Josh Klumb has become a veteran name in representing District 20 in the South Dakota Legislature.
After serving two terms in the state Senate for District 20, the Republican candidate from Mount Vernon is hoping to secure a third term following Tuesday’s election. Challenging Klumb for the District 20 state Senate seat -- which includes Davison, Jerauld and Aurora counties -- is a newcomer representing the Libertarian party, Alexander Martin, of Mitchell. But he's facing off against an incumbent Republican senator who has six years of experience in the state Legislature.
“I’m passionate about representing everyone in our district, and I hope to continue serving to the best of my ability,” Klumb said. “We are making some good progress right now in the Senate.”
Klumb has served in Pierre since 2015 and has climbed to the role of majority whip in the Senate, where he has spent his last four years and where Republicans hold a supermajority, with 30 of the 35 seats in their possession heading into a new election and a new term. Last year, he was the prime sponsor in the Senate of the industrial hemp bill, which was signed into law and will allow farmers to grow it as a crop.
While he’s already looking ahead at some of the issues facing his district, Klumb emphasized he never goes into legislative sessions in Pierre with a personal agenda. Rather, he said it’s all about listening to his district and representing them.
“When I go to Pierre, I don’t go with a set of specific things I want to accomplish. I go to listen to ideas that other legislators bring forward, and help constituents work on any laws they bring forward,” Klumb said. “A lot has happened this past year, and I’m hoping to work with my constituents to address some big challenges.”
Improving county roads and combating methamphetamine use are among some of the most critical challenges that Klumb hopes to take on in a third term. Some rural roads are still heavily damaged from flooding in 2019 in Klumb's district, including some bridges that have yet to be repaired.
“First, we need to look at funding some of our county and township roads. The flooding last September washed out a lot of bridges, and it’s a hard up time to find money to repair those roads,” Klumb said. “If we don’t have good roads for our farmers to get their goods to the market, we’re really in trouble.”
If elected, Klumb said he would prioritize developing plans to fund necessary road improvements that have been causing headaches for rural residents over the past year.
Another issue that Klumb is focused on addressing is the state’s methamphetamine and drug problem. A year into Gov. Kristi Noem’s anti-methamphetamine campaign that aimed to raise awareness of just how common meth use is among state residents, Klumb said it was a step in the right direction.
Although Noem’s anti-meth campaign caught national attention and was mocked by many for featuring advertisements that used the phrase, “Meth, we’re on it,” Klumb said it’s been effective in starting a conversation about the prevalence of meth use.
As COVID-19 continues spreading in South Dakota at record pace, Klumb said he expects it to be a major issue lawmakers will be facing in the 2021 session. Among the issues that Klumb is determined to resolve, is the vulnerabilities of the state and national food supply, particularly the beef and cattle industry, which was identified amid the pandemic.
After major beef packing plants across the country and in South Dakota began to shut down due to surging COVID-19 infections, some grocery stores in the state and across the country faced a beef shortage. While beef suddenly became scarce, Klumb said it was frustrating to see shelves sit empty while cattle producers had plenty of supply.
“The pandemic highlighted how fragile our food supply chain is. We know South Dakota feeds a lot of people in the country and world, but it was really frustrating for a lot of people driving to the grocery store to buy meat, as they passed pastures full of cattle, but had no meat available when they arrived at the store,” he said. “During our listening sessions, we were discussing how to distribute the COVID-19 money to help our small lockers out and get more local processed meat that can go right to our local grocery store shelves. I plan to investigate ways that we can do that.”
Martin outlines COVID-19 plan
Klumb's opponent, Alexander Martin, is not running a high-powered campaign for the Senate seat. His pre-general election campaign finance report filed with the South Dakota Secretary of State's office acknowledged just $1.10 in contributions, and that was from Martin himself. For his part, Klumb reported nearly $10,000 in contributions from various political action committees.
Martin, who has never held political office, said his professional background as a teacher and businessman would carry over well to the state Senate. He said tackling the rapid spread of COVID-19 is his top priority. As of Tuesday, South Dakota had the nation’s second-highest coronavirus infection rate per capita, trailing North Dakota.
“My goal is to represent you and listen to all of your concerns. Great leadership is needed in the state Senate to conquer the COVID-19 pandemic, and reduce the sales tax burden on all South Dakotans,” Martin said. “The most important thing right now is stopping this once-in-a-century pandemic, which threatens the health and lives and businesses of all South Dakotans.”
Martin said he would work across party lines, which he said is critical for the state to develop a comprehensive COVID-19 plan. He criticized Noem’s handling of the pandemic, calling it a failure. To combat the spreading of the virus, Martin said the state Legislature needs to take matters into their own hands.
“When the governor does not lead in fighting the pandemic, the legislature should lead and come up with real answers and solutions to the pandemic," Martin said. “The governor does not wear a mask, and she is supposed to lead by example.”
Martin unveiled a proposed bill he would sponsor to combat the coronavirus that would roll out free tests and face masks for all South Dakota residents.
“I would sponsor and introduce the Coronavirus Action Plan, which would make free COVID-19 tests and free masks available for anyone in South Dakota and also free quarantine or isolation space for anyone infected by COVID-19,” he said.
On his campaign Facebook page, Martin said another tenet of his candidacy is eliminating the state sales tax on food and clothing. He says he represents change and improvement in the Senate.