Matt McGovern announces bid for state PUCSIOUX FALLS — Matt McGovern, who carries one of the most prominent names in South Dakota history, is making his first official bid for elected office.
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
SIOUX FALLS — Matt McGovern, who carries one of the most prominent names in South Dakota history, is making his first official bid for elected office.
McGovern, the grandson of Mitchell native George McGovern, announced Monday he is seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination to run for the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission.
The seat is now held by Republican Kristie Fiegen. It carries a six-year term.
“I am running for the Public Utilities Commission because we need commissioners who will stand up for consumers not corporations,” McGovern said. “It is time for the PUC to serve the people of South Dakota and not the companies they are supposed to regulate.
“I will be an independent voice in Pierre and refuse to accept campaign contributions from the utilities the PUC regulates or lobbyists.”
McGovern needs to be nominated by the South Dakota Democratic Party during its convention in Aberdeen in June.
“As far as I know, there’s no one else who will run against me,” he said.
Steve Kolbeck, who was the only Democrat to hold a constitutional office, resigned from the PUC in 2010 and was replaced by former secretary of state Chris Nelson, a Republican who was appointed to the seat by Gov. Dennis Daugaard.
McGovern, 40, said he has decided this is the year to fully enter politics.
In the past, his name had been mentioned as a possible candidate for other offices.
“I’m real excited about it. A lot of people have been telling me I should run for something someday,” he said. “I think the Public Utilities Commission can really make a difference for South Dakotans reducing their bills and growing the economy.”
McGovern said he feels he can make a difference.
“There’s a lot of impact on South Dakotans on who’s on the PUC,” he said. “I think the voters trust Democrats a little more to look out for the consumers and not the corporations the PUC regulates.”
McGovern has been a longtime advocate for South Dakota’s wind industry and the new jobs that clean energy creates in the state. As a law student, he worked in a prosecutor’s office and for the U.S. Department of Justice. McGovern came to South Dakota after law school to work for the U.S. District Court in Rapid City.
McGovern, a Sioux Falls attorney, said he has represented working people, small business owners and people developing South Dakota’s wind industry.
He has also stood up for South Dakota ranchers defending their property rights in court, he said.
He said his grandfather, who served two terms in the U.S. House and three in the U.S. Senate, has offered advice and encouragement.
Matt McGovern said his first political memory is touring South Dakota during George McGovern’s 1980 campaign for the Senate.
“He’s given me some advice. I’ve learned a lot from him,” Matt McGovern said. “He’s just encouraged me to get to and talk to as many voters as I can and just listen to what they say.”
The son of George and Eleanor McGovern’s daughter Susan, he was born in 1972 as Matthew McGovern-Rowen but said he has been called Matt McGovern by friends and family most of his life.
He has legally changed his name to Matt McGovern.
McGovern said he doesn’t view this race as a chance to jump-start a political career that could lead to higher office.
“I wouldn’t say that,” he said. “I’m going to be the underdog even to get elected to the PUC.
“I’m excited about this campaign and I’m looking forward to hearing from South Dakotans from all across the state about what they want from their elected officials in Pierre.”