Five District 19 candidates gear up for primary

The race is on for five Republicans in District 19. The odd-shaped, five county district in southeast South Dakota features two contests in Tuesday's primary, neither of which will involve Democratic or Independent voters. Newcomer Caleb Finck fa...

The race is on for five Republicans in District 19.

The odd-shaped, five county district in southeast South Dakota features two contests in Tuesday's primary, neither of which will involve Democratic or Independent voters.

Newcomer Caleb Finck faces off against familiar face Stace Nelson for the Republican State Senate nomination, a seat being vacated by longtime legislator Bill Van Gerpen, and three candidates will square off for two open spots for the chance to battle a Democrat come the November general election.

So who are the five candidates on the ballot for conservatives in Bon Homme, Douglas, Hanson, Hutchinson and McCook counties?



Caleb Finck

Tripp native Caleb Finck is looking to bring his unique combination of youth and experience to the state legislature.

The 23-year-old farmer and recent graduate of South Dakota State University spent much of his time in Brookings working with the Students' Association, most recently serving as association president representing more than 12,000 students. And he's hoping to bring that leadership experience back to Pierre, where he spent years as an intern for the Republican Party and later a lobbyist.

Finck believes it's that experience that will give him an advantage over the typical freshman legislator.

"I can kind of skip the process of learning how a bill becomes a law, I already understand that and I know the rules of how things work out there," Finck said. "So I can really get to work dealing with the issues rather than learning how to be a legislator."

One of the issues Finck is most looking forward to reviewing is the recent education funding overhaul approved by the legislature and supported by Gov. Dennis Daugaard.

While Finck believes the state took a step in the right direction by increasing education funding, he said he's looking forward to an opportunity to make some tweaks to the legislation.

"I don't know many laws that go into effect and they're perfect right away," Finck said.


If elected, Finck hopes to sit down with the superintendents in his district to see how the new funding formula established is working and what could improve.

Stace Nelson

Well-known among South Dakota conservatives is former State Rep. Stace Nelson.

Nelson, 49, kicked off a grassroots state senate campaign this winter, knocking on doors throughout the district. Less than two years after he was defeated by Sen. Mike Rounds in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, he collected a hefty pile of signatures in support of his campaign to return to the state legislature.

And the rural Fulton resident is looking to bring his unique brand of politics back to Pierre after a two-year absence.

"I'm honest to a 'T,' I'm principled, not politically correct, willing to listen and willing to and have been accountable to voters," Nelson said.

Nelson hopes District 19 voters will send him back to Pierre so he can make decisions based on those key principles.

For those who know him, Nelson's other stances will sound familiar. The former two-time state representative said he's a proven defender of both the Second Amendment and the "innocent unborn," and he's looking to put his fiscal conservative values to work for District 19.


"If folks elect me as their senator, the one thing that I will bring to District 19 that has been sorely missed in the last two years is fiscal conservatism," Nelson said. "We've had a problem with our elected officials in District 19 voting as liberals with the Democrats to raise taxes, to increase spending and to increase the size of state government."

If Nelson succeeds in his comeback effort, he hopes to "rein in state government spending, taxation and corruption."

House of Representatives

ReGina Osborn

The first House candidate District 19 Republicans will see listed on the ballot is a fresh face in the South Dakota political scene.

ReGina Osborn, of Emery, was the last of three GOP candidates who filed to appear on the ballot, but the semi-retired 53-year-old is hoping to be one of the two Republicans to compete with Democratic hopeful Ardon Wek in November.

"I have a good head on my shoulders and I think things through," said Osborn in an interview with The Daily Republic.

To Osborn, who moved to Emery from out-of-state about five years ago, the priority for her fellow District 19 residents is taxation.

When Osborn moved to South Dakota, she heard great things about the economic opportunities in the state. Since arriving in the state following a military and law enforcement career, Osborn realized she may be the right candidate to help curb state spending and limit future property tax hikes.

"If I sit here and complain and complain and complain, and I have this opportunity and I don't do something, then what's the point?" Osborn asked.

Osborn also hopes to limit corruption within the state government, pointing to the EB-5 and GEAR UP scandals that rocked the state since her arrival.

"I think we need a little more exposure," Osborn said. "The people need to know what's going on with their government and how the money's being spent. It shouldn't be a big secret."

Kent Peterson

The primary could be a tough test for Osborn, which she acknowledged, due in part to the candidacy of incumbent Rep. Kent Peterson.

Peterson, who turns 36 the day before the primary, said he would bring his unique perspective back with him to the state legislature if re-elected.

"I try to look at things through my kids' eyes, what the things will be like and the decisions I make today, how they'll affect them in the future," Peterson said.

The father of two young children supported a measure to increase the state sales tax that ultimately passed in an effort to raise South Dakota's nation-lowest teacher pay earlier this year, and said continuing to provide high quality education for the children of South Dakota remains a priority.

Peterson, a one-term legislator, said knowing the process of legislation and relationships he's built will help him continue to do what's best for District 19.

But Peterson's experiences extend beyond his support of education relationship-building. Peterson farms north of Salem with his father and brother, and he said it will take continued development of the state's already-massive agriculture industry to help small towns in his largely rural district prosper.

"The problem that we're having in our small towns in South Dakota is we're losing population, and we need to find ways to make young kids want to come back to these towns," Peterson said. "And growing agriculture to different opportunities is definitely a way to do that."

Kyle Schoenfish

Although he'll appear last on the District 19 House ballot, Kyle Schoenfish has more experience than the other two candidates combined.

Schoenfish, an accountant who lives in Scotland and works in Parkston, has served in the South Dakota Legislature for two terms, and he's hoping to make it a third.

The 28-year-old legislator earned attention in the 2016 legislative session when he introduced a bill to require any animal-drawn vehicle operating on a highway to utilize a flashing light while operating on highways in the dark. Through the bill, known as House Bill 1230, Schoenfish was able to bring a local concern from his district to the attention of people statewide.

"There is a local issue that a lot of people around the state weren't aware of, but I managed to get it passed through the legislature, and hopefully that will keep people safe on the roads," Schoenfish said.

The bill ultimately passed 59-8 in the House and unanimously in the Senate.

Schoenfish is also hoping to get a crack at addressing some of the major issues that could arise in the upcoming legislative session, from Medicaid funding rates to the lack of nursing home beds in rural areas of the state. Like Peterson, Schoenfish thinks his experience and relationships with fellow legislators will prove valuable if re-elected.

"I already have a good grasp of some of the issues we're facing," Schoenfish said.

Related Topics: ELECTION 2016
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