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Hopefuls in place for SD’s US Senate seat

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news Mitchell, 57301
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

Five Republicans, one Democrat and one independent have been approved to appear on the ballot for the South Dakota U.S. Senate seat to be vacated by Tim Johnson.

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Sioux Falls physician Annette Bosworth’s campaign submitted 2,750 signatures to Secretary of State Jason Gant’s office Tuesday before the 5 p.m. deadline, said Patrick Davis, a consultant working with the campaign. Gant approved the petitions on Wednesday.

Former Gov. Mike Rounds is the most prominent Republican name in a crowded party field that also includes Yankton attorney and Army Reserves Maj. Jason Ravnsborg and state lawmakers Larry Rhoden, of Union Center, and Stace Nelson, of Fulton.

Jon Schaff, a political science professor at Northern State University, said it’s no surprise that the Republican ticket has drawn five candidates. He said the state’s electorate heavily leans GOP and there’s a perception that this will be a Republican year.

“I think there are a lot of Republicans who feel like if they get the nomination, they’ll likely be favored to win,” Schaff said. “That’s going to bring more people out to run for the office.”

Rick Weiland, a Sioux Falls restaurant owner who once served as a staffer for former U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle, is the lone Democratic candidate.

Former Republican U.S. Sen. Larry Pressler, who served two terms in the House followed by three Senate terms from 1975 to 1997, is running as an independent.

Johnson announced last March that he was retiring from the Senate seat he has held since 1996, when he beat Pressler in the general election.

The Republican primary will be held on Tuesday, June 3.

Rounds, 59, served as South Dakota’s governor from 2003 to 2011 after spending 10 years in the state Senate. He is also chief executive of an insurance and real estate agency. Rounds says that as governor, he helped the state grow its economy while keeping taxes low.

Nelson, 46, served in the U.S. Marines from 1985 to 1999 and was a special agent in the Naval Criminal Investigative Service from 1999 to 2008. The self-described semi-retired hobby farmer said he is the most conservative of the Republican candidates.

Rhoden, 55, a rancher and custom welder from Union Center in sparsely populated western South Dakota, has been a longtime leader in the South Dakota Legislature. He’s running on a platform to reduce taxes, cut spending and repeal the new health care law. He also opposes abortion and gay marriage.

Ravnsborg, 37, is a major in the U.S. Army Reserves and has been deployed to Germany, Iraq and Afghanistan. He helped run a NATO military base in Afghanistan and says his military service has given him a solid foreign affairs background.

Bosworth, 42, operates a Sioux Falls-based private practice called Meaningful Medicine and is new to politics. Bosworth said she wants to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care law, reduce spending and fight government intrusion.

Weiland, 55, is unopposed, so he’s been able to spend his time traveling to hundreds of small towns across the state. He says he wants to fight for working families and against special interests. Rather than appeal the health care law, Weiland has proposed that citizens of any age be allowed to buy into Medicare, which now is generally open only to people 65 and older, as an alternative to private health insurance plans.

Pressler, a 72-year-old Humboldt native and Rhodes scholar who now lectures at universities across the globe, describes himself as a “passionate centrist” or moderate conservative.” He says he wants to return to Congress to fight partisan bickering and gridlock, and if elected he’ll serve just one term to eliminate the influence of special-interest money.

Nearly 235,000 of South Dakota’s more than 508,000 registered voters are listed as Republicans as of March 13, according to records from the South Dakota Secretary of State’s office. About 176,000 are listed as Democrats and more than 95,000 are listed as independent or having no party affiliation.

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