HURON — Democratic candidates for state House and Senate seats from Huron are pushing voter registration, door-to-door campaigning and a refusal to accept special interest money in their attempt to return more balance to the legislative branch and end corruption in state government.
“I’ve heard from a lot of constituents,” said Tyler Volesky, a candidate for the House. “Campaign finance reform is important to address.”
Running with him on the District 22 Democratic ticket is Senate candidate Eric Bliss, who says the growing gap between the haves and have nots in the United States is creating “a third world country inside our own country.”
Registering people to vote – especially those struggling to survive on the state’s nine Indian reservations – “will be a big change that our state can kind of help spread,” he said.
The two candidates in the Nov. 6 election spoke at Thursday’s District 22 Democratic Forum.
Bliss calls the act of voting in elections “the ground level of our democracy. That’s where each of us gets to be in our democracy.
“We’re a citizen of our democracy,” Bliss said. “If we don’t vote, we just got kicked out of our democracy so we’re no longer citizens. We’re illegals in our own country.”
He encourages people to carry voter registration forms with them in the event they meet someone who isn’t registered. It doesn’t mean they’ll vote, but at least they’ll be able to, he said.
“It kind of helps them feel like they’re part of whatever’s going on here,” Bliss said. “I think that inclusion is something that we can spread at the state level as well.”
Volesky said he was inspired to run for public office by his experiences as a young boy in accompanying his father, Ron, to Pierre when he served in the Legislature. He said the young kids he now coaches in basketball and baseball in Huron have also been inspirational.
“I think that it’s so important to inspire those kids and be a role model. I think if we lowered the voting age to 12 I’d win in a landslide,” Volesky joked.
Volesky said he won’t accept any political action committee contributions in his race.
“I don’t think we’re going to win because of PAC money,” he said. “I think we’re going to win because we have more excitement and we have more energy and passion.”
Every night for the last two months, he said he has gone door to door in Huron and in the smaller communities in Beadle and Kingsbury counties.
“If we haven’t met you yet, we will in the next five weeks,” Volesky said.
He often quotes the late Sen. Hubert Humphrey, who espoused what he called the moral test of government.
“How we treat those at the dawn of life, the young, how we treat those in the twilight of life, the elderly, and how we treat those in the shadow of life, the handicapped, the sick, the less fortunate among us,” he said.
“We’ve kind of lost our way as a government, and I think it’s important that we restore a two-party system,” Volesky said. “We need a strong legislative branch to be a check on the powerful executive branch out there.”
A lack of competition breeds complacency and corruption because of an absence of accountability and oversight, he said.
Volesky said his priorities as a legislator would be the fight against opioid and methamphetamine abuse, teacher pay, economic development and health care, including the expansion of Medicaid.
Bliss said South Dakota could be a leader in farming practices, rural health care innovation, in increasing in the number of nurses and teacher pay and training.
Registering voters and electing Democrats will help return two-party rule in the Legislature, he said.
“We have a chance to bring back that other side of the story to our state government,” Bliss said. “Right now, it’s just a one-sided story.
“I think if we get those groups of people that are in any way pushed to the side together in our state, we can really have a great state here,” he said.