District 19 brings back Nelson, Peterson and Schoenfish

Three familiar faces are returning to represent District 19 in the House and Senate. Former State Rep. Stace Nelson will be serving as the district's senator after defeating Democratic opponent Russell Graeff on Tuesday night. The district includ...


Three familiar faces are returning to represent District 19 in the House and Senate.

Former State Rep. Stace Nelson will be serving as the district's senator after defeating Democratic opponent Russell Graeff on Tuesday night. The district includes Bon Homme, Douglas, Hanson, Hutchinson and McCook counties.

Incumbents Kent Peterson and Kyle Schoenfish will also be returning to the House for their second and third terms, respectively, after defeating Melissa Mentele.


Nelson pulled nearly 80 percent of the district's votes with 8,636 over Graeff, who ended the night with 2,408 votes.


And instead of celebrating his win, Nelson was already thinking about the time before the next legislative session begins.

"It's a warm feeling to have your fellow South Dakotans support you in such a fashion," Nelson said Tuesday. "It is also at this point that the weight and responsibility of serving those folks and trying to protect their interests is starting to weigh heavy on the shoulders."

Nelson said his top priority going into session will be looking at the multi-million dollar deficit the state is facing. Nelson said South Dakota is looking at "some grim financial statistics," that he hopes to make changes to during session.

And he has full support from opponent Graeff, who said he's proud that Nelson will be serving as District 19's senator.

Graeff said because he had a lack of name recognition and "jumped on board late" to the campaign trail, it had an effect his campaign.

Graeff hopes in the future some state legislative redistricting is needed to make it possible for more Democratic wins in the state.

"The numbers don't look good as far as fairness and being able to have Republican-Democrat balance," Graeff said. "That's the big change. Let's get some fairness brought back."

As far as trying again for the Senate seat in two years, Graeff said it's something he will have to think about. For now, he's just looking to take some time off and relax.


But for the future of District 19, Graeff said he's not worried.

"All of the candidates in District 19 are a great selection of people. The public would not have gone wrong with any of the choices. They made their choice, that's good. I respect that. I'm still fine," Graeff said. "They're still my representatives and my senator, too. I'm not at all disappointed and I'm not unhappy."


Both Peterson and Schoenfish are looking to continue the work they've started in the House.

Peterson, who pulled 6,936 votes, and Schoenfish, who won 7,583 votes, together made up approximately 84 percent of the district's votes on Tuesday over Mentele.

Peterson, who will be going on his second term in the House, said he wants to continue finding ways to revitalize and grow small, rural towns in South Dakota. Peterson said this includes both the agriculture sector and main street manufacturing.

"Taking care of people, you know," Peterson said Tuesday about what his top priorities will be in the next session. "And trying to continue to make and find ways to make things better and make South Dakota and our district a great place to live and work and raise a family."

Schoenfish also has high hopes going into his third term in office. Schoenfish said health care is going to be a hot topic in the next session as well as continued efforts with the education funding formula in the state.


"I'll continue to do what I've been doing in my first four years in office and work with everybody to get things done for the district ..." Schoenfish said. "I just look forward to another good session."

For Mentele, this is not the end. After coming into the race in August and taking time off during campaigning, Mentele pulled 2,778, or 16 percent, of the district's vote.

And she's proud of that number. The Democratic candidate has been advocating the legalized use of medical marijuana. Mentele said she hopes both Peterson and Schoenfish put themselves into the shoes of their constituents and keep an open mind.

Mentele said there is much to be changed in South Dakota and she's already got plans to run again for the representative seat in two years.

"I'm not done. We have so much going on," Mentele said. "We're going to make some real changes in South Dakota."

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