Last week, Rep. Susan Wismer made history as the first woman to win a major party nomination for Governor. Already, she’s speaking truth to power from the perspective of a legislator who’s heard the GOP talking points too often to let them go unchallenged.
Rest assured – Rep. Susan Wismer is ready for Daugaard now and through November.
Election 2014: Wismer ready for Daugaard
Aberdeen American News
By Katherine Grandstrand firstname.lastname@example.org
With Tuesday night’s Democratic primary victory over Joe Lowe, Susan Wismer, of Britton, will become the first woman to run for governor of South Dakota in a general election on a major party ticket. On Wednesday, Wismer took questions from media across the state via conference call regarding the challenges as she heads toward November’s general election.
“It took me a long time to come to this point,” Wismer said. “I was only able to do it because of lots of other people’s encouragement, but I got in because I felt like it was really important to have someone challenge this particular administration on the choices that they have made.”
Now that the primary is over, her first big task will be to kickstart fundraising.
“We intend to get an office going in Sioux Falls shortly. Otherwise, I’ll just be out and about a lot more than I have been,” Wismer said. “I enjoy all the summer events that South Dakotans do, and I’m looking forward to being a part of those.”
Wismer, a certified public accountant in her hometown, said she disagrees with budgeting choices the Republican governors and administrations have made over the past few years.
“I also need to talk about just how unhealthy it is to have such overpowering control in one party’s hands for so long,” Wismer said of the GOP. “It doesn’t lead to open and honest discussions with all parties involved and all parties able to express what is truly in the best interest of South Dakota. I think that’s a message that South Dakotans are open to.”
Because she serves as an accountant for all types of businesses and individuals in Britton, Wismer said she feels she has a better connection to the real world than many politicians.
“I’m very familiar not only with state government as a whole and everything that I learned through appropriations, but I’m very familiar with the numbers that people from all different walks of life deal with,” said Wismer, who has served District 1 in the South Dakota House of Representatives since 2009. She serves on the state’s appropriations committee.
Position of strength
While South Dakota has been a Republican stronghold for 35 years and a male stronghold for 125, Wismer sees her party affiliation and gender as opportunities, rather than weaknesses.
“I think they are both advantages,” Wismer said. “I think (the voters) were glad to see a woman step forward who was going to be a voice for equal rights and good choices, good health choices for women, and I think that was encouraging for a lot of voters.”
Women have been on the gubernatorial ballot in South Dakota before, but only for a third party. Alice Lorraine Daly ran with no party affiliation in 1922, two years after women first earned the right to vote in the U.S.
Daugaard defeated a female challenger Tuesday: former state Rep. Lora Hubble of Sioux Falls.
South Dakotans have sent two women senators to Washington, the last one serving in 1948.
Senate race aside, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, who served from 2004 to 2011 as the first woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from South Dakota, said she’s happy to see another landmark for women in South Dakota politics.
“Whenever women candidates can run strategic and successful campaigns that inspire voters, it can have an enormously positive impact, particularly for the political socialization of our younger citizens, girls and boys both,” she wrote in an email.
South Dakota’s second female U.S. representative, Kristi Noem, took the seat in 2011 and will face Democrat Corinna Robinson in the fall general election.
Republicans in the state are disillusioned with the direction the party has been taking as of late and many are vocal about their dissatisfaction, Wismer said. Even more are unhappy, but do not express their concerns.
“When this state has an opportunity to vote as a whole, we have put moderates in office,” Wismer said. “I really don’t look at either one of those as being a disadvantage. Actually, these days, in this state in particular, it’s an advantage.”
Wismer, who points out she is ready to challenge Daugaard, said her biggest issues are education and health care expansion, especially Medicaid.
“The Republicans get elected saying that education is a priority, but it is absolutely the last thing on the list when they get to Pierre,” Wismer said. “I would be an advocate in Pierre for education because they certainly don’t have one now.”
Because the 2011 budget cuts removed state funding from Medicaid, it also lost millions of dollars in federal aid coming to the state, Wismer said.
“Here we are, thumbing our nose at federal Medicaid dollars that could be used to pay our nurses’ aides better, that could be used to make sure that our grandparents, who did save for their own care, who did make plans, who did buy long-term care insurance, who did put money aside, those private-pay patients are paying the bill for the Medicaid patients because South Dakota is refusing to pay their fair share of the cost of care there,” Wismer said.
If elected, Wismer will be the second governor from her hometown of Britton. The first, Frank Farrar, still lives in Britton and is South Dakota’s oldest living former governor. He was governor from 1969 to 1971.
“I see him quite often. He spends quite a bit of time in Britton these days. We often see him at the airport, actually, because he’s still flying around the state,” Wismer said. “I imagine that we’ll probably have some more conversations. I am running from a different party than he ran.”
Follow @kgrandstrandAAN on Twitter.