South Dakota League of Rural Voters

The South Dakota Rural Voters supports the laws and lawmakers that protect South Dakota’s family farmers and ranchers, our good clean water, and our state’s unique quality of life.

Family-based farms and ranches sustain our rural communities. They sustain our land, water, and wildlife. They represent much of what is best about South Dakota.

It’s in the interest of all South Dakotans that our family farms and ranches survive and thrive. South Dakota is a great place to live, recreate, work, and raise a family. South Dakota must thrive if we want to maintain our unique quality of life. It is also in the interest of all South Dakotans to have access quality and the quantity of South Dakota’s waters for drinking, farming, and recreating.

But that won’t happen by itself. Family farmers and ranchers face many obstacles today. Indeed, many South Dakota farms and ranches have not been able to survive, and our state loses more and more with each passing year.

It’s in the interest of all us to have access to the quality and quantity of South Dakota’s waters for drinking, farming, and recreating.

South Dakota is worth fighting for. That’s why South Dakota Rural Voters exists. We are going to reverse the prevailing trend by amplifying the voice of rural South Dakota families at the local, state, and national levels. We engage South Dakotans in the civic dialogues that directly affect our future and our livelihoods. To achieve a healthy rural economy, Rural Voters is:

  • Holding public officials and politicians accountable to their constituents by educating voters about the actions of legislators and members of Congress, the actions and statements of executive branch officials, and the stances and statements of politicians and candidates in rural South Dakota
  • Developing community leaders in rural South Dakota counties, briefing candidates, and making them take a stand on issues that are important to South Dakotans
  • Supporting candidates for elected office in rural South Dakota that support our values and making sure rural South Dakotans know about the ones who don’t
  • Taking a stand and educating voters on ballot initiatives that directly affect rural South Dakota
  • Supporting good public policies like encouraging renewable energy like wind power and biofuels, protecting groundwater and air from pollution, and promoting family agriculture
  • Engaging rural South Dakota citizens in the civic process by registering under-represented communities to vote and getting them out to vote
  • Supporting rural South Dakotans’ rights at the ballot box.

2014 Endorsed Candidates

Download the Voter Guide Here

The South Dakota Rural Voters supports the laws and lawmakers that protect South Dakota’s family farmers and ranchers, our good clean water, and our state’s unique quality of life. Family-based farms and ranches sustain our rural communities. They sustain our land, water, and wildlife and they represent much of what is best about South Dakota.

South Dakota Rural Voters is a non-partisan organization not affiiated with any candidates or candidates' committee and considers candidates running for offie based on how they stand on our issues. The following candidates have shown through their words and actions that they stand with us and are committed to a clean and prosperous future for rural South Dakotans.

Rick Weiland
US Senate

Weiland is a fifth generation South Dakotan, born and raised in Madison. Weiland will stand up to corporate control in Washington, DC from major companies trying to take over our food system to energy giants threatening family farms and ranches with condemnation for their own private profi. Weiland's plans to promote agriculture and rural development involve protecting access to railcars for grain and ethanol production and reform the Farm Bill to ensure family farms get their fair share. Weiland also supports increasing the state's minimum wage. Weiland will stand up for landowners and private property rights from threats by multinational corporations, like TransCanada.

Chuck Welke
SD 2 — Warner

Welke currently serves in the Senate. Welke has been a champion for open government and environmental issues at the state level. As a retired educator, Welke understands the challenges and opportunities facing South Dakota's educational system. He is also a champion for local family farms.

"I support legislation that promotes local and direct marketing and would vote to remove barriers that restrict local producers from marketing their goods...We need to find ways to make it easier for our producers to market their products and to help them expand their operations."

Ann Tornberg
SD 16 — Beresford

A career educator, Tornberg has also worked at the Capitol for the past two sessions. Along with her husband, she runs a family dairy and wheat farm. As a family farmer, Tornberg understands the issues facing South Dakota's groundwater, and supports updating the state's water laws.

"It's long past time to advance this issue [ground water]. Current studies will vastly change our perception. There have been tremendous changes in the size and scale of agriculture in our state since 1989, and those impacts on water must be examined."

Bernie Hunhoff
SD 18 — Yankton

Hunhoff currently serves House District 18 and is now running for the Senate. Hunhoff, the House Minority Leader, has been a strong advocate for raw milk producers, environmental protection, a transition to new energy technologies, and championing open government and the minimum wage initiative. Hunhoff has been a staunch defender of private property rights for South Dakota's landowners.

"I’m on record for establishing greater safeguards if the TransCanada pipeline becomes reality. Should South Dakota landowners’ rights be given away to a big oil company for a project that does not necessarily serve the public interest in South Dakota?"

Troy Heinert
SD 26 — Mission

A rising star in the legislature, Heinert was elected to the South Dakota House last year, and this year is running for the state senate. Heinert is also a small business owner and has experience teaching elementary school for a decade, as well as serving on the local school board. A member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Heinert also is a pickup man on the professional rodeo circuit. Heinert is a strong supporter of updating the state's groundwater laws, and defended this idea on the floor of the House during the last legislative session.

Kathy Tyler
HD 4 — Big Stone City

Perhaps no better champion for family farms and ranches exists in our state legislature than Kathy Tyler. She's actively fihting several proposed corporate farming operations and Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) in her district. Raised on a farm in northeast South Dakota, Tyler was a schoolteacher for 24 years, and retired to devote more time to her small business In the past session, she was the cosponsor of a bill that would have established certain requirements for in-situ leach mining.

"We need to do something [about in-situ leach mining]. State oversight is lacking in so many areas. I would support common sense legislation to bring back oversight."

Paula Hawks
HD 9 — Hartford

Hawks has been a strong voice in the state house for renewable and local energy. Growing up on her family's farm near Flandreau, Hawks has been a tireless advocate in the state legislature for farmers and ranchers—working to improve rules for grain buyers and producers. A former teacher and small business owner, Hawks brings dedication to do what's right. Hawks was the prime sponsor of a bill that would have offered better rates for small scale renewable energy producers in South Dakota.

[Regarding distributed generation]:"I have sponsored this legislation for the past two years. Net metering is a fair and responsible way to compensate suppliers."

Joan Wollschlager
HD 22 — Lake Preston

As a small farmer in Kingsbury County, Wollschlager understands protecting family farms and ranches, and ensuring our water supply is protected from contamination.

"Our water resources are valuable and may be limited, therefore we need to preserve and protect our water supply. Contamination is very serious."

Gardner Gray
HD 30 — Pringle

Gray lives in the district with the proposed Black Hills uranium mine. As a Navy veteran, he also promotes long term economic growth for the community, like keeping the Veterans Administration hospital open. Gray's slogan, "It's all about the water," means protecting the water and the land of the Black Hills.

"All ground and surface water in the state belong to the citizens of South Dakota. We must protect all our water sources from overuse, contamination and waste. All our aquifers are absolutely necessary for our survival and way of life."

Jacqueline Sly
HD 33 — Rapid City

Sly has been a longtime supporter of raw milk, and is one of the strongest voices for South Dakota's raw milk producers at the state capitol. In the last session, her assistance was key to ensuring the inadequate rules passed by the Department of Agriculture were not enforced, and she has been participating with producers and consumers in the Raw Milk Working Group.

"It is important for South Dakota producers and consumers to have the freedom to choose where and what one wants to buy and consume without undue regulations and rules."

Vote YES on Initiated Measure 18
Raising the Minimum Wage

This measure raises the state minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 with annual cost of living increases, putting money in the pocket of hard working people who grow our economy.


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Paid for by South Dakota Rural Voters - PO Box 41 - Brookings, SD 57006
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