It’s almost over

South Dakota campaigns make closing pitch

SIOUX FALLS (AP) – Republican Dusty Johnson’s campaign for Congress has contacted more than 175,000 voters during his race, and he hopes to reach 45,000 more by the time the polls close Tuesday. Democrat Tim Bjorkman has visited about 180 communities and both U.S. House hopefuls have events planned around the state into this week.

Closing arguments are on in South Dakota political campaigns, which stretch way beyond the marquee governor’s race between Democrat Billie Sutton and Republican Kristi Noem that’s drawing Vice President Mike Pence to Rapid City on Monday. Voters will decide whether Johnson or Bjorkman should replace Noem in Congress and settle five ballot questions, among them measures that would reshape the state’s citizen initiative system and raise tobacco taxes for the first time in more than a decade.

Johnson, a former public utilities commissioner, said his priorities if elected are finishing a farm bill, making progress on resolving trade disputes to the benefit of the U.S. and tackling the federal deficit. He started out Thursday on what he’s dubbed his “Energy to Burn” tour, planning to visit roughly 30 cities in the campaign’s last days.

“It’s more about making sure that I’m in communities interviewing for the job,” said Johnson, whom a recent poll found had a major lead over Bjorkman in the race.

But Bjorkman, a former judge, said thousands of state residents face long odds in their daily lives and the poll isn’t affecting how he campaigns. Bjorkman said he wants to win the seat to help bring down health care costs and ensure every sick person can see a doctor; stand against cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security; and examine tax laws that make it tougher for low- and middle-income families to purchase a home.

“We’re not just striding or sauntering to the finish line,” said Bjorkman, who’s also on a tour across the state that ends with a Sioux Falls rally on Monday. “We are racing.”

Among ballot measures, the most active are campaigns on either side of Amendment W, a government ethics overhaul, and a plan to increase tobacco taxes to make state technical schools more affordable called Initiated Measure 25. The tobacco industry has sunk millions of dollars into opposing the tax hike, which was down in a recent poll.

Americans for Prosperity-South Dakota and the campaign against Amendment W plan to reach 75,000 South Dakota residents in the final days of the election cycle, Don Haggar, AFP’s state director, said in a statement. Doug Kronaizl, spokesman for pro-amendment group Represent South Dakota, said in a statement that the campaign would be knocking on doors in cities including Vermillion and Sioux Falls.

The measure would tighten campaign finance and lobbying restrictions, establish a new state ethics board and prevent the Legislature from changing voter laws – or the ballot question system – without a public vote. Critics have highlighted its out-of-state funding and characterized the ethics board as having unchecked power.

An October poll found more people supporting the measure than opposing it, but a lot of respondents were still undecided.

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