South Dakota elects one official to the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., every two years. Augustana’s own President Stephanie Herseth Sandlin occupied the seat from 2004 to 2011. The 2020 election ballot will list the incumbent Republican candidate, Rep. Dusty Johnson, and Libertarian candidate, Randy Luallin, as the two choices for the House.
The candidates share a passion for South Dakota and many goals. Johnson won the Republican primary with more than 75% of the votes. Since the Democratic Party did not support a candidate to run against the Republican incumbent, Luallin is the only other name on the ballot for the House. As a third-party candidate, Luallin expressed that in a normal election year he would not receive as much coverage as he has been.
The United States governmental structure facilitates a two-party system where it is difficult to gain traction if a candidate is running from a third party.
Rep. Dusty Johnson grew up in central South Dakota where he learned about business at an early age, according to his campaign website. The University of South Dakota graduate ran for public office for the first time in 2004, winning a spot on the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission. He served on the commission until 2018 when he won the South Dakota seat in the House of Representatives.
During his time in office, Johnson backed a bill passed in Congress that invested in renewable energy. Johnson said he emphasizes the development of new technology to ensure a decrease in carbon emissions.
“The only way we are ever going to get to any kind of a carbon sustainable future is not through the economics of less but the economics of more,” Johnson said. “More invested in technology, more entrepreneurship, more innovation.”
Economically, Johnson said he believes the government has a limited role to play between buyer and seller, which is to break down barriers that stand between them.
Johnson said he hopes to foster “independence rather than dependence” in the economy. He wants to give South Dakotans tools to boost the economy, such as less taxation and more employment opportunities.
Racial inequality is another issue that Johnson said he strives to find a solution to. Johnson said he wants to emphasize creating inclusive environments and diverse viewpoints. Johnson acknowledges the role the government can play in bringing down systemic racism, however.
“We don’t make meaningful improvements in the headlines,” he said.
Johnson said he believes individual and community action would be more effective.
In the midst of the pandemic, Johnson voted for all four relief packages passed by Congress. He said he wants South Dakota schools to be open, if possible, and substituted for a seventh-grade English teacher at Mitchell Middle School Oct. 19. He wanted to understand more about what it is like for students and teachers during the pandemic.
As of Oct. 21, Johnson introduced the SAVE for Seniors Act which would ensure seniors with Medicare have access to a COVID-19 vaccine without cost sharing.
Healthcare is a heavily debated topic, which is why Johnson helped draft and introduce HR-19. The plan would reduce pharmaceutical costs and generic delays. It establishes an ambassador for international prescription drug prices to ensure Americans will not be taken advantage of.
Johnson is part of the Problem Solvers Caucus, which consists of representatives dedicated to finding a compromise for legislation. He has worked to bring together the deeply divided House to achieve progress.
“I’m more focused on finding solutions rather than complaining about problems,” he said.
Randy Luallin, also known as Uriah in his hometown of Hot Springs, South Dakota, is once again fighting for a seat in Congress as a libertarian. The current small masonry business owner first ran for office in 2012 for the 2nd District seat in his home state of Colorado but gained only 3.3% of the vote.
The environment is a large concern to Luallin. Since South Dakota is a large agrarian and pastoral state, he said he plans to make more sustainable farming techniques a common practice. No-till practices, cover crops and crop rotation would eliminate problems of waste and rapid erosion on the landscape. He wants to pursue this through education instead of law because Luallin believes forcing farmers to comply will not achieve sustainability.
“We have to pursue anything we can to take care of our air and our water and our land,” Luallin said.
According to Luallin, the federal government is “too big, too spendy and too intrusive. We need to reduce all of that.” Luallin said he wants to address the national debt by decreasing spending on a national level and giving more power to state governments.
Luallin wants to bring people back into the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic. He is against mandatory masks and vaccines, addressing these actions as extremely dangerous to citizens’ rights. Luallin praised South Dakota for its response to the virus. South Dakota does not have a state-wide mask mandate and has not been shut down.
Luallin said he is an advocate for individual rights, but he also said Americans must become aware of their biases to make an impact. He also acknowledged that he has experienced white privilege all his life. To battle systemic racism, he said that change must begin in the home.
“To correct [systemic racism] you cannot legislate hearts and minds,” he said. “It has to come from each and every individual.”
As an Army veteran, Luallin is passionate about the military. He said he wants to emphasize national security and is incredibly supportive of the space program. Instead of using military power for political motives, Luallin wants to use it for defense and innovation. He said he believes the U.S. is “very far behind in technology.”
The war on drugs is another aspect of American politics Luallin said he is determined to bring a stop to. He referred to it as “the war on American families” because he said it causes people to become incarcerated for addiction.
Luallin’s major goals are to strengthen individual rights and lessen federal government intervention. He is determined to bridge the partisan divide in Washington, D.C., as a third party member.
“We need freedom. We need liberty. If you unchain our people, they will prosper,” Luallin said.