SD Legislative Candidate Survey: Jay Williams

The South Dakota State Capitol Building in Pierre at sunrise.
The South Dakota State Capitol Building in Pierre at sunrise.(Austin Goss DNN/KOTA)
Published: Oct. 31, 2022 at 1:20 PM CDT
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YANKTON, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Jay Williams is a Democrat running for the South Dakota State House in District 18. District 18 includes the community of Yankton, and its southern border runs along the Missouri River. Williams is running alongside Democrat incumbent Ryan Cwach, but will be looking to flip one the seats in this district back to his party. He and Cwach will face two Republicans in the general election, incumbent Mike Stevens and Julie Auch.

Jay Williams is running as a Democrat for the South Dakota State House in District 18.
Jay Williams is running as a Democrat for the South Dakota State House in District 18.(Submitted)

1. Who are you? Tell us about yourself in 100 words or less.

I am Jay Williams running for the District 18 South Dakota House.. I graduated from Gettysburg High School and attended the University of Wisconsin earning a degree in political science. I met my wife Carol at UW. We have 3 children and 2 grandchildren. I am a Vietnam Veteran and a former Peace Corps Volunteer. I have a Master of Science degree in Computer Science. I started a high tech company in Yankton in 1986. I served on the Yankton School board and I’ve run for public office before, most recently as a candidate for the US Senate in 2016.

2. What prompted you to run for office/re-election?

My concern for our country prompted me to run. With the emergence of the fascists and racists in the last 6 years who deny the validity of the free and fair elections in this country, we are faced with a dangerous internal threat . I served our country as a Vietnam Veteran back when that was not a popular thing to do. I am once again standing up to serve our country, this time against this domestic threat. A democratic government cannot survive if elections are not respected. When candidates reject the result of elections when they lose, the entire democratic process is threatened. I am running to sound the alarm to voters, who have the power to stop this threat and return the government to the people.

3. What public policies are you passionate about? What would your policy priorities be in Pierre?

I am passionate about a number of policies. All of these issues are important.

Democracy: Unless we have candidates and elected officials who support our fair and free elections and who accept the results of elections, even when they lose, our democracy cannot survive. Nothing else matters if our elections no longer have meaning.

Climate: Our entire planet is threatened by human caused climate change. Unless we take immediate action to address this, we are facing catastrophic events. South Dakota is in a terrific position to take the lead in this effort by exploiting the natural energy sources that are abundant in our state. Both the wind and the sun are prominent features of the South Dakota climate and we can exploit both with policies that encourage development of these energy sources.

Rights: Women, minorities and members of the LGBTQ+ community have seen their rights assaulted during the last several years. I am passionate about policies that ensure all people are treated fairly and that women have the right to consult with medical professionals in private without legislators or Christian nationalist dictating medical care.

Health Care: Everyone, regardless of economic situations, has a fundamental right to health care. South Dakota has rejected the federal assistance for low income people to access health care through Medicaid. I support expanding Medicaid in South Dakota (which likely will happen via the democratic election this fall).

Education: South Dakota teachers are among the lowest paid in the nation. The governor is trying to dictate our educational curriculum based on right wing political objectives rather than objective standards. I support policies to increase teacher pay using some of the massive reserves in the state coffers. I support developing our educational curriculum using experts in the actual areas of study rather than political hacks with specific agendas.

4. Cutting the grocery tax has become central to this election cycle. Do you think that the legislature should cut the grocery tax next legislative session? Are there any taxes you would cut instead, or in addition to?

I support cutting the sales tax on groceries because it affects those with the lowest income most. Even though the current governor has changed her position on this (she currently claims to be in favor of cutting the grocery tax), it is pretty clear that with the current supermajority (90%) of Republicans in the legislature, this tax will not be cut. The voters can change this by voting for Democrats. If the sales tax on groceries is cut, it will be necessary to either cut services or find another source of revenue. Since South Dakota currently spends the bare minimum on all social programs and since our teachers are already among the lowest paid in the nation, it’s hard to see where cuts can be made. However, there are plenty of places where revenue can be increased without harming anyone. Tax has become a dirty word in South Dakota, but paying taxes is a patriotic thing to do. It’s much like serving your country in the military or as a public servant. I believe it is incumbent upon elected officials, who have the power to tax, to educate citizens about their duty to fund the government.

5. The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade earlier in the year. South Dakota currently has a law that prevents abortion almost completely outright. Are there any exceptions you would like to see the legislature enact? What other laws would you like to see passed to support mothers and families?

When the Supreme Court decided that women no longer have the constitutional right to privacy, women suddenly have had their rights diminished. When politicians say that “local political leaders” should be involved in difficult conversations between a woman and her doctor, people should understand how wrong it is. Women have the ability in every sense to control their own bodies. Abortion should be legal, safe and most of all rare. Politicians at every level should stand up for women’s rights.

6. Recreational marijuana is on the ballot in November. If it passes, would you commit to legalizing it?

I believe in honoring the will of the people. I pledge to support legalizing marijuana if it is passed (for the second time) by a vote of the people. As the experience of nineteen states and the District of Columbia has shown, adult possession and consumption of marijuana has not caused major problems. The sooner we legalize marijuana, the sooner we can tax it and turn it from a revenue negative stream to a revenue positive stream for our state. The more we delay, the more we lose.

7. What is the most important quality for an elected official to possess?

The most important quality for an elected official is honesty. Our country cannot survive if elected officials do not possess a moral character that includes virtuous attributes such as integrity, truthfulness, and straightforwardness. When elected officials lie, cheat and steal, much as the twice impeached, disgraced ex-president has, our country is in danger. When candidates embrace the big lie the ex-president promotes, and refuse to accept election results, these candidates are not fit to serve or even run for office.

8. Who do you take inspiration from, and why?

On a personal level, I take inspiration from my Dad, who was a WWII fighter pilot and war hero. He was a Republican, but he never put party before country. He was an honest and fair man and he expected the same from others. On a political level, I take inspiration from former Senator Tim Johnson. Senator Johnson served our state and our country honorably in both the US House of Representative and in the US Senate. His honesty and integrity are an inspiration to me and to everyone. These two men embody the characteristics of courage and honesty that inspire me to be the best person I can be.

State legislative candidates in contested districts this election season were emailed the same survey to complete for Dakota News Now/KOTA Territory News. With the exception of a quick spelling and grammar check, answers were not edited by the poster. Those who responded to the survey questions had their results posted.