SD Legislative candidate survey: Dan Ahlers

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 8:53 PM CDT
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DELL RAPIDS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Dan Ahlers is running for the South Dakota State House in District 25. The district is north of Sioux Falls, and consists of the communities of Dell Rapids, Flandreau, and Humboldt. Ahlers is looking to oust one of two Republican incumbents, Jon Hansen or Randy Gross.

Dan Ahlers is running for election to the South Dakota State House as a Democrat in District 25.
Dan Ahlers is running for election to the South Dakota State House as a Democrat in District 25.(Submitted)

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

My wife Amy and I live in Dell Rapids. We have two boys Jackson and Aaron. I have been a business owner in Dell Rapids for 20 years. I also enjoy substitute teaching in the Dell Rapids Public School. I believe it is important to be involved in the community. I have been president of our before, after school and summer program as well as the Dell Rapids Chamber of Commerce. Currently, I am president of the Dell Rapids Community Fund. I spent 3 terms in the SD Legislature. Most of that time was spent on the Appropriations Committee balancing the state budget. It was a privilege to represent District 25 and I hope to have that opportunity again.

2. What prompted you to run for office?

I have been watching the partisanship, lack of responsiveness and inability of many of our legislators to address the real challenges that we face as a state. As a result, South Dakota faces a workforce shortage with 64% of our college graduates leaving the state. Our teacher pay has fallen to last place, again. In the last five years, 13 of our long term care facilities have closed. We continue to face healthcare challenges in our rural communities and reservations. We need elected officials who are committed to listening to constituents and working on our state’s toughest challenges.

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

I’m really passionate about education issues. I sponsored several bills to improve special education, opportunity and funding. My policy priorities will be set by the people I represent. Almost every bill I brought to the legislature has come from a constituent who took the time to stop in my store or call me to talk about an issue or problem

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?

I would support repealing or reducing the sales tax on food. In 2016, a half percent increase in sales tax was passed. This legislation said once we won the Wayfair vs. South Dakota case and started receiving tax from internet sales, it would be repealed. This repeal has not happened. If we don’t have the support to repeal the food tax, I would support reducing the sales tax.

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 think there should be exceptions for rape, incest and health of the mother. I would like to see more support for low income families to ensure a healthy

pregnancy and a healthy child. As a state, we should do more to improve the adoption process and make it more affordable for loving families to adopt. We should look at South Dakota’s foster care system. As I have knocked doors, I have had several people voice concerns about heavy caseloads for state workers and difficulty ensuring the safety of at-risk children.

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

If the people of South Dakota support it, I will do my best to implement it in the most efficient and safest way possible.

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

Honesty. We have too many elected officials that distort the facts and use fear to motivate people. It is causing division and the inability for meaningful work to be done.

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

One of the most inspiring individuals in my life is my high school English teacher Randy Nelson. He believes in every student no matter their level of ability, behavior or social status. We are all equals in his room. He is invested in the success of each student. It is a rare occasion when I visit with former classmates that his name isn’t somewhere in our conversation. That kind of lasting impact is rare and special.

It inspires my approach as a parent, employer and public servant. I strive to focus on developing the abilities of the people around me. I strive to be a good listener and treat people, even with those I disagree, with respect.

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.