SD Legislative Candidate Survey: Matthew Ness

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 11:42 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CANTON, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Matthew Ness is running for the South Dakota State House in District 16. District 16 includes the communities of Beresford, Canton, and Lincoln within its boundaries. Ness faces two challengers in his bid for office; incumbent Republican Kevin Jensen, and Karla Lems.

Matt Ness is running for the South Dakota State House in District 16.
Matt Ness is running for the South Dakota State House in District 16.(Submitted)

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

I was born in South Dakota, March 13th, 1984, and have lived here for all but seven years of my life.  My mother, Irene Carol Antrim, was one of six children raised on a farm near Montrose, South Dakota.  She worked at both Adams Thermal Plant and the Lincoln County Courthouse for seventeen years each.  She is currently secretary for a marketing firm in Sioux Falls.  My father, Richard Carl Ness, was born and raised in Canton.  He has worked at Adams Thermal Systems since 1978.

I graduated from Canton High School in 2002, fourth from the top of my class, with a 3.86 G.P.A.  During those years I served as Quiz Bowl Captain, Newspaper Editor, Senior Class President and Student Body President.  I graduated from Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, Minnesota in 2007, as an Honors Student, with a B.A. degree in History/Philosophy/ and Indigenous Nations, with 176 credits and a 3.86 G.P.A.  I graduated from the University of South Dakota in 2016 in Vermillion, South Dakota, with a M.A. degree in History-Indigenous Emphasis.  My Master’s thesis, “Federal Indian Policy, Psychiatric Care, Assimilation and the Hiawatha Asylum for Insane Indians.”  After my Master’s degree, I studied five semesters of Lakȟóta Language at the University of South Dakota...

2. What prompted you to run for office?

Given that there were only a handful of elected Democrats in the last legislative session combined with the glaring opportunism, political and otherwise, of the current Republican Governor, make dramatically apparent the need for concerned, qualified citizens to utilize their skill sets as best they can.

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

Education. Specifically the misguided attempt by Governor Noem to sublimate and sacrifice sound educational and developmental methods and concepts, as well as basic facts and the truth, in order that she might utilize whatever political issues of the moment that she can to ensure reelection. Mandating fascist propaganda be taught in public schools, with next to no consultation from actual educators is not only an egregious misuse of her authority, a clear violation of the public trust, but a fundamentally amoral disregard for the best interests of students, their parents, and the citizenry at large that will have negative ramifications for generations of South Dakotans.

Aside from that, a range of Indigenous issues concern me. South Dakota is blessed to have such a large Indigenous population. Given that Indigenous Peoples represent nearly ten percent of the state’s population, and are the original inhabitants of the land we all walk upon, it would seem just to place those issues at the top of any legislative agenda.

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? Is there any taxes you would cut instead, or in addition to?

Cutting the sales tax on food items to alleviate the financial burden of low income persons makes sound sense for the citizens of South Dakota as a whole.

As for other tax issues, I would consider them on a case by case basis. Fanatic fidelity to ideology does not make a competent legislator.

Case in point, it is no accident that Governor Noem’s position on the sales tax on food items has surfaced so close to the coming election. If only she showed such zeal in advocating for the welfare and will of South Dakotans (i.e. LGBTQ persons, Indigenous Peoples, marijuana users – both medicinal and recreational, teachers and students, nursing home residents, pandemic victims, and low income persons), the population of South Dakota would be far better off. In addition, Governor Noem would not then have to exert such effort to convince the voters so late to trust her, as She would have already earned that trust by her merits as opposed to panicked pandering via rhetoric.

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?

The overturning of Roe v. Wade, was, I think, a mistake for the country, and for the citizens of South Dakota. Asserting that the State has right to nearly unilaterally dictate the primordial, natural relationship between mother and child without regard for individual circumstance is, I think, wrong.

Though by this point it is a tired reminder, it is again worth pointing out that, the Republican Party, the party that claims to believe, “That government is best which governs least,” seems to have no moral compunction about injecting its ideology into millions of wombs and doctor’s offices across the country, against the advice of medical practitioners. This discrepancy is especially obvious and relevant in a state whose session lasts a mere forty days. I think my definition of “the people’s business,” differs markedly from those who support banning abortion.

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

Yes. The voters of South Dakota have already willed that recreational marijuana be made legal. Aside from the other ethical, legal, and commercial arguments for legalization, there are pragmatic reasons that support its legalization.

For a state to legalize medical marijuana and not recreational marijuana creates an untenable situation. Those persons who obtain the drug legally for medical reasons in a state where recreational marijuana is illegal can and will be tempted to engage in its illicit distribution in order to make ends meet. That is, persons who are already marginalized economically due to chronic illness might be forced by circumstance to sustain an unnecessary black market in order to simply survive. Legalizing recreational marijuana protects those who use the drug medicinally from facing counterproductive and wasteful potential prosecution.

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

Integrity. Compassion. Trust. Fairness. Cooperation. Service. Intelligence. In that order.

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

I have 23 semesters of higher education, an eleven hundred volume reading library, seven hundred music albums, an extended family of fifty three persons, and a range of memories and experience that daily inspire me.

If pressed, however, I would make note two such persons in my own life. One, my cousin, Jeffrey Allen Thompson, suffers from Duchene’s Muscular Dystrophy. He has a metal spine and a respirator, and has faced a terminal illness since childhood. Still, he managed to visit most of the lower forty eight states, and graduate college with a double major in Math and Computer Science.

I was Jeff’s P.C.A. for his first three semesters of college. He nearly died eight years ago. It was then that he had spinal surgery and was put on a respirator. When he was asked if he even wanted to finish college, given the severity of his health concerns, he responded, “Yes. Because that’s what Matt would do.” How’s that for a beautiful human being?! He graduated from our shared alma mater, Southwest Minnesota State University, the same day I received by Master’s degree from the University of South Dakota.

Alongside Jeff, I would say my greatest inspiration came from my late paternal grandmother, Helen Ness. She raised three children and two grandchildren, my sister and I. She also outlived her husband, two of her three children, and two of her four siblings. She was a widow for forty years, and spent her last decade in a nursing home. Still, she didn’t smoke, drink, gamble or curse – and managed to instill love and dignity to everyone she met. Sadly, she died during the Pandemic Winter of 2020, at the age of 94. Besides raising me, she was and is the best friend I’ve ever had, period. I was blessed to have been able to see or call her, three days a week, every week, for the last three years of her life. I’ve never met a kinder human being. If I’ve managed to cling to any shred of decency in middle age, it is no doubt due to Helen’s lasting influence.

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.