, that tertiary health care centers who receive large amounts of federal funding and endowments are required to help recruit doctors to small communities, provide telemedicine technology, specialty outreach, home health, and hospice care.
I will work to ensure that there is reliable rail service, that ranchers can get fair prices for livestock, and that the minimum wage is increased. I will support raising teachers’ salaries in order to retain current teachers and recruit new ones to save our local schools. I will also work to ensure that Internet companies and cellphone companies bring current technology to rural areas so that they can be competitive in attracting new business.
There’s much to do, and I can get ’er done!
I grew up in a rural area and my home is still the family farm my grandparents homesteaded over 100 years ago between Garretson and Dell Rapids. I know firsthand the challenges of small, rural communities.
That’s why my administration has continued Capital for a Day. I’ve brought my staff and Cabinet to Canton, Onida, Volga, Hill City, Britton, DeSmet,
Viborg, Lead/Deadwood, Flandreau, Wall and Parkston to tour the community, meet with officials and hear from constituents.
Over the last four years, I have worked to improve the quality of life in rural areas and will continue to listen to their opportunities and challenges. Rural communities have benefited from Community Development Block Grants, the Building South Dakota fund and workforce development dollars. With the Legislature, I expanded programs to bring doctors and other health care providers to rural areas, and I signed legislation to do the same for attorneys.
I’ve met with mayors and business leaders from all over the state to find ways the state can work with communities, or stay out of the way. South Dakota’s small communities and they are important and I will continue to work hard for them.
My platform is built on three planks: Good education, good health care and good government.
Education is our most important investment in the future. Today’s evolving information technology can deliver to rural communities the same level of information provided within major universities.
Health care: As the former CEO of the Mayo/St. Mary’s hospital in Rochester MN, I am well-qualified to convert the Affordable Care Act to a rural health insurance co-op model implementing Mayo Clinic utilization standards. Also, I will support Medicaid expansion with priority for long-term care.
Good government: South Dakota has been identified as the second- or third-most corrupt state in the nation. The corruption has impacted our rural counties and communities. As governor, one of my first acts will be to appoint a special independent prosecutor to investigate the EB-5 scandal.
As a footnote, I will replace the “Governors Hunt” with the “Peoples Hunt.”
No response from Susan Wismer.
Marty J. Jackley
As South Dakota’s attorney general, it is my responsibility to work with law enforcement authorities to protect our communities through reasonable prosecutions and crime prevention efforts. This public safety responsibility is especially important in our rural areas when local authorities may be facing resource limitations. South Dakota does an excellent job of sharing and joining resources to assist rural authorities. This starts with our certification process that brings officers from large and small departments together for training. We utilize task force operations in large and small communities to address drug abuse and the sexual exploitation of children. We provide direct resources through our drug control and 24/7 alcohol sobriety programs. From a law enforcement perspective, the voice of rural South Dakota is and will remain well-represented by our sheriffs, police chiefs, local prosecutors, and an attorney general that grew up in and appreciates the needs of rural South Dakota.
Jackley is running unopposed.
Secretary of State
As an elected official, it’s my responsibility to make sure every constituent’s voice is heard and represented equally. One of my goals in running a successful Secretary of State’s Office is a rededication to customer service.
We need a system that’s easy to use for all South Dakotans, whether they’re living in a city or on a farm or ranch in a remote corner of the state. As chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee and growing up on a farm, I know how important the business side of ag is, and we must strive to help, not hinder success.
Not everyone has the same technology, so while it’s important to have the best, automated systems, it’s just as vital to have a live person available to assist whenever possible.
Feedback on which functions of the office work well and which need adjustment is crucial. I’ll practice our state motto that “Under God, the People Rule”; all of them.
No response from Angelia Schultz or Lori Stacey.
It has been my pleasure to serve the citizens of South Dakota as their state treasurer. As an elected official, it is imperative to ensure all citizens have access to their government, and that is why I work to bring services to our rural communities. As the administrator of the Unclaimed Property Division I use weekly newspapers, the Internet and local fairs and events to reach our rural citizens. In addition, I am a strong advocate of local government and to that end I work closely with our city and county officials to bring the services the State Treasurer’s Office provides into our local communities. As your state treasurer I will use innovative methods to reach our rural communities as these are the backbone of our state. Serving on the State Investment Council, I support the CD Program so our local banks have access to funds for rural economic development.
No response from Denny Pierson.
Commissioner of School and Public Lands
The Office of School and Public Lands manages 760,000 acres of trust lands in S.D. and gives the revenue to schools. We rely on our lessees in rural areas to be the stewards of our land and provide a revenue source for education. I grew up in Nisland, S.D. (population 234), on a family farm/feedlot operation and I appreciate the needs of rural communities. As commissioner, I will work with our 1,200 lease holders to ensure we provide great customer service for their needs. I will also spend time in the field instead of the office to be accessible to our lessees and rural communities. If economic development opportunities involve state trust lands I will be a willing partner in opportunities to make our rural communities stronger and more vibrant. I would appreciate your support and be happy to listen to any suggestions.
Brunner is running unopposed.