SD Legislative candidate survey: Susan Wismer

The South Dakota State Capitol Building in Pierre.
The South Dakota State Capitol Building in Pierre.(Austin Goss DNN/KOTA)
Published: Nov. 1, 2022 at 6:03 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SISSETON, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Susan Wismer is running as an Independent for the South Dakota State Senate in District 1. District 1 consists of a portion of Brown county, and includes the counties of Day, Marshall, and Roberts. Wismer previously represented the district in the Senate, but was defeated by current Senator Michael Rohl (R-Aberdeen) in the 2020 general election. She will face Rohl once again this year.

Susan Wismer is running as an Independent for the South Dakota State Senate in District 1.
Susan Wismer is running as an Independent for the South Dakota State Senate in District 1.(Submitted)

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

I was raised on the Jones/Penrhos farm south of Britton. My sister and I have run a tax and bookkeeping practice for over 30 years in Britton.  My three children were blessed to grow up next to both sets of grandparents here. I am active at First Presbyterian Church, Britton Development Corp and Britton Area Hospice. I was first elected to the House in 2008. I ran for Governor in 2014, and was elected to the Senate in 2018. I have served on Appropriations, Government and Audit Operations, Judiciary, Taxation, summer interims, and redistricting, committees during my time in Pierre.

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

I am running because I love northeastern South Dakota: my home. As a lifelong District One resident and businesswoman rooted in agriculture, I am a champion for rural and small towns and schools. My opponent may technically qualify as a resident, but that does not make him a good fit for us. He lives over 100 miles from, and his life and business are in Aberdeen.  The fault line on important issues in Pierre is often between rural and cities. It’s critical that our small schools and communities are represented by a RURAL voice.

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

My main issues are funding and respect for public education, and healthcare funding that would allow our small town care facilities and hospitals in Sisseton, Rosholt, Roslyn, Webster, Bristol, Groton, and Britton to thrive. Medicaid expansion will be a big part of that. It will help our work force issues: if you can’t afford to see a doctor, you probably aren’t able to hold down a stable job either. Providing mental health and drug addiction treatment services and improving working conditions in our care facilities across the state will also be priorities.

Corruption can thrive behind closed doors. The legislature does not conduct their business in open meetings, as they require all local governments to do. GOP legislators make their decisions in meeting rooms not open to the public. For example, I stand on protecting rural electric cooperatives from government takings, but GOP legislators and the Governor wimped out on doing that in 2020 in closed door meetings. Who knows how it might have been different if the vote had been taken in public?  The way to a more open government is to have MORE partisan balance, i.e. more Democrats and Independents, not less, in Pierre.

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 was as surprised as anyone when the Governor did a 180 on this issue.  As an accountant and budget hawk and education advocate though, I worry that this action will make it more difficult to balance our budget, and even threaten our bond rating.  Billions of federal Biden COVID dollars and high agricultural commodity prices are buoying our state budget now, but neither of those things will last forever, and we have so far to go to catch up with long-standing funding shortfalls.

Every time Pierre brags about “this well-run state” that “lives within its means” we are bragging about our closed nursing homes, our bumpy roads and dangerous bridges, our failure to offer competitive salaries or respect for teachers, the dangerous working conditions in understaffed state institutions like the Sioux Falls Penitentiary, Redfield, Yankton, Springfield, and assisted living facilities for the handicapped.

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 would not have personally considered an abortion except under the most difficult circumstances; but neither will I vote for any measure that allows a politician to get between a family and their doctor. I voted and spoke against nearly every bill that has passed in the last 10 years that made abortions more difficult.  I have watched many GOP legislators, who are personally in favor of limited abortion care, be coerced by their caucus to vote for extreme anti-abortion measures.

There have been several initiatives that would have helped children and families, that our GOP legislature has defeated: for instance, addressing early learning and child care, and allowing a pregnant minor to provide her own informed consent to an abortion.  I find Governor Noem’s vows to “help” mothers more now that Roe has been overturned quite ironic, as she has consistently worked against such initiatives in the past.

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

Yes, if recreational marijuana passes, I would of course commit to creating the best legal environment possible. I remain concerned about how opposed to legalization our law enforcement community is. In tandem with legalization, our corrections system needs to do more than recycle prisoners with addiction issues. We need to do more addiction treatment to help more people overcome their addiction and become productive citizens.

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

I know it is my duty to represent ALL of the citizens of my district, not just the rich and powerful. I provide a speck of partisan balance to what is now dangerously close to one party control of state government. Not all legislative results can be measured by words added to the law books. My legislative results are seen in increased budgets for schools, nursing homes, infrastructure, and for public safety. My opponent claims “results” for the normal allocation process and good fortune of President Biden’s Infrastructure dollars, which I find just a bit disingenuous. I could have done the same thing over the years, but I recognized it as a process that is based on demonstrated need across the state, not back room deals.

Sometimes, as the only Democrat in the committee room, I am the only one who can speak for “the little guy” without fear of a backlash from the GOP machine.  It’s evident by the amount of money spent by campaign puppeteers far away from District One, that the rich and powerful don’t like having me in Pierre. I think that’s a great reason for me to be there.

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

I’ve had many great public servant examples in my family: Rural electric pioneer Art Jones and legislator Curt Jones, my father Maurice Jones who farmed while his father and brother were out doing the public’s business, and my aunt Carol Jones, local Relay for Life and event organizer extraordinaire.  But today I’m also mindful of the late Harvey Wollman, whom I’ve always admired for his optimism and statesmanship.  In his young life as a legislator he brought us the State Retirement System and the state’s four year medical school. I was privileged to hear him speak publicly on October 7th.

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.