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Bjorkman seeks path to victory in SD

It's campaign season and Tim Bjorkman has no issues with introducing himself as a political newcomer. Bjorkman, the Democratic Party's nominee for South Dakota's lone U.S. House of Representatives seat, said he had to introduce himself to Democra...

Democratic Congressional candidate Tim Bjorkman. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Democratic Congressional candidate Tim Bjorkman. (Matt Gade / Republic)

It's campaign season and Tim Bjorkman has no issues with introducing himself as a political newcomer.

Bjorkman, the Democratic Party's nominee for South Dakota's lone U.S. House of Representatives seat, said he had to introduce himself to Democrats when he decided to under on their ticket to Congress.

"I'm trying to win this the right way, to show in South Dakota, we can still send someone to congress who's not part of the political elite," Bjorkman said in a recent interview and visit to The Daily Republic. "I didn't have connections with either political party when I entered the race."

The right way to win, Bjorkman says, is not taking any money from special interest political action committees. If elected, he's vowed he won't participate in the congressional dues programs and is committed to reform in Congress. Coincidentally, both Bjorkman and his Republican opponent Dusty Johnson agree on term limits for members of Congress.

"If a judge would take money from one side of the case and decided the outcome, we would be rightfully appalled," said Bjorkman, the former First Judicial Circuit judge. "We have members of Congress who take hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of dollars from special interests. It's something we shouldn't tolerate as people."

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Bjorkman, who grew up in Kimball, practiced law in Bridgewater, and lives in Canistota, took the bench in 2007. That job didn't have much time for partisanship, he said, and views himself has a free agent as a potential Congressman.

"My political views cut across party lines," he said. "Those are things that have been important in my private career and on the bench, to live responsibly and within our means."

That job, Bjorkman said, allowed him to see cultural issues come through his courtroom, particularly issues with health care, addiction and mental illness.

Those are items that have a profound economic and social impact on the lives of so many and they're populating our court system," Bjorkman said. "So many of them didn't have access to treatment for mental health or addiction. We have to treat people before they get into the court system. And we have to get them into the workforce because that's crucial to a person's dignity."

On immigration, Bjorkman said both legal and illegal immigration have covered up cultural issues in the country. He supports increased security on the borders and smart fencing, but not a wall, which would be a "14th century solution for a 21st century problem."

He proposes a one-year grace period for people who have overstayed work visas to re-apply to seek permission to stay. After that year, he said there should be spot checks for businesses that employ illegal immigrants and penalize company executives for those hiring practices.

"The first time is a misdemeanor. The second time is jail," he said. "If you're serious about illegal employment in this country, that's what you do. It will end it in a matter of years."

People in the United States illegally should not have a path to citizenship, Bjorkman said, but he said children in the country through no fault of their own should have an opportunity for citizenship. He supports the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, or DACA, but that doesn't have a path to citizenship.

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"If you're a child and came here through no initiative of your own, we need to treat those individuals differently," Bjorkman said. "We should have a path to citizenship (for them), if they're doing the right things in this country."

Bjorkman's route to victory could be difficult in South Dakota, where the President Donald Trump remains popular and Republicans have a stranglehold on the major political offices in the state. Bjorkman isn't worried, and said that he's in agreement with Trump on a number of issues, most notably being reform.

"We have a lot of people who supported the president and (his) campaign who continue to do so and are supporting us," Bjorkman said. "We think we'll do pretty well with Trump supporters because like me, they see Washington as needing reform and they want their congressmen to work with the president for the best interests of South Dakota."

Related Topics: ELECTION 2018
Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at mtraxler@mitchellrepublic.com.
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