Jackley points to executive leadership, Washington failures

"We need a governor who knows South Dakota best and puts South Dakota first," state Attorney General Marty Jackley says a second time. He uses the phrase to draw distinctions between himself and Republican gubernatorial primary opponent Kristi No...

Attorney General Marty Jackley speaks in Mitchell in 2017. (Republic file photo)
Attorney General Marty Jackley speaks in Mitchell in 2017. (Republic file photo)

"We need a governor who knows South Dakota best and puts South Dakota first," state Attorney General Marty Jackley says a second time.

He uses the phrase to draw distinctions between himself and Republican gubernatorial primary opponent Kristi Noem, South Dakota's lone representative to the U.S. House since 2011. The slogan-like statement subtly points out Jackley's presence in South Dakota while Noem spent seven years in Washington, D.C., now knotted with farm bill and trade policy worries plus concerns over the ballooning federal deficit.

"Washington is clearly not solving our problems," Jackley said.

Jackley, meanwhile, represented South Dakota before the U.S. Supreme Court on issues of pro-life. Under his leadership, South Dakota joined other states in suing the Obama administration to defeat harmful rules like the "Waters of the United States," he said.

"While Washington stood back and issued press releases," Jackley said, "I stood in front of the U.S. Supreme Court."


Washington hasn't helped raise farm commodity prices, Jackley said, and as a result rural "states are losing massive amounts of income that we need for health care and infrastructure - roads, bridges, rail."

Washington also fell short on health care reform, he said. Jackley was among a group of state attorneys general led by Texas that challenged key Obamacare requirements. Washington, he said, even with Republican majorities, did not roll back Obamacare, which would have increased health insurance competition and lowered premiums.

"This is not fixed," he said. Health care insurance premiums in South Dakota rose an average of 35 percent in 2017 and 24 percent for 2018.

Jackley also points out deficiencies with Noem's landmark legislative efforts in crafting the recent $1.3 trillion spending bill with major tax reforms.

Washington, and by implication Noem, Jackley said, "doubled the national debt on my kids."

He repeats his catchphrase a third time: "We need a governor who knows South Dakota best and puts (it) first."

Jackley draws another distinction between himself and Noem.

First as the U.S. attorney for South Dakota and later as attorney general, Jackley said, he gained the executive experience needed to lead state government.


"I have a record of managing people, managing budgets," he said.

"South Dakota needs a governor who is job-ready on Day 1," Jackley said. That's why state voters have often looked to the attorney general's office to fill the role.


"I felt drawn to public service," Jackley said of his reasons for seeking office. "When it's over, I'll go back to private practice in South Dakota."

Jackley, 47, and his wife, Angela, have two children: Isabella, 12, and Michael, 14. He grew up on the family ranch and farm near Sturgis.

South Dakota wants a governor who appreciates agriculture and family farms, he said.

Jackley holds a degree in electrical engineering from the South Dakota School of School of Mines & Technology in Rapid City.

"I recognize the importance of technology in the creation of better paying jobs," Jackley said.


He holds a law degree from the University of South Dakota. He became a law partner at a firm in 2001. He became U.S. attorney at age 35, with the support of Sen. John Thune and President George W. Bush. He became attorney general in 2009.

Crime criticisms

In Noem's view, Jackley's leadership shortcomings can be seen in the state's rising crime rate and drug problems during his tenure as chief law enforcement officer.

"We have a larger crime problem," Noem said. "The drug epidemic is out of control."

New leadership is needed to direct more time and effort into mental health services, preventing problems before they become serious, she said.

Noem heard recently from a counselor unable to obtain services for a young girl who was torturing animals. There was no accountability from her parents. The system will do nothing until the problem escalates, she said.

"Our counselors know which of our kids are at risk," Noem said, and parents must be held accountable. The state needs new methods of addressing criminal justice and mental health issues, she said.

In response to these criticisms, Jackley said his recent travels across the state have reinforced his awareness of how important safe communities are to the people of South Dakota. His efforts to reduce drugs and crime have earned him the endorsements of roughly 60 county sheriffs, he said.

Noem, he said, bases her criticisms on federal statistics that bear a warning of unreliability.

"Law enforcement works every day to keep our communities safe," Jackley said. "We are a very safe state."

If you speak with state sheriffs, he said, they will tell you of rising concerns over drug use. Some of that is over opioid abuse, but the bigger issue lies with methamphetamines, he said, and the bulk of that flows across the country's southern border.

Drug use is up 7.2 percent, Jackley said. Sheriffs, chiefs of police and officers are working to do something about it, including the use of anonymous texting to tip-off law enforcement. He wants to work with school boards and others to find more solutions to these vexing problems.


Both candidates see a need to address a shortage of workers for the many open skilled jobs that pay well.

Jackley said he wants both to work with businesses and improve opportunities for education. He wants to expand value added and precision agriculture, he said.

He wants to put to work more of the state resources in the REDI Fund. "I'm committed as governor to make opportunities more available," he said.

He wants to work with Mines and Technology, Dakota State University and South Dakota State University on new technology opportunities. He wants to make the credits earned at South Dakota's four technical schools more easily transferable to state universities.

"We need to get costs down to increase enrollment," Jackley said.

He also supports more skilled workforce preparation for emerging high school graduates.

Wrap up

"I want to become governor because of the opportunities I see for our kids," Jackley said. He wants to create new and better paying jobs, strengthen education, improve access to health care, and keep communities and families safe.

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