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Gov. Daugaard will endorse Dusty Johnson for U.S. House

U.S. House of Representatives candidate and Mitchell resident Dusty Johnson, center, celebrates Gov. Dennis Daugaard victory at the 2014 Republican Party election celebration. Johnson served as Daugaard's chief of staff for nearly four years. (Daily Republic file photo)1 / 2
U.S. House of Representatives candidate and Mitchell resident Dusty Johnson, right, looks on as Gov. Dennis Daugaard, left, speaks at the 2014 Republican Party election celebration. Johnson served as Daugaard's chief of staff for nearly four years. (Daily Republic file photo)2 / 2

Congressional candidate and Mitchell resident Dusty Johnson will have a powerful ally on his quest to earn a seat in the U.S. Capitol in 2018.

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard told The Daily Republic on Thursday he would endorse his former chief of staff of four years for the state’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives if Johnson enters the race.

“If Dusty Johnson runs, I’ll support him,” Daugaard said. “I think a lot of Dusty, and he’s been a great friend and supporter of mine, and I think he’d be a very good leader in whatever political role he chooses to pursue.”

Daugaard said he had a lot of time to judge Johnson, having spent the majority of his first term as governor with Johnson by his side, and he knew Johnson as early as when the U.S. House hopeful served on former Gov. Mike Rounds’ staff.

And Johnson was appreciative of the governor’s support.

“The governor has seen up close my strengths and weakness, so his endorsement means a lot to me,” Johnson said. “Helping him balance the budget, improve government and reduce regulation was a reward experience, and I’m hopeful we can do the same in Washington, D.C.

Johnson, a former state Public Utilities Commission member who now works for Vantage Point Solutions in Mitchell, announced his intentions in November. If successful, Johnson would be the first Mitchell resident to represent South Dakota in Congress since former U.S. Sen. George McGovern.

After working side-by-side with Johnson on a daily basis, Daugaard offered nothing but praise for Johnson on Thursday morning.

“I’ve known him in the political arena, I’ve known him in the governmental arena outside of the political realm,” Daugaard said. “And he’s just highly intelligent, and I think he’s motivated by good things, he’s not attention-seeking, I don’t think, he’s not power-seeking. I think he’s truly motivated by a need to serve, and he feels good about serving people.”

Johnson’s campaign committee — Friends of Dusty Johnson — was filed last year, and the Republican has already generated heavy support for his candidacy.

Shortly before Daugaard told The Daily Republic he would endorse Johnson, campaign treasurer Greg McCurry announced Johnson raised more than $104,000 for the fourth quarter of 2016 from donations large and small.

“People are excited Dusty is running,” McCurry said. “We are just getting started, but the response to his race is incredible.”

Johnson currently serves as vice president at Mitchell-based Vantage Point Solutions, a telecommunications engineering firm, and told The Daily Republic in November his top Congressional priorities would revolve around telecommunications, transparency, infrastructure and imposing a “reasonable regulatory environment.”

And with more than $104,000 in his campaign account, Johnson was glad to have earned support from yet another South Dakotan.

“To win, I'll need the votes of thousands of South Dakotans, and I am grateful to be able to count the governor's vote among them,” Johnson said.

In late 2016, shortly after current U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem announced her intention to run to replace Daugaard as governor and vacate her House seat, South Dakota Secretary of State Shantel Krebs was reported by The Associated Press to be giving “serious consideration” to the U.S. House seat.

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