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With passion for politics, Klinger seeks House seat

District 20 House of Representative candidate Ione Klinger speaks during a forum in October at Mitchell Technical Institute's amphitheater. (Matt Gade / Republic)

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is one of four candidate profiles regarding the District 20 State House of Representatives race. Two more profiles will run in Friday's print edition of The Daily Republic.

Ione Klinger has always been interested in politics and local government.

Now, she'd like the chance to serve the people of District 20 in the state House of Representatives.

Klinger, a Democrat, is one of four candidates vying to represent Aurora, Davison and Jerauld counties in the election on Nov. 6. She is joined in the race by Jim Schorzmann, Paul Miskimins and Lance Koth, with the top-two vote-getters earning two-year terms.

Klinger, 66, of Mitchell, said she's personally driven through the night to and from education committee hearings in Pierre to make her voice heard on pieces of legislation, while also being a regular at cracker barrel events during the session. She said one of the reasons she wanted to run for political office is because of the undoing of Initiated Measure 22, which was passed by the state's voters in 2016.

"(The Legislature) repealed it and made it more difficult to refer things, and took away the voice of the people," she said. "I can remember in the seventh grade learning about referendums and how South Dakota was one of the first states to have that. I thought that was so cool and now I've lived to see South Dakota undo some of that."

Klinger said she wants to provide a different voice and a different background for constituents in District 20. She grew up near Farmer, attended Hanson High School and worked for 43 years in education between Mitchell and Hanson. For most of her career, Klinger taught special education, Title I and reading recovery skills.

"I think whenever you have one party in control of things for a long period of time, we can get complacent about what is going on," Klinger said. "We as citizens, we need to be very involved with our government and what is going on there and talking to our legislators."

Klinger said she's very passionate about education and wants to see state-funded preschool. She said during her education career, she frequently assisted kindergarteners with screenings. While she saw plenty of students who knew their letters and numbers, she said others didn't have the verbal language students should have at age 5.

"You'd have students who—through no fault of their own—came to school not ready to learn," she said. "I've always been of the philosophy that you pay now or you pay later."

Klinger said she believes that investment would connect well with the efforts to have a smarter, stronger workforce in the future.

"To me, they go hand-in-hand," she said. "Our return on our dollar is much better when we pay when our children are younger."

Klinger said she would also increase accountability in government by retaining public records for a longer period of time, more closely regulating lobbyists and returning citizen referendum rules back to where they were before and increasing openness in the legislative process. Klinger also noted that she's not in favor of a state income tax, and wants to make sure the extra revenue for from the internet sales tax case can ease the burden on taxpayers.

"I don't think government is the answer for everything," she said. "As citizens, we have the opportunity to mentor students and the impact we can have in young people's lives is not a small thing."

Klinger, who has two children and three grandchildren, is also active in her church and teaches Bible study classes. She said her door-to-door visits have also made her optimistic about representing the small towns in her district, particularly because of their perspective on economic development.

"I've been impressed with what is being done in economic development and how they're taking ownership of the futures of the communities," she said. "It makes me eager to go represent this district in Pierre."

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