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SD groups encourage women to take part in government

PIERRE — Susan Wismer, challenger of incumbent Gov. Dennis Daugaard, is the first woman to be nominated by a major party for the state’s high offi ce.

Wismer says that had nothing to do with her decision to run, but she knows it matters to some of the women who support her. “I’m understanding more and more how much it means to women across the state," said Wismer, a state representative from Britton.

About 23 percent of South Dakota’s 105 legislative seats are currently occupied by women — 1 percent below the national average cited by the National Conference of State Legislatures — and about 26 percent of the candidates that made it through the June primary are women.

Also, six of the 22 members of Daugaard’s cabinet are women, as well as many of his staff. “Gov. Daugaard looks for the best people to do the job, regardless of gender,” senior adviser Kim Malsam-Rysdon said.

But politically active women in South Dakota — and beyond — are taking steps to expand their representation. It’s important to elect women, because governments that refl ect their constituencies are stronger and draw voter participation, said Cynthia Terrell, chair of the project Representation2020, a national group that promotes gender balance in governments.

And Gail Brock, president of the South Dakota Federation of Republican Women, said the state is already electing a fair number of women and many serve in politics behind the scenes.