All three District 20 Republican incumbents re-electedMike Vehle, Lance Carson and Tona Rozum best challengers in legislative races.
By: Tom Lawrence and Ross Dolan , The Daily Republic
All three District 20 Republican incumbents were easily re-elected to office Tuesday.
In the Senate race, voters returned Mitchell Republican Mike Vehle to office with 5,731 votes to 4,323 votes for Democratic challenger Quinten Burg, of Wessington Springs. That’s a 57-43 percent margin.
In the House race, Republicans Lance Carson and Tona Rozum outdistanced Democrats James Schorzmann and Dave Mitchell. All four are from Mitchell.
Carson received 5,839 votes and Rozum 5,270, to Schorzmann’s 3,924 votes and Mitchell’s 3,233. Carson earned 32 percent, Rozum 29 percent, Schorzmann 21 percent and Mitchell 18 percent.
Vehle, Carson and Rozum all earned two-year terms.
Early Tuesday, Vehle expressed worries that negative campaigning by the state Democratic Party might affect his chances. Even at 10 p.m., he was reluctant to accept the victor’s mantle.
“I’m really grateful for all the support I’ve received from voters in District 20 to give me the privilege and opportunity to return to Pierre,” he said. “I want everyone to know, whether you voted for me or not, that I am your state senator and I’m always willing to listen.”
Vehle, a retired banker who also worked in the feed and seed business, earned his third term in the state Senate after two in the House.
Burg, a farmer/rancher, said it was unlikely state Democrats were going to make headway against a strong Republican majority.
“I knew it was going to be an uphill battle the whole way,” Burg said.
“While I was campaigning, I heard a lot of people say they were dissatisfied with Mike (Vehle),” he said with a laugh, “but obviously they were not that dissatisfied.”
Burg said he knew that a candidate from a smaller county would have a tough fight, but he said he wishes his opponent well.
“I’d like to congratulate Mike on running a good race,” he said.
Carson, a retired businessman, admitted he was “excited” by the results, but said he also had another emotion.
“I’m very humbled that the people in District 20 re-elected me and want me to represent them in Pierre,” he said. “I went out and worked hard and did all the right things, and I think it shows I did the right things to get elected.”
Carson has said his fourth term will be his final one, as he is term-limited in the House and he has no plans to try to move over to the Senate. But he said he has goals for the next two years.
“I think so. I think there are some things we need to accomplish and I would very much like to be part of it,” Carson said.
Rozum, a financial planner, said this race was more challenging than her first run in 2010, since there were four candidates on the ballot after just three ran that time. She said being returned to Pierre makes her feel good.
“It does,” she said. “It’s just a privilege to represent District 20. We’re just the heart and soul of what South Dakota is. To represent what rural South Dakota stands for is a real privilege for me.”
Rozum said legislators from urban areas may not understand agricultural issues and rural matters that she tries to focus on.
“I’m delighted to go back and work,” she said. “Over two years I’ve built credibility and trust and that’s what it takes. Without having respect and credibility, your fellow legislators won’t respect or even listen to you.”
Mitchell, a business and economics professor at Dakota Wesleyan University, lost his fourth bid for the Legislature.
“This is a Republican state,” he said. “And it’s always tough for Democrats to get traction any day.
“I didn’t run that vigorous a race this time for a variety of reasons, as I explained to people,” Mitchell said, although he noted his vote total was similar to what he received when he worked harder in campaigns. One thing that impacted his race was the death of his wife earlier this year.
“I was a little surprised at the margins. I thought Jim would run a little closer to the other guys,” Mitchell said. “But it’s tough to run against incumbent Republicans.”
Schorzmann, a retired postal carrier, took his defeat in stride, chuckling as he admitted he “didn’t win” when asked if he had heard the results.
“You just do the best you can,” he said. “If people are happy with the way things are, that’s fine.
“I tried my best, and I want to thank everyone who supported me,” Schorzmann said. “We’ll have to see down the road if I try it again.”
District 20 includes Davison, Aurora and Jerauld counties. That’s a change, as Jerauld County was added to the district when new lines were drawn after the 2010 census.
Turnout was 71 percent in the district, as 10,543 of the 14,924 registered voters cast ballots, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. Turnout was 75 percent in both Aurora and Jerauld counties. It was 69 percent in Davison County, again according to the Secretary of State’s Office. The turnout percentage supplied by the Davison County Auditor’s Office was slightly lower, and it wasn’t immediately clear why.
In county level returns, Jerauld County voters came out strong for native son Burg, giving him a 73-27 percent margin. Aurora County polls gave Burg a 51-49 percent win, but in Vehle’s home turf of Davison County, voters gave him a resounding 62 to 38 percent edge over Burg.
On the House side, Carson came in first in all three counties, earning 32 percent in Davison and 30 percent in both Jerauld and Aurora. Rozum was second in Davison, with 29 percent, and in Aurora, with 30 percent, and third in Jerauld County with 23 percent.
Schorzmann was second in Jerauld County with 25 percent and third in Davison with 21 percent and in Aurora County with 22 percent. Mitchell was fourth in all three counties with 17 percent in Davison, 18 percent in Aurora and 22 percent in Jerauld.