SD Legislative candidate survey: Bekki Engquist-Schroeder

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 8:39 PM CDT
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VERMILLION, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Rebecca (Bekki) Engquist-Schroeder is running as a Democrat for the South Dakota State House in District 17. District 17 stretches along the borders of Nebraska and Iowa, and includes the communities of Vermillion, Elk Point, and North Sioux City. There are two Republicans also in this race, Chris Kassin and William Shorma.

Rebecca (Bekki) Engquist-Schroeder is running for the South Dakota State House as a Democrat in...
Rebecca (Bekki) Engquist-Schroeder is running for the South Dakota State House as a Democrat in District 17.(Submitted)

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

I am Bekki, a small business owner from rural Clay County, who values public service, South Dakotans, and getting work done. Since starting my campaign I have led with Common Sense and Real Representation as my motto. I have a strong skillset of listening, problem solving and getting results. We need more small business owners in Pierre to ensure accurate representation. We also need more women in Pierre for the same reason. When everyone has a represented seat at the table, the policies are more suited to serve all of us in a balanced and effective way. We deserve that as hard working South Dakotans.

2. What prompted you to run for office?

It takes a lot of planning, organizing and time to run and serve as an elected official. I admire anyone who tries. I knew this was the election cycle for me to get involved after first considering running for office in 2018. Both of my businesses are in really good places and that allows me to step away and begin elected public service. I am so proud of both teams and businesses. I know that as a small business owner I have a great skill set of problem solving, working with various groups and people, personalities and issues, and doing it in a way that produces results. I take accountability seriously and am accessible to all as a main street business owner. I am easy to find and always willing to listen.

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

I am passionate about enacting and affecting policies that serve South Dakotans better. I hear from others and am also concerned with educator pay in SD, the daycare shortage that directly affects the worker shortage to name a few.

South Dakotans deserve effective decision making, not political theatrics. Policies that affect hard working South Dakotans need to be prioritized, no matter what party you align with. I want to represent my district in Pierre, and work with as many in the legislature as possible to ensure our policies match the people they affect to produce the best outcomes.

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 am supportive of cutting sales tax on groceries, but it needs to be done incrementally and with progressive planning to ensure we aren’t trading one issue for another. We could have additional sales tax revenue to make up for it, if the will of the voters was always upheld in South Dakota. No matter which side of the aisle you are on-we all agree we want families and single people to afford food without raising anyone else’s taxes. The domicile nomads that avoid taxes in other states by taking up mailbox residency here do it for a reason, and that reason doesn’t benefit SD. Could we make up some tax dollars by no longer allowing outsiders to take advantage of us for free? I think we can with thoughtful policy.

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?

Twice the voters in South Dakota have voted against a total abortion ban yet here we are. We have an unclear and unsafe trigger law as a result of the Dobbs decision. Who decides how close a woman comes to death before she can have an abortion and why are politicians telling physicians what to do? That said, I believe the legislature needs to stand up for South Dakota mothers and families, work together to enact clear policy to allow women their healthcare rights, and support those women and children. As a state we can extend Medicaid coverage to mothers for up to one year after giving birth and if we expect women to have to give birth, then we better show up to support them post-delivery. Funded Pre-K would also help not only by setting our kids up for success but also by allowing parents to return to the workforce while knowing their children are taken care of. I would also like to see some assistance with adoption. It is an expensive and confusing process, with over 300 children needing adoptive homes in South Dakota I would like to work to make this process more accessible for people who wish to adopt. This again requires thoughtful planning and policy.

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

Adult-use marijuana was already passed overwhelmingly in South Dakota until it was challenged by Governor Noem via Col. Miller and Sherriff Thom on the single subject rule. I do support the will of the voters and as an elected official it would be my responsibility to uphold that vote. Adult use marijuana legalization is also a great source of sales tax revenue and tourism dollars. It is another form of agriculture. The regulated and taxed industry could offset the food sales tax reduction in state income as well as assist with moving South Dakota up from 50th lowest average teacher pay. Right now we get all of the bad from the unregulated illicit market and none of the good from a tested, regulated, taxed market. We can do better than that.

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

I think it is easy to say things like ‘our kids are our future’ or that ‘the voters will should be upheld’, what matters for a candidate is that they take action. Your elected officials should have ideas and have the gumption to work together without political grandstanding to find compromise and produce results. We need to elect people that match the policies we want to see in our state. To have that, we need to have candidates who can work in stressful, busy situations and long days without losing sight of the people we are elected to represent and stand up for those people.

I am a hard working South Dakotan like most everyone else, and I know what it is like to worry about finances, the pasture producing enough hay for winter, and ensuring my employees are taken care of first. That takes the ability to conceive ideas and work to do the best for the most with what resources you have.

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

This answer could go on for days! I am inspired by so many people: my dear family members for raising me to be the strong woman I am today by teaching me hard work and the value of a dollar; Dolly Parton for knowing how important reading is to children and inspiring me and a lovely friend to start our own Dolly Disco fundraiser to make sure all children have books to read; my intelligent friends and supporters who share with me their lives and help me know from many angles what life can look like and how I can support people better. I am inspired by everyone I meet in one way or another, and that is beautiful.

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.