Legislative races filled with incumbents, first-time challengers

Rolls of voting stickers lay on a table at the Davison County Fairgrounds on Tuesday morning in Mitchell. (Matt Gade / Republic)

With Election Day looming on Tuesday, voters will have their eyes on several local races in the South Dakota House of Representatives and Senate.

Here is a rundown of the area’s Legislative races:

District 8

The district has two incumbents seeking reelection for state representative in Republicans Marli Wiese and Randy Gross, while facing first-time Democratic candidates Val Parsley and John Kessinger.

Wiese, a farmer from Madison, was first appointed to the state House in 2017 after Rep. Matthew Wollman resigned and secured a district-high 6,163 votes during the 2018 election. She currently serves as vice chair of the House of Representatives Health and Human Services Committee, along with the Education Committee.

Gross, a veteran and farmer from Elkton, is running for a second term after finishing second to Wiese in the 2018 election with 5,173 votes. He serves on the Appropriations Committees for the South Dakota Legislature and House of Representatives.


Parsley is a former teacher and administrator from Madison, who is an advocate for access to preschool provided by local districts and affordable health care for all people. Her husband, Scott Parsley, has served as a state representative for one term and has been a state senator since 2015.

Kessinger, a Woonsocket native, replaced Joan Stamm after she withdrew from the election in June. He is running on a platform of social justice reform, prison reform and gender equality.

The district is composed of Lake, Miner, Moody and Sanborn counties and the top-two vote-getters earn a two-year term.

District 21

The District 21 state Senate race features a pair of first-time candidates for the two-year spot: Republican Erin Tobin and Democrat Dan Kerner Andersson.

Tobin is a Winner native and a nurse practitioner for Avera Sacred Heart in Yankton. She is also a fourth-generation rancher with a cow and custom feeding operation. Tobin cites public health and agriculture as her main priorities.

Tobin defeated Lee Qualm — who was running for Senate after being term-limited in the House — in the Republican primary by securing 61.2 percent of the vote.

Andersson was born in Sweden and traveled abroad before meeting his wife Anna, an unsuccessful House candidate in 2018, in London and moving to her hometown of Burke in 2014. He is an independent information technology contractor and is running on a platform to provide solutions to issues such as health care costs, road infrastructure, opioid addiction and teacher pay.

In the District 21 House of Representative race, incumbent Caleb Finck is facing two challengers, Republican Rocky Blare and Democrat Jessica Hegge, for two seats.


Finck, a Republican from Tripp, finished second to Qualm in the 2018 election with 31.8 percent of the votes. Finck is the vice chairman of the House Agriculture and Natural Resource Committee, while serving on the Military and Veterans Affairs and Transportation Committees.

Blare, of Ideal, is currently serving as a member of the state Senate, defeating Julie Bartling in the 2018 election with 54.6 percent of the votes. He also works as an insurance agent in Winner.

Hegge is a sixth-generation South Dakotan from Platte and has worked as an attorney in Chamberlain since 2012. She has also served as the Deputy State’s Attorney for Brule and Buffalo counties for eight years. Hegge’s main priorities are education, agriculture and health care.

District 21 is composed of part of Bon Homme County, as well as Charles Mix, Gregory and Tripp counties.

District 26

The District 26 Senate race features a pair of familiar faces in three-term incumbent Troy Heinert and challenger Joel Koskan.

This will be the third time Heinert has been challenged by a Koskan, edging Joel by a 446-vote margin in 2018, while defeating Joel’s father, John, by 864 votes in 2014.

Heinert, a Democrat from Mission, is the Senate minority leader and served in the House of Representatives for one term, beginning in 2012. Koskan is a Republican from Wood, where he owns and operates a farm.

In the District 26B House of Representatives race, Rebecca Reimer is seeking her second term after being appointed to fill the seat after James Schaefer died in May 2018.


Reimer, a Republican from Chamberlain, defeated Debra Smith in the 2018 election by earning 61.6 percent of the votes. She has since served on the Judiciary, Education and Local Government committees.

Her Democratic challenger Tim Feliciano is a first-time candidate and currently works as the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe's Department of Wildlife, Fish and Recreation wildlife investigator. Feliciano ran unopposed in the primary election.

District 26B serves Brule, Buffalo, Lyman and Jones counties in the House and those counties — plus Todd and Mellette counties — comprise District 26 in the Senate.

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