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Nelson, Schoenfish win in District 19

Stace Nelson1 / 2
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Republicans Stace Nelson and Kyle Schoenfish were awarded their party's nomination Tuesday for the state House in District 19.

The two defeated long-time legislator Sen. Jim Putnam, 72, of Armour, and Roger Hofer, 59, of Bridgewater, in the district's Republican primary.

Nelson and Schoenfish will appear on the ballot for the Nov. 6 general election, along with Democratic candidate Alan Fenner, of Menno.

Each party is allowed two candidates for the House and one for the Senate on the general election ballot. A primary election is held if more than two candidates of the same party file for the House.

Nelson, 45, of Fulton, received 1,494 votes, or 34 percent of the vote, and Schoenfish, 24, of Scotland, received 1,299 votes, or 30 percent.

With 1,129 votes cast for Putnam, or 26 percent, the legislator who has served District 19 since 1987 came up 170 votes short of being given the chance to return to Pierre for another term. Hofer garnered 11 percent, or 469 votes.

District 19 includes Hanson, McCook, Douglas and Hutchinson counties, and part of Bon Homme County.

Nelson said he was humbled and thankful for those who cast a vote for him.

A former Marine and retired Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent, Nelson announced in April he would be running for the House in District 19 after representing District 25 during the last legislative session. District 25 included Hanson and McCook counties, and a mostly rural portion of Minnehaha County, before redistricting changed the state's legislative borders late last year.

Nelson won handily in Hanson and McCook counties, receiving 59 and 46 percent of the vote in the counties, respectively.

"I will work hard to deserve that confidence, and I will do my best to continue to work for them in everything I do in the South Dakota Legislature," he said.

Nelson's outspokenness and large physical stature garnered him lots of media attention during the most recent legislative session. In one widely reported story, he accused House Republican leader David Lust, of Rapid City, and House Speaker Val Rausch, R-Big Stone City, of asking for confidential information about other legislators' bills.

Schoenfish, who said he considered himself an underdog in the primary, said he felt honored by the result.

"I did well in the areas I needed to do well in and held my own in some of the places I wasn't quite as well known," he said.

Schoenfish ran as a Democratic candidate for House in District 19 in 2010 but lost to fellow Democrat Frank Kloucek, of Scotland, and Republican Edward Van Gerpen, of Avon. He registered as a Republican this year.

He attributed part of his success in the primary to his stances on education and health care, but also felt voters were looking for a change.

"Having a new voice up there is what people were looking for," he said.

Schoenfish won the overall vote in Hutchinson County, with 627 votes, or 40 percent, and won in District 19's five precincts in Bon Homme County, with 190 votes, or 46 percent.

Despite being disappointed in the loss, Putnam was in good spirits after the results were reported.

"I think it's been a pretty good run for 26 years, but of course I would have liked another win," he said.

He was pleased with his effort during the campaign.

"I'm a relatively content person," he said. "I give it all I can give it, and I accept it."

Though he has no specific plans, he said he wasn't ruling out running for office again in the future. For now, he said he will focus on helping District 19's new Republican candidates for the House.

"I'll call them and wish them the best, and when we get to it, I'll put their signs in my yard," Putnam said.

Both Nelson and Schoenfish extended their thanks Tuesday night to Putnam for his years of service in the Legislature.

Putnam runs a promotional advertising business in Armour.

Hofer, a farmer in rural Bridgewater, was frank in his appraisal of the results of the primary.

"I got beat. Really bad."

He said it will almost certainly be the last time he runs for office of any kind.

Republican voter turnout varied from county to county in District 19. In Hanson County, turnout was 26 percent; in McCook County, 29 percent; in Hutchinson County, 30 percent; in Douglas, 42 percent; and in the District 19 portion of Bon Homme County, 21 percent.

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