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Wismer: One-party rule not healthy for SD

Repeating her calls for more education funding and an expansion of Medicaid in South Dakota, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Susan Wismer said she hopes to convince "disgruntled Republicans" to support her against incumbent Gov. Dennis Daugaard in the November election.

Wismer held a conference call with reporters Wednesday after defeating her primary opponent, Joe Lowe, 55.5 percent to 44.5 percent in Tuesday's primary election. Now, the three-term lawmaker said she will focus on raising money and will choose a lieutenant governor candidate by the time South Dakota Democrats have their convention later this month.

Wismer noted she is the first woman to appear on South Dakota's ballot for governor as a major party candidate.

"I'm honored and thrilled to be part of South Dakota history today," she said, saying voters talked about her gender. "They said they would like to see a woman step forward who is going to be a voice for equal rights and good health choices for women."

She views being a woman and being a Democrat both as advantages, saying not all registered Republicans are true to the party.

"How many disgruntled, disaffected Republicans there are around this state. There are several who have admitted to me and several more because their living depends on it, because their access to power depends on it, who are not able to express their dissatisfaction with the Republican Party, but it's there," Wismer said.

She agrees with the assessment that she faces an uphill campaign against Daugaard, who defeated a primary challenger with more than 80 percent of the vote Tuesday.

"Democrats have been beaten down for a long time and we've got lot of work to do," she said.

She said Republicans have been able to carve out legislative districts to set up two-thirds majorities in both the state House and Senate, but she believes moderate candidates can win statewide races.

"When we're not all parceled up in gerrymandered districts, when we have the opportunity to vote as whole, South Dakotans have put moderates in office more recently than 35 years ago. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin is the most recent," Wismer said.

Republicans have held the governor's chair since Bill Janklow was first sworn in in 1979. That is too long for one party to run a state Capitol, Wismer said.

"My theme throughout this year is going to be we haven't had any sort of effective term limits in the executive branch for 35 years. We've had the same party in power and a lot of the same people get carried over from one administration to the next," Wismer said. "We've gotten to the point where either a lot of parties are excluded from conversations or else even the people who are invited to the table aren't free to say what is really in the best interest of their constituents because of the overwhelming power of the Republican Party in the executive branch."

Wismer said she will work to craft a message about South Dakota issues and try to convince voters that national partisan issues don't translate well into the gubernatorial race.

"We need to separate our frustration with the federal government from the issues we deal with as a state. It's in Pierre that the success of our schools is determined. It's in Pierre that decisions are made about whether nurses' aides can make ends meet without having to depend on federal assistance themselves," she said.