PIERRE, S.D. — In South Dakota, a Libertarian and a Democrat are challenging the incumbents next week for a spot in the U.S. House of Representatives and a seat in the U.S. Senate.

Democrat Dan Ahlers is challenging Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds in the Tuesday, Nov. 3, election.

Ahlers is a small business owner from Dell Rapids, S.D., who served in the state Legislature from 2007 to 2010, then again in 2017-18, where he spent most of his time working as a member of the legislative appropriations committee.

”I think we have a lot of work to do on balancing the federal budget and making sure people’s tax dollars are invested in a way that you get more bang for your buck,” Ahlers said.

”The great thing about appropriations is the numbers can be daunting and overwhelming. The important thing to remember is that appropriations touch every bit of the government and every department."

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Libertarian Randy “Uriah” Luallin is the lone challenger to Republican incumbent Dusty Johnson, who holds the state’s one seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

A mason by trade for the last 40 years, Luallin moved to South Dakota from Colorado five years ago with plans to retire in Hot Springs. After running a masonry business, Luallin found that his services were still needed in Fall River County and continues to work as a mason.

Luallin said that after graduating high school in the early 1970s, he enlisted in the military to serve in Vietnam, but the war ended while he was still in basic training.

During that time, Luallin started to question the conservative and Christian values with which he was raised, as a result of the cultural and political times.

"To question authority is a personal responsibility everyone should have rather than believing that things are the way they are, and that’s just the way it is," Luallin said.

That perspective and questioning of authority is what he wants to bring to Washington, D.C.

Randy "Uriah" Luallin
Randy "Uriah" Luallin

Economic and budgetary issues

Ahlers plans to apply his appropriation skills to the federal level.

”I think we have a lot of work to do on balancing the federal budget and making sure people’s tax dollars are invested in a way that you get more bang for your buck,” Ahlers said.

He hopes to apply those skills to create a more sound coronavirus relief package, compared to the CARES Act that was passed this spring.

“Here’s a really great opportunity to take those dollars you’re going to spend and realize we’re going to contribute to the deficit,” Ahlers said.

Ahlers believes that investing those relief funds should be invested in a way that will get Americans back to work and help improve the nation’s infrastructure.

By putting funds toward rebuilding bridges, roads, rural broadband systems and all other types of necessary infrastructure, more jobs will be created and there’ll be a long term economic benefit thanks to the upgrades.

“We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. It makes sense because not only is it investing, these shovel-ready projects will put people to work," Ahlers said. "And that’s what we’re really looking for, this is why it’s so important to invest wisely.”

What COVID relief funds have been released thus far haven’t been allocated wisely due to poor planning, Ahlers said.

He pointed out a flaw in the Paycheck Protection Program, which covered employee wages rather than other businesses expenses.

The program was helpful, but Ahlers said more needed to be done to ensure the small businesses could cover other expenses, such as payments to vendors, energy and transportation costs.

Without the revenue coming from customers, business owners went into debt or were forced to close their doors permanently despite being able to pay their employees.

Luallin would rather see more limits to the federal government’s ability to spend taxpayer money, with the added caveat that Congress must pass a balanced budget.

By streamlining what federal funds go toward while taxing everyone fairly regardless of income, Luallin said Americans would see a stronger economy.

“I’m all for equality, and it means a lot more than race relations," Luallin said. "We don’t even pay our taxes equally. If we’re really going to be equal people and be treated equally we need to start on every level.”

Luallin would represent South Dakotans with the goal of pulling away government’s involvement and letting private enterprise or benevolent organizations regulate their own way of doing business.

“If you’re talking about social programs, there needs to be a safety net of some type. If you’ve ever lived in a small town, the community comes together and that’s by far the best way,” Luallin said. “When you have an institution like the government that’s some bureaucratic supervisor, it’s inefficient and doesn’t accomplish the goals that we need to do.”

Contact Shannon Marvel at smarvel@forumcomm.com or 605-350-8355