Candidates I just can’t get behind: Aaron Aylward & Thomas Werner for District 6 House of Representatives

I had previously noted my contentious objection to supporting Kevin Quick for District 35 State Senate.. And while he was the first, he won’t be the last person I’m going to respectfully take a hard pass on supporting in the GOP Primary.

And with that, I’d bring you another edition of Candidates I just can’t get behind, with a pair of the candidates running for office. Aaron Aylward and Thomas Werner, who are hopefuls running for the State House of Representatives in District 6.

I believe I’ve noted previously Aylward’s previous political affiliation, as he’d been registered as a Libertarian last year.. when he was statewide chair for the Libertarian Party.  I’m a strong advocate for the GOP maintaining a big tent policy, as many people have had sincere changes in thought and ideology over their lifetimes, and have come to serve the GOP well after reaching a crossroads.

State GOP Chair Dan Lederman is one. So is Lt Governor Larry Rhoden who both changed after originally registering in another party in their long-ago days of youth. Ronald Reagan did the same thing himself before becoming one of our most noteworthy presidents in modern history. 

But, then there’s Aaron, who I have to view a bit more cynically:

When you tell someone you switched to the Republican Party, and are “running on that ticket for 2020,” I don’t exactly get the feeling that there’s been a shift of ideology, rather than a shift for opportunity’s sake.  If Aylward’s conversion to the GOP is sincere, he hasn’t sold me on it. And I have the feeling I’m no different that many others.

Sorry. I’m going to nope out of this one.

And then, there’s his fellow District 6 House candidate Thomas Werner. Much like Kevin Quick in the last edition of this column, when someone pops up on the scene and you have no idea who they are, you do some checking.

One of the first rules of opposition research is to research yourself first… and clearly… horrifically that was not done here. Otherwise, you would have asked yourself twice as to why Werner ever thought of running:

This was a public notice from February 17, 2000 in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.  And yes, it was 20 years ago. But, as you dig, you find plenty of things in more recent years, such as civil judgements and as noted here, a 2014 Sheriff’s sale (Argus Leader July 2, 2014).

And believe me, that’s not all… I’m just being brief for brevity’s sake.

I know businesses have downturns. I know people can have a bad run of luck.  But.. what I’m stumbling across in a very surface look is all very publicly filed, via notices in the newspaper.  It was a fairly simple look through the Argus, where I found this and more.

So, what happens when someone decides to do some serious digging against Werner in the fall?  Because that’s what opposition research is all about. It’s campaigning 101.  At times it can be difficult enough to run a race with a stellar candidate, much less one who seems to be deeply flawed.

So make this a District 6 double nope.

Party switching for opportunity’s sake, and being all too well acquainted with the Argus Leader’s public notice section?  Sorry, but District 6 House candidates Aaron Aylward & Thomas Werner are candidates I just can’t get behind.

3 Independent Candidates so far for April 28th deadline.

So far, three Independent candidates for the State Legislature have filed to run for the South Dakota State Legislature:

I’m told Seth William Van’T Hof is running from the right against Republican Senate Majority Leader Kris Langer in District 25.  Former Democrat State Representative (and former Indy Lt. Governor candidate) Caitlin Collier is running for District 17 House, where both parties have their dance card filled.

Former Democrat House Candidate Jade Addison of Sturgis is also trying again, this time as an Indy candidate in a race that had no Democrats for State Representative. (Sorry GOP Candidates. No free ride here).

Hang on for more. Independents have until April 28th to turn in petitions. 8 more days to go!

Governor Noem Signs Executive Order to Help South Dakota Pork Producers

Governor Noem Signs Executive Order to Help South Dakota Pork Producers

PIERRE, S.D. – Today, Governor Kristi Noem signed an executive order to help South Dakota’s pork producers as the industry faces the impact of COVID-19.

The new Executive Order (2020-17) removes overstocking restrictions on pork producers. Producers now have some temporary flexibility in their state and county regulatory obligations, which is necessary for their operations and care of their animals.

To learn more about executive orders to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit


Sponsors and supporters of anti-vaccination measure House Bill 1235 face primaries this June.

This past legislative session, a first-in-the-nation measure regarding people’s health was introduced in the State House of Representatives.

No, it didn’t have anything to do with abortion. Or being trans-gendered. And it had nothing to do with people’s reproductive health.  But ultimately, it may prove far more controversial, and may have more effect on our state’s elections this year than anything else that was discussed over the course of the past few months.

If passed, House Bill 1235 would have been the first bill of its kind in the country to remove immunization requirements for school children and others. While states have personal, religious and medical exemptions, all 50 states require vaccination to go to public schools.

This bill would not just have removed the vaccination requirement, it would have actually made having a requirement a crime.  House Bill 1235 outrageously included language that would make it a class one misdemeanor for any educational institution, medical provider or person to compel someone to receive immunizations.

Testimony in favor of the measure included proponent testimony such as this:

For the sponsor of the bill Rep. Lee Qualm (R-Platte), the president of South Dakotans for Informed Consent Mya Olson and other proponents of the bill, this bill is about medical freedom.

“Give us back our freedom,” Olson said. “It’s a God-given right. Our constitution is supposed to protect it.

Qualm said he is worried about consent that parents receive and his assertion of a link between autism and vaccinations, although it’s unclear where that research has come from.

Read it here.

It’s scary that a legislator actually used the completely and utterly debunked autism-vaccination claim, but, you get the point.

Lead sponsor State Representative Lee Qualm also brought a number of other legislators along for the ride on this bill, including fellow House sponsors Brunner, Goodwin, Lana Greenfield, Hammock, Latterell, Sue Peterson, Pischke, Randolph, Saba, Steele, and Weis and Senators Brock Greenfield and Phil Jensen.

The bill was heard in House Health and Human Services, where it was deferred to the 41st legislative day.  The only votes dissenting from killing the measure were those of Representative Tamara St. John, and Representative Julie Frye Mueller.

That was on the 25th of February.

So, what’s taken place since then? Nothing much other than the coronavirus pandemic causing the largest global recession in history, with more than a third of the global population being in lockdown and sheltering in place.

While it was an obnoxious measure before the pandemic, taking coronavirus into account has made House Bill 1235 even more outrageous, and places a very large target on those legislator’s backs.

In fact, many of them find themselves in primary elections, and trying to make required vaccination a crime for school children and healthcare workers could be a major issue.   How do the primary challenges break down for House Bill 1235 sponsors?

*Tom Brunner running for District 29 House finds himself running in a primary against former House Speaker Dean Wink who is returning to run, Rep. Kirk Chaffee, and Lincoln Shuck.  This could be challenging for Brunner.

*Controversial Senator Phil Jensen is trying to move over to District 33 House where he will be running against Melanie Torno and Taffy Howard.  Jensen might have name ID, but it’s not as if he’s not already controversial without adding anti-vaxxer to his resume.

*Tim Goodwin in District 30 House is in a 4-way primary for one of the two house seats against Keystone Mayor Kwinn Neff, and Trish Ladner of Hot Springs.  Did I say 4? Sorry, Florence Thompson is running as well. She out there far enough that she scares people.

*Dayle Hammock of District 31 House may find himself fighting for his political life in a 5-way primary against Scott Odenbach, Mary Fitzgerald, Brandon Flanagan, and Julie Olson. In addition to sponsoring the anti-vaccination measure, Hammock is said to have some issues with gaming as well. Not necessarily a good position for someone representing Deadwood.

*House member Isaac Latterell finds himself running against Herman Otten in a competitive District 6 Senate Primary.  Coming out against vaccination of school children is not something that works in his favor.

*Julie Frye-Mueller, who jumped into the D30 Senate race when Lance Russell dropped out, is in a contest against Hot Springs Mayor George Kotti. Frye-Mueller has name ID, but so does Kotti, and he doesn’t have the distinction of being one of two votes to end the vaccination of school children.

*House Bill 1235’s prime sponsor Representative Lee Qualm might find himself in one of the biggest quandaries of all.  In what was a safe Senate seat when held by Senator Rocky Blare, Blare and Qualm made a political swap of offices to allow Qualm to continue in the legislature on an uninterrupted basis.

But, not so fast.. That swap is looking less and less automatic, as Qualm finds himself facing Republican Erin Tobin of Winner for the seat he talked a Senator out of.

Tobin, a Certified Nurse Practitioner, has launched her campaign aggressively and is finding early support while she’s on the front-lines of treating patients at a time when medical professionals are in a heightened position of trust and appreciation.

With these legislators’ actions to make required vaccination a crime under House Bill 1235, we could see a number of these legislators called on the carpet moreso than if we were not all sheltering in place.

Stay tuned.  And stay healthy.

US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: Staying Connected While We’re Staying Apart

Staying Connected While We’re Staying Apart
By Sen. John Thune

The people of South Dakota are my top advisors. I rely on them more than anyone to get important advice and feedback about my work in Washington. While my reliance on their expertise hasn’t changed – and it never will – the venues through which I receive it certainly has these days.

The coronavirus outbreak has changed just about everything in our day-to-day lives, not the least of which is how we stay connected with one another. Many people are now working from home, students’ classes have been canceled for the remainder of the year, and social distancing is a big part of fighting this pandemic. If you’re still getting used to all of this, you’re not alone. I’m an extremely social person, but we all need to do our part to help slow the spread and flatten the curve. The cost of inconvenience is worth it in this fight.

One of the most important things I’ve learned over the last few weeks is that despite these temporary adjustments to our daily routines, Americans’ desire to remain connected has never been stronger. It’s been inspiring to see so many people who’ve used the power of technology to prevent this crisis from getting in the way of things like weddings, baby showers, classes, or even family meals. It’s amazing to see how people have adapted and made things work.

I’ve been realizing how important adapting is, too. No in-person meetings? No classroom or school assembly visits? No hopping in the car and driving from town to town? No problem. There’s a solution for all of that. I’ve been using everything from Skype to Shindig to FaceTime to Facebook Live in order to remain connected to the people of South Dakota throughout this crisis. Like I said, I still rely on your feedback to help ensure I’m doing the best job possible, especially now.

For years, I’ve used social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to share information and stay connected. Last month, I hosted a Q&A session on Instagram, and I recently used Facebook Live to host a digital town hall event where I was able to answer questions about the congressional response to the coronavirus crisis in real time. I think these are valuable ways to stay connected and be responsive, so look for similar events in the near future if you’d like to participate.

I’ve been using virtual conferencing tools to hold events with statewide organizations or with local groups in places like Rapid City, Sioux Falls, Aberdeen, Spearfish, Belle Fourche, Hot Springs, Mitchell, Watertown, and other communities. I’ve also used those tools to join a virtual town hall meeting with Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) to discuss the coronavirus response throughout the Dakotas. And they’ve allowed me to stay connected with folks in the South Dakota media who have helped keep our state informed throughout this crisis.

While we’ve all been affected, I feel particularly bad for students. Spring is such an awesome time of year for sports, other extracurricular activities, and graduation. I’ve used technology to drop into remoting learning sessions in real time and have also been recording short video lessons for students about how the federal government works. If you’re a South Dakota educator who would be interested in having me help with any of your lessons, please reach out to one of my offices, and we’ll try our best to get something lined up.

Aside from their ability to connect people, the one thing all of these technological tools have in common is that they require a reliable internet connection. The coronavirus crisis has underscored the urgent need to expand effective broadband access to all parts of the country since people are relying on the internet now more than ever before.

One of my top priorities in Congress is ensuring rural America isn’t left behind when it comes to advancements in fixed and mobile broadband technology. At my request, the federal agency responsible for our nation’s digital infrastructure will hopefully take meaningful steps later this month to ensure certain resources that support technology like WiFi will be more readily available as we move toward the 5G revolution in South Dakota. Every step is important.

Just because we can’t see each other face-to-face as often as usual doesn’t mean we can’t stay connected. So, as we all continue to deal with this crisis, I want you to know that my team and I are here to help. I’ve got a resources page set up on my website, which you can find at, and you can always call, email, or write – or join one of my future virtual events by keeping an eye on my social media channels for updates (@SenJohnThune).


US Senator Mike Rounds’ Weekly Column: Working to Answer Your COVID-19 Healthcare Questions

Working to Answer Your COVID-19 Healthcare Questions
By U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.)

As COVID-19 continues to spread in our state and across the country, South Dakotans are reaching out to my office for answers about how this virus will impact the economy and their businesses, and also how they can protect their health. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is continually putting out new guidance on their COVID-19 website with tips on how to protect against getting the virus, and what to do if you suspect you may have it. The CDC is a great resource, and I encourage folks to check out their site, We’re also compiling the latest information from CDC on my website,

While it’s nice to have easy access to accurate information online, sometimes it’s better to be able to ask your specific questions to a medical doctor. I spent my career in the insurance business, so I’m the first to admit I don’t know the answers to all of the medical questions we’ve received! That is why I’ve brought in experts to join me on my recent telephone townhalls that all South Dakotans are invited to join. We were recently joined by Dr. Mike Wilde from Sanford Health and Dr. Jennifer McKay from Avera Health. On another telephone townhall, we were joined by one of my fellow senators, Dr. Bill Cassidy. Dr. Cassidy is a senator from Louisiana and is also a gastroenterologist. Additionally, he has a background in public health and vaccine programs, making him an ideal guest to answer questions about COVID-19.

Many of the questions answered by the doctors on our calls are questions that we’ve seen all over social media, on the news and through phone calls and emails to my office. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions, along with the answers given on our townhall calls:

Q: Is it safe to go to a clinic or hospital for a reason other than coronavirus if it’s not urgent?

A: It really depends on the reason, and it’s a good idea to call your physician to get their recommendation. If you do go to a medical facility, you should wear a mask to cover your nose and mouth. You can even make a mask out of a scarf or a bandana.

Q: How is COVID-19 different from the flu?

A: We see anywhere from 10,000 to 80,000 deaths from the flu, depending on the year. Typically, the people who die from the flu are newborns or people who are 85 years and older whose immune systems are not as strong as they once were. For the rest of us, we’ve been exposed to the flu virus for as many years as we’ve been alive, whether that’s from getting the flu shot each year or just from being around it in the environment. That exposure helps us to build up immunity to it. COVID-19 is different because none of us have previously been exposed to this particular type of coronavirus. Therefore, more people at different stages of life are at risk of COVID-19, which makes it different and more dangerous than the flu.

Q: If we live in a small town with very few positive cases of COVID-19, do we still need to wear a mask when we go to the grocery store?

A: Yes, it’s advisable to wear a mask when you go into a store right now. When you pay the cashier, you won’t be 6 feet apart from them–you’ll likely be a foot or two away. 50 percent of people who are infected never have symptoms, so you may not know that you’re near someone who is carrying the virus.

Q: I work at an essential business that will continue to stay open throughout the pandemic. How can I protect myself at work?

A: Wear a mask, try to keep 6 feet apart from other people, wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds under hot water.

Q: How long until a vaccine is widely available?

A: It could be anywhere from 12 to 18 months until a vaccine is available to the public. The best evidence right now shows that when someone gets COVID-19 and recovers from it, they are then immune to it. This would be great news, and if we were able to track immunity in our cities and towns, we’d be able to get back to normal more quickly. Part of the CARES Act that was signed into law has specifically targeted accelerating the development of therapeutics and vaccines. This may increase the speed at which these vaccines are made available in large quantities.

As we continue learning more about COVID-19, new questions arise. We’ll continue holding telephone townhalls with South Dakotans to try to answer as many questions as we can. I’m very grateful to all the nurses, doctors and medical professionals in South Dakota who are working around the clock to save lives right now. I’m also thankful to Drs. Cassidy, Wilde and McKay who took time out of their busy jobs to join our telephone townhalls.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office if you need any help right now. We’ll do our best to get you answers. Continue to practice the social distancing and other tips from the CDC as we work together to beat COVID-19.

Governor Kristi Noem’s Weekly Column: Going on Offense against COVID-19

Going on Offense against COVID-19
By Governor Kristi Noem 

For many weeks, I have said that South Dakota is going to let the science, facts, and data drive our decision-making in the fight against COVID-19.

The science has left us with one worrisome truth: we cannot stop the spread of this virus. But we can take action to slow it down. That action needs to be targeted and based on facts and data, not driven by fear.

I firmly believe one of the best defenses is a good offense. And, in conjunction with our other mitigation efforts, South Dakota is keeping its people safe by going on offense against COVID-19.

South Dakota is now the first state in America to launch a statewide, state-backed clinical trial of hydroxychloroquine to fight COVID-19. We’re testing it both as a therapeutic to treat the disease and as a preventative measure. There have been many success stories about the effectiveness of this drug. Hopefully, our trial will gather the science, facts, and data to support those success stories.

We were also the second state to launch the Care19 app, a phone app that will help our state Department of Health with contact tracing to slow the spread of this disease.

Though I’ve taken some criticism from the mainstream media for our targeted, thoughtful approach, the data and the facts continue to show that the people of South Dakota have taken my guidance seriously.

As I’ve said before, my role with respect to public safety is something I take very seriously. But the people themselves are primarily responsible for their safety. They are the ones entrusted with expansive freedoms – they are free to exercise their rights to work, worship, and play – or to stay at home, or to conduct social distancing.

South Dakotans are stepping up and taking their personal responsibility seriously. They are acting to keep themselves, their loved ones, and their fellow citizens safe. And because of this, our projections continue to improve.

This week, Department of Health staff along with chief medical officials from Avera, Monument, and Sanford presented updated projections that show a further flattening of our curve. In total, thanks to the diligence of South Dakotans, we’ve cut our peak hospitalization projections by 75 percent.

Though we’ve seen marked improvement, my request to South Dakotans is to stay the course. We are well-positioned to win the fight against COVID-19, but we need to hang in there a little bit more. Please continue to social distance, practice good hygiene, and self isolate when sick.

Remember, we will get through this, just like we always do.