District 19 House candidates respond to questionnaireThe District 19 state House race includes Alan Fenner, D-Menno; Kyle Schoenfish, R-Scotland; and Stace Nelson, R-Fulton.
By: Staff reports, The Daily Republic
The District 19 state House race includes Alan Fenner, D-Menno; Kyle Schoenfish, R-Scotland; and Stace Nelson, R-Fulton.
District 19 includes a part of Bon Homme and all of Douglas, Hutchinson, Hanson and McCook counties. The top two vote-getters will win the district’s two House seats.
Following are the candidates’ responses to a questionnaire from The Daily Republic. They were allowed to write up to 250 words per response.
The election is Nov. 6
What personal qualities and or experiences make you a good choice for election to the Legislature?
FENNER: I have benefited from many experiences that I believe will help me serve the people of District 19 and South Dakota as a legislator. I have lived and worked in South Dakota all my life, growing up on a farm near Iroquois and farming near Menno since 1983. After attending South Dakota State University and earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees, I served as an agriculture teacher and FFA adviser in two South Dakota secondary school systems and later served on the statewide FFA Advisory Committee. I served on the South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council for 11 years; one as secretary/treasurer and two as chairman. Members of this council work together to invest soybean check-off money in programs and projects to best promote soybeans for South Dakota growers.
During the farm crisis in the mid-1980s, I was hired by the South Dakota Department of Agriculture to serve as an agricultural financial counselor. During this time, I met with numerous farmers to try to help them survive a period of high input costs and low farm prices. Over the years, I have also worked as a custom harvester, a factory welder, factory electrician and tractor mechanic. I have served on co-op and church boards and am currently serving on the foundation board at our church. Service as a teacher and board member has taught me a lot about the value of education in our lives and how to work and compromise with my peers toward a common goal.
SCHOENFISH: I am employed as an accountant at Schoenfish and Company in Parkston. I participate in audits for city governments, school districts, educational coops and water districts throughout the state of South Dakota, and also do income tax preparation. I work a lot with numbers and see how actions by government at all levels affect businesses and individuals. I am the treasurer of Capital Township in Hutchinson County. As township treasurer, I keep track of finances and also have worked on road issues. I raise a few dairy goats.
In high school I was active in 4-H, FFA, FCCLA and band. I received a degree in accounting and political science from Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell. At Dakota Wesleyan I was elected to the student senate as secretary and as treasurer, and ran cross country and track. I served as a legislative page for former representative Gary Jerke. I have received the endorsements of Gary Jerke, Elmer Bietz and Wilbur Foss, who all have served in the Legislature in our district. I am socially conservative and I am pro-life. I support gun rights. I will take the time to study the issues and make decisions based on evidence and on what will do the most good for South Dakota and District 19.
My parents are Randy and Loretta (Bauder) Schoenfish, of Scotland; and I have two sisters: Karla Schoenfish, of Tyndall, and Amy (Brian) Beran and their sons Braden and Max, of Tabor.
NELSON: I will always be that South Dakota country boy who learned honest hard work by throwing bales, scooping manure and working on the farm. It was the example of patriotism, public service and integrity that I learned from my father, a U.S. Army veteran, part-time farmer, and 32-year South Dakota State Trooper Doug Nelson Sr. that inspired me to join the Marine Corps. I gave 23 1/2 years of my life in service, to this country and people I love, as a U.S. Marine military policeman, criminal investigator, and as an NCIS agent. It was my honor, and great pleasure, to serve you across the world in that capacity. The extensive training, military, law enforcement and world experiences of my former career, coupled with five years of college completed while working full-time as an active duty Marine, as well as the successful last two years of serving as a representative in your Legislature, makes me eminently qualified to continue serving you as a representative for the new District 19. My lifetime of proven dedicated honest public service, together with my qualifications, make me the best choice to serve you in your Legislature.
Explain your stances on a few of the issues that you believe to be most important to your race.
FENNER: Education: We are underfunding education at all levels in our state and by doing so we are also losing our best and brightest students and teachers to other states. Over the last few years the amount of the state budget that funds education at all levels has dropped from 40 percent to less than 30 percent. Our students’ scores on national tests are still very good thanks to the dedication of South Dakota educators and administrators, but when we make cuts like that, students lose out on the intraand extracurricular programs that help make them wellrounded citizens. The fact that our teachers’ salaries rank dead last in the nation is an embarrassment that all South Dakotans should feel. We need to remedy this for the sake of our young people.
Open government: Where the public money and trust are involved, I believe that all governmental agencies must be wide open to public scrutiny. This has not always been the case here in South Dakota, though it is getting better. The new open government task force has formulated suggestions to aid the people’s right to know how their public officials make decisions and spend public funds. Legislators should consider these suggestions as they work to make it easier for South Dakotans to know what their government is doing.
Agriculture and small business: Family farms and small businesses have always been the backbone of South Dakota’s economy. They are vital to small towns and communities across our state.
SCHOENFISH: I believe education funding is one of the biggest issues facing South Dakota and our district. I will be a strong advocate for education. I have received the endorsement of the South Dakota Educator’s PAC. The law for education funding requires a 3 percent or a cost of inflation increase every year, whichever is less. In 2009-2010, schools received $4,805 per student; in 2012-2013 it is down to $4,491. Over 60 out of about 150 school districts are in opt-outs, which increases property taxes. High property taxes hurt businesses, farmers and low-income homeowners. In 2011, South Dakotans paid over $1 billion in property taxes. The state should adequately fund education so we don’t have such a high burden on property owners.
We need to protect and strengthen the small school factor, which gives extra dollars to schools with fewer than 600 kids. Small schools incur higher cost per student due to economies of scale. We should increase the base pay for teachers, who currently receive the lowest pay in the country, as well as other school employees who receive lower pay. Promote and encourage schools to have and keep extracurricular activities like FFA, FCCLA, band, vocal, debate and others. Allow for more local control of school districts where possible. Reject divisive measures like merit pay which not only lacks evidence of advancing student achievement but has been shown to have adverse effects. Collaboration among teachers and factors like small class sizes do more for student achievement.
NELSON: One of the important issues in any election is who is the best candidate that will truly serve the people. A legislator is supposed to be the voice of and represent the interests of the people that elect them, no one else. South Dakotans in District 19 deserve a committed public servant that they know will never sell them down the river for politics or to curry favor with special interests. Folks have seen over the last two years that service to the people in my district always comes first. I have proven that I truly work for and answer to the people in my district, not the executive branch, special interests, nor a state party. You deserve a legislator who is honest and completely dedicated to your best interests first, foremost and always. You deserve a legislator who makes themselves available to you. My record on Second Amendment, veterans, prolife and other conservative issues shows I am one of the top conservative legislators in South Dakota and truly dedicated to representing the conservative values of the great people of our district. Folks know that they will always get an honest, straightforward answer on bills or issues they are concerned with. I have handed out thousands of refrigerator magnets, business cards and pens with all my contact information, because you are the most important issue to me.
What is your vision for the future of your legislative district?
FENNER: District 19 has grown by almost a third after the Legislature adjusted the districts following the last census. Hanson and McCook counties were added in their entirety, a portion of Turner was deleted and the west half of Bon Homme became a part of District 21. Our district is now home to more than 22,000 South Dakotans living in roughly 2,500 square miles of rural landscape dotted with many small towns. We are fortunate that District 19 is home to many innovative farmers, ranchers and small businesses. Even after living through one of the worst drought years in our region’s history, they are making plans and are confident for next year. A rural district like ours does face some problems that our urban neighbors in Sioux Falls and Rapid City do not, like dealing with declining enrollment in some of our schools and getting enough money for townships and counties to build and repair roads and bridges. Access to medical care and long-term care are concerns for our aging rural population. My vision for District 19 includes working with our urban legislators to make life even better for all South Dakotans.
SCHOENFISH: District 19 is a rural district and the challenges facing small towns, small schools and family farms are important issues that need to be stood up for.
In the future I would like to see more young people staying or coming back to the rural communities. I would like to see fewer empty buildings on main streets and more businesses opening or expanding in small towns. Schools, nursing homes and hospitals/clinics are often the major employers in rural areas, which make education and Medicaid funding critical. Current Medicaid reimbursement rates are not enough to cover the cost of care provided. The state should promote renewable energy sources like wind, ethanol, biofuels and others. One example would be the ethanol blender pump program, which has been very successful.
Implementation of the online sales tax looks likely in the near future. Main street businesses are at a tax disadvantage to online retailers because online retailers do not have to collect sales tax. An online sales tax is expected to bring in at least $40 million a year to South Dakota. Taxes should be low and fair to all businesses.
The state needs to focus more resources on repairing roads at all levels, state, counties and townships. It costs much more to repair roads in poor conditions than roads in better conditions. The longer repairs are put off, the greater they cost in the future. Better road conditions reduce wear and tear on vehicles and help prevent accidents.
NELSON: Many South Dakotans are frustrated with what they see occurring within our government and are truly concerned for the future of our state and country. Many rightfully place the blame on double-talking politicians that have said one thing to get elected and do another once they are in office. We cannot let South Dakota be led down the same path and into the same problems we see overwhelming other states. A conscientious, dedicated public servant in office, working for the best interests of our district, is what we all need. I am that proven, honest public servant. I am committed to continuing to faithfully protect your liberties and serve the best interests of my fellow South Dakotans in District 19. I am dedicated to working in your Legislature for a future for our grandchildren that promotes opportunities, preserves our South Dakota values, and which our grandparents would be proud of.