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Klumb gears up for another Senate chance

State Sen. Josh Klumb speaks during the District 20 candidate forum at Mitchell Technical Institute's amphitheater on Oct. 23. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Josh Klumb has the hang of representing District 20 in the South Dakota Legislature.

It explains why he's as comfortable as he is in running for a third term in Pierre, seeking a second consecutive two-year term in the state Senate. Klumb, a farmer from Mount Vernon, is facing Democrat Dan Miller, of Mitchell, for the opportunity to represent Aurora, Davison and Jerauld counties.

"I don't go with an agenda," Klumb said. "I feel like the state and the people here drive the agenda. I'll go and take each thing as it comes across my desk."

Klumb, 34, has served for four years total in the Legislature. He was elected to the state House in 2014, before moving to the state Senate with an election victory in 2016, replacing the retiring Sen. Mike Vehle. In that most recent race, he received 64 percent of the vote.

He said he's going to continue being a legislator who will represent his conservative and Christian values but is always interested in hearing feedback from constituents.

"I might not make everyone happy all of the time, but I want them to know that I'm voting with my values and convictions in mind," he said. "It's my job to make sure people know who I am and what I stand for."

Klumb said he expects the drug and methamphetamine epidemic will be a key issue for him if he is re-elected. He said he is on the board for Dakota Counseling Institute and said he knows first-hand that meth treatment is expensive and it takes a long time.

"We're losing productive members of society and we're incarcerating them. That is just a net drain on society and that's not good," he said. "... I'm not sure government can completely be the solution. All we can do is throw money at it, and that doesn't change hearts. We have to do more, and to fix this, we have to change hearts and minds."

Klumb, who served as the vice chair for the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources committee during the last term, said he expects the state budget to remain tight, with farm revenues currently lower. Specifically regarding education, Klumb said given that 49 percent of every dollar in the state budget goes to education, he thinks that's currently a good balance.

"It's going to be a constant balancing game between funding education and funding everything else, to be quite honest," he said. "To be a good legislator, you have to be able to take care of what needs to be taken care of and that's always something you have to be diligent about."

One of the items Klumb is most passionate about is also on the ballot on Tuesday: Amendment W to the Constitution, which aims to create an independent ethics commission to root out corruption in state government. Klumb says he doesn't believe it would have stopped the issues from the EB-5 and Gear Up scandals, and creates an unaccountable panel that South Dakota can't afford.

"As a Legislature, we have to be better at explaining of why we're doing what we're doing," he said. "With repealing IM 22, it wasn't that we thought people are dumb or anything like that. We honestly believed it damaged the constitution. ... The EB-5 and Gear Up scandals, everything that happened in those cases was already illegal. Voting for Amendment W doesn't fix your problem.

"For some reason, we can't get our reasoning out to people and I think because of what happens in Washington, people are distrusting of Pierre. It's sad but it shouldn't be that way. We're not high-paid politicians who go govern and never think about (voters) again. We're up for election every two years."

Since Klumb was last elected, he's gotten married. His wife, Sadie, works as a public school teacher and Klumb said he feels he has a better understanding of the issues with the education system with that perspective.

I thought a pretty good idea before but this has been a wonderful blessing and hopefully, it can be part of me becoming a better legislator," he said.

Miller on the ballot

Also in the District 20 Senate race is Dan Miller, a Democrat from Mitchell, who is running for the first time.

Miller is an associate professor of theater at Dakota Wesleyan University, where he has worked since 2006. He is also the director of theater for DWU. He grew up in Aberdeen and is a graduate of the University of South Dakota. Married to his wife Melissa for 26 years, he has two children and three grandchildren.

Miller was not available this week for an in-person or a phone interview to discuss his candidacy. The Daily Republic has profiled the other five candidates running for District 20 legislative seats and interviewed them about their campaigns in-person.

In an email, Miller cited DWU's ongoing musical and his teaching duties for his inability to conduct the interview. Miller also did not participate in the Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce's candidate forum, hosted at Mitchell Technical Institute on Oct. 23, and cited similar reasons for his absence.

The Daily Republic agreed to Miller's request to submit questions to be answered via email, but those answers were not returned Friday prior to the deadline for this story.

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