SIOUX FALLS (AP) – South Dakota state Rep. Taffy Howard formally announced Tuesday that she is challenging Dusty Johnson, the state's lone U.S. congressman, in next year's Republican primary.
Howard will try to capitalize on a shift within the Republican party that is largely based on loyalty to former President Donald Trump. The lawmaker, who has challenged the GOP establishment during her time in the Statehouse, has positioned herself to the political right of Johnson, a popular incumbent who has held the seat for three years.
Howard echoed Trump's discredited claims of widespread voter fraud and has criticized Johnson for voting to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election. She said she would like each state to conduct a thorough review of the election that goes beyond just a recount.
"I believe there was fraud in the last election that needs to be investigated," Howard said. “Our current congressman is not willing to admit that there was an issue.”
Trump's own attorney general has said there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud in last year's election, and almost all of the legal challenges casting doubt on its outcome have been dismissed or withdrawn.
Johnson argued at the time of the vote in January that it was not Congress’ role to judge the Electoral College votes.
He is known for constantly crisscrossing the state to attend events. His campaign has $1.5 million to spend, while Howard said she has raised $110,000. A federal campaign finance report for Howard was not yet available.
But Howard argued she has popular support, saying she decided to enter the race after hearing from “so many people that are clamoring for change."
The congressman has frequently touted his work with a bipartisan group in the U.S. House known as the “Problem Solvers Caucus.” He also voted to keep Rep. Liz Cheney, the Wyoming congresswoman, in GOP House leadership.
“Scorecards rank me among one of the most conservative Members of Congress, and I’ve been a champion for fiscal responsibility," Johnson said in a statement. "I’ve delivered legislative victories for South Dakota and I’m going to keep doing so."
Howard, who has held a South Dakota House seat for five years, has a reputation for defying top Republicans and at times has clashed with Gov. Kristi Noem. The lawmaker has pushed some of the most conservative positions, both on social and fiscal issues, in the Statehouse. She listed gun rights, building a wall at the U.S. and Mexico border, and limiting the national debt as top priorities if she is elected.
Howard scheduled a pair of events to kick off her campaign Tuesday, but her intentions had been known for weeks as she set up a campaign website and filed to run for Congress.
The Republican primary is next June. Democrats have yet to announce a U.S. House candidate.