SD Legislative Candidate Survey: Jean Hunhoff

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 1:09 PM CDT
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YANKTON, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Jean Hunhoff is a State Senator running for re-election in District 18. District 18 includes the community of Yankton, with its southern border being the Missouri River. Hunhoff faces Democrat Frederick Bender in the general election.

Jean Hunhoff is running for re-election to the South Dakota State Senate in District 18.
Jean Hunhoff is running for re-election to the South Dakota State Senate in District 18.(Submitted)

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

I am Jean Hunhoff, a RN with nursing/hospital administration experiences, small business owner of Czeckers Sports Bar with our son and his wife in Yankton, I co-own a fitness center in Tabor with my husband, Dan, and we own and a small farm operation at Tabor. I have resided in District 18 for 42 years. We have four children and 8 grandchildren. I have served in the SD Legislature for the past 22 years. Currently I serve as Chairperson of Senate Appropriations and Co Chair of Jt. Appropriations, Vice Chair of Interim Rules, and member of the Government Operations and Audit Committee.

2. What prompted you to run for office?

I am running for re-election to the Senate to continue my efforts in fiscally meeting the needs of our South Dakota Citizens. I have served on Appropriations for the last 15 years and for the last 6 years have sat at the leadership table that makes the recommendations to the legislature on the state revenues and expenses to result in a balanced budget. Over the last 2 years the State of South Dakota has received over a billion dollars for one time expenditures. I have worked extensively to influence the best use of those one time dollars with my colleagues. I have strived to hold agencies to be accountable for the expenses of their programs and to demonstrate outcomes that were expected in the expenditure of those dollars. I want to work to make sure that the taxpayer dollars are used for the right purposes and we hold spending at a level that the taxpayer can afford.

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

I am passionate about supporting endeavors that support building a much needed workforce, supporting our workforce in education, Medicaid providers and state employees and supporting the activities that provide for housing, economic development and sustaining those programs that support our citizens to be independent and seek their quality of life.

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?

As Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, the question about eliminating the grocery tax is unanswerable for me at this time. A balanced budget means revenues equal expenses. There has been little detail into the proposal about what food/product items are associated with the tax elimination. We do not know what the Governor is proposing in her budget for state expenses. We know that inflation is impacting the sales tax growth we currently are experiencing. We know there our summer studies could result in recommendations for project expenditures. We also know there are other requests that will be coming in. It would be irresponsible to respond to the question without data that provides what all are the inputs and what are the outputs in the proposed expenditure of dollars for the state in the next fiscal year. In addition the future economic status of our country and state need to be analyzed for long term effects. Additionally the bond rating of the state is vital for funding of projects by outside entities. The impact of removing those dollars from the ongoing revenue could jeopardize our bond rating.

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?

I have been pro-life in all my votes and in my personal life. I have not seen any proposed legislation and cannot comment on what I don’t know. I believe life begins at conception. The acts of rape and incest are heinous and should be punished. The question I pose to myself is the value of the human being that results from those actions any less than a consensual behavior that results in an unwanted pregnancy? I believe that the physician and the patient make the decision in realm of the impact on the life of the mother. I believe we need to create resources to assist these women to carry and deliver the child and support them in their decisions of keeping the child or choosing adoption.

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

As a legislator it would be my role to facilitate the implementation of recreational marijuana if passed. It would be no different than the implementation of medical marijuana.

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

The most important qualities are respect and trust. Trust means that colleagues, constituents, and the general public can believe the legislator walks the talk and does as she/he says. Trust allows one to move into leadership, gain support or non support for bills by the members of the house they are in. Trust means there has been a thoughtful process of listening and vetting out the merits of the bill and the implications on our citizens. It means the ability to get things done. Respect means that one acts in a professional manner at all times. It means not attacking individuals and it most importantly it means listening. We may not all agree but listening to the opinions without judgment is key. We are all equal no greater no lesser.

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

Inspiration comes in many shapes and sizes- my faith, my family and the many mentors that I have accessed over the years in the legislature. Every day I wake up I know that God has something planned for me to serve others. I need to listen carefully to what those needs are. My family puts up with me and my many absences due to my public service. They have accepted me for that and support me in my work as a Senator. The mentors are those that have led committees, brought forth bills and serve as lobbyists but always in the highest level of respect and professionalism. There are many teaching moments in the day of a legislator.

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.