Simplified: Candidates statewide are vying to represent South Dakotans in the state legislature, and closer to home there are several folks looking to serve on the Lincoln and Minnehaha County Commissions. Sioux Falls Simplified reached out to all of the Sioux Falls-area candidates to help you get to know them a little better ahead of the June 4 primary election.

Why it matters

  • While the primary election is essentially a precursor to the November ballot – given the makeup of South Dakota politics, this election is really where most decisions get made about who will represent the state's residents in the legislature.
  • Because the state skews conservative, the Republican primary is where the majority of voters will narrow down the candidates they most want to see represent their neighborhoods. And – in many cases – those races will be uncontested on the November ballot because there aren't democratic candidates running.
  • That said, for voters who are not registered members of the Republican Party, the primary election will be a bit of a snooze fest. Republicans hold what's called a "closed" primary, meaning only registered members can vote. That means there aren't many choices for democratic, independent or non-affiliated voters to make.
    • For the most part, the only question will be to decide which democratic candidate you want to nominate for president.

How to use this guide

Step 1: Figure out your district and your registered party affiliation. You can find all of that information on the Secretary of State's voter information portal.

  • That portal will also show you a sample ballot for your specific situation, and it'll tell you where to go to vote.

Step 2: Figure out who's running in your district. Come back to this article, search for your district. (I recommend a simple CTRL+F to search for the number and avoid having to scroll a whole bunch).

  • Again, if you're a democrat, independent or non-affiliated voter in the Sioux Falls area, you won't have any local decisions to make. That doesn't mean there aren't non-Republican candidates in your district, though. It just means there weren't enough to call for a primary election to narrow the field.

Step 3: Go vote on June 4.

  • You can also find an "Election Day FAQ" at the bottom of this article if you have more questions.

Extra bonus step: Share this guide with a friend and tell them to go vote, too.

Ok, let's meet some candidates

Candidates are listed in ballot order, starting with county commission candidates for both Lincoln and Minnehaha Counties, and then moving in numerical order through the 10 state legislative districts in the Sioux Falls region. Phew, ok, let's do this.

Lincoln County Commission

Betty Otten (R, Lincoln-2)

Betty Otten is 72 years old and retired, and she said she's been to nearly every commission meeting over the last several years.

"I decided to run because we needed to actually just keep our residents from having unnecessary taxation," Otten said.

Her top priority is looking line-by-line at the budget and finding ways for the county to be more efficient. She also wants to stop any future opt outs (which could increase local taxes) and put an end to budget supplements throughout the year that add money to departments outside of the regular budget process.

"(County departments) need to pre-plan and look forward on budgeting," Otten said. "Right now they're not, and there's no transparency really in our county government at this point."

Duane A.M. Carlson (R, Lincoln-2)

Duane Carlson owns a consulting business and does on-site repairs on everything from automotive to repairing excavators.

He's running because he believes Lincoln county is "over-taxing" farmers and the elderly.

"When the taxes are so high that the (people with) limited income or on social security can't afford taxes on farm ground they have lived on since their ancestors had come out here and set their roots down here – there’s a problem," he said.

Curbing county spending is his top priority, and he wants to be accountable to taxpayers.

Michael Poppens (R, Lincoln-4)

Michael Poppens is a 58-year-old farmer who also owns a retail fireplace store.

Poppens said he wants to continue his work on the commission because there's a lot of good things going on in the county.

"Part of the advantage of being on the board is experience, and given all the dynamics going on in our county, we'll have to make sure that can continue," he said.

In terms of priorities, Poppens said he's watching the county's rapid growth and making sure the county's public safety department is able to handle it. He's also concerned about keeping up with roads and making sure it's safe and easy to travel within the county.

Douglas Putnam (R, Lincoln-4)

Douglas Putnam is a 66-year-old semi-retired business owner who said he's running for commission in large part because he was asked to run.

He's also concerned about taxes and hopes to try to "curtail them a little bit."

"There is no 'number one priority' because the job is complex," Putnam said. "And I guess I don't know all of the details other than the fact that we just don't have to keep spending, and we can spend a little smarter."

Minnehaha County Commission

Cole Heisey (R)

Heisey did not respond to multiple requests for comment. That said, he does have a Facebook page with some information.

Roger Russell (R)

Russell was initially responsive, but ultimately also unable to connect for an interview with Sioux Falls Simplified.

Dean Karsky (R)

Dean Karsky, 61, owns an insurance agency in town and has served on the Minnehaha County Commission for the past eight years.

He's seeking re-election because he sees it as a great way to serve the community and because it aligns with his skillset.

"I truly enjoy being a county commissioner," Karsky said. "I enjoy the work with the department heads and the county staff."

If elected, Karsky said his priorities include working on the Envision planning and zoning document that'll outline what growth will look like in the county for the next 25 years. He's also looking forward to the budget process.

"After eight years, I feel that I have a good grasp of the needs vs. the wants, and I can properly filter those," he said.

Dan Kippley (R)

Dan Kippley – father of Commissioner Joe Kippley – is a 63-year-old semi-retired consultant with experience in leadership development and sales.

He's running because he said he's wanted to for years, and the timing is finally right.

"Now that I'm retired, I have the time, I have the passion, and I have a vision," Kippley said. "I think we can move the county forward and do a lot of positive things for the constituents."

In terms of priorities, Kippley said he's coming in with no agenda because he's taking the time to meet with department heads and get a feeling for what everybody encounters, as well as their needs. He's also looking to observe the budget process this year in anticipation of being a part of that process in 2025.

"There's not a lot of wiggle room," he said. "The county runs a very bare-bones budget."

District 2: S.D. House of Representatives

Jake Schoenbeck (R)

Jake Schoenbeck is 28 years old and the vice president of internal audit at Plains Commerce Bank. This is his second time running for office – he came up 80 votes shy of a win in 2022.

Schoenbeck said his dad, longtime state lawmaker Lee Schoenbeck, is an inspiration for his candidacy.

"I've always kind of seen how this works and been enamored (with the legislative process)," Schoenbeck said. "I continue to want to be involved in it because I love this state."

Top priorities include property tax reform, education – specifically increasing teacher pay – and infrastructure.

John Sjaarda (R)

John Sjaarda is a 47-year-old farmer who first ran in 2022 when his district "needed a good conservative Christian" candidate.

Photo from

His main priorities are property rights and eminent domain reform.

"The carbon pipeline was a big issue these last two years, and eminent domain is a useful tool but it should be used only for public use not for private companies," Sjaarda said.

David Kull (R)

David Kull is a 68-year-old retired law enforcement official who spent 30 years with the Sioux Falls police department, worked as police chief in Brandon and served on the Brandon City Council.

Photo from

Kull said he initially ran two years ago because he was asked to run. He's looking to serve a second term because he said he finds the work satisfying and wants to stay involved.

"When you go into the legislature the first year especially is a learning experience and then you start getting things figured out," Kull said.

One of his main goals is to emphasize local control and make sure state laws don't have a negative impact on municipalities, school boards and counties. He's also hoping to lean on his law enforcement background to impact legislation related to the criminal justice system.

District 6: S.D. House of Representatives

Wendi Hogan (R)

Wendi Hogan was unable to be reached for comment.

Herman Otten (R)

Herman Otten, 57, is self-employed as a contractor in the construction industry. He said he's running for office because he enjoys serving in the legislature.

"I’m a firm believer in good government and believe that I can provide that for people in the state," Otten said.

Otten said he likes to work on legislation impacting sportsman issues, as well as telehealth.

"Being in Pierre, it's hard to key in on one particular subject if you’re gonna do your job well," Otten said. "I’ve always been a supporter of the unborn and an advocate of second amendment defender."

Aaron Aylward (R)

Aaron Aylward is a 37-year-old recruiter. He decided to run for re-election to continue to bring and support legislation that "helps protect the rights of people."

"My priorities will be geared toward property tax relief, bringing spending under control, trying to stop unnecessary spending like the new spending proposals for the new penitentiary site in Lincoln County, restore federalism, and put up barriers between our state and organizations like the World Health Organization," Aylward said.

District 9: S.D. Senate

Joy Hohn (R)

Joy Hohn is a 58-year-old commercial pilot who said she's running because she wants to make sure the voices of the people are heard in government.

"I have seen how the voice of the people has gone silenced in trying to get some property rights in place for the landowners especially for the eminent domain legislation," Hohn said.

In addition, Hohn's priorities include property tax relief, putting families and education first, and promoting farms and businesses.

Mark Willadsen (R)

Mark Willadsen, 69, said he's running to use his experience in the legislature to serve District 9.

He's previously sponsored legislation to tax electric vehicles because they don't pay any gas tax, and he said he'd like to see changes to campaign laws.

"It seems like (campaign laws) are never enforced, so I would like to look into changing how we penalize people who choose not to follow the law," he said.

District 9: S.D. House of Representatives

Bethany Soye (R)

Soye is a 32-year-old attorney who's running for re-election.

"I love America and the brilliant system of federalism created by her founders. It is up to each generation to protect this grand experiment in self-rule and to ensure that our God-given rights are protected," she said.

Soye said her number one priority if elected would be to pass a law requiring age verification for explicit websites.

"South Dakota needs to take a stand against this predatory industry and protect the innocence of our children," she said.

Kristi Golden (R)

Kristi Golden is a 58-year-old marketing consultant who's been involved in public service most of her life. She said she decided to run because she thought it was time to "stop helping candidates from the background and step forward myself."

Her top priorities if elected are to continue to foster a strong economic environment and invest in education.

"We certainly have to be looking and considering the burden that people are facing with property tax, and that is something we need to be looking for answers on," she said.

Daryl Christensen (R)

Daryl Christensen is a 67-year-old sales manager and business development director. He's previously served in the legislature in 2003 and 2004 and continued to work closely with lawmakers in his capacity as president of the home builders association.

"My involvement was always there but I still wasn't back to the legislature, and the itch needed to be scratched," he said.

His priorities include supporting education (both his wife and daughter are teachers), and he wants to take a "common sense approach" to property taxes and budgeting.

"I am a fiscal conservative, but I’m also very supportive of the things that we are charged to be stewards of and the services we need to provide for our citizens," he said.

Tesa Schwans (R)

Tesa Schwans is a 58-year-old hairdresser who said she's running because she's always been interested in politics.

"I'm political but I'm not a politician," Schwans said. "And it's something that when you are really talking to the public every day and you kinda get a feel of where people's hearts are and what they’re feeling, you just think that it’s just time to stand up and really take a part of the process."

Schwans said her priorities are opposition of CO2 pipelines, creating awareness for mental health issues, cutting spending, and ensuring professional licensing regulations stay in place.

"I am pro-life, pro-constitution, pro-second amendment, I’m for election transparency, and I'm for states’ rights," she said.

District 10

No primary races.

District 11: S.D. House of Representatives

Bill Linsenmeyer (R)

Bill Linsenmeyer is a 59-year-old small business owner who decided to run after conversations with existing lawmakers who encouraged him.

His main priorities are voter rights and property rights, specifically protecting voting rights for people who are South Dakota residents who regularly travel out-of-state in RVs.

When it comes to carbon pipelines, he said the following:

"If the government an tell landowners that they have to have pipeline put on their property for the benefit of a single private company, then we really don't have private property."

Brian Mulder (R)

Brian Mulder, 47, works as the managing director at Volunteer of America - Dakotas. His experience with the nonprofit and his background in working with people with disabilities and mental health issues spurred him to run both for his first term in 2022 and again this year.

His main priority is to be consistent with the work he's done the first two years, which includes passing legislation to make Narcan available in public spaces and prohibiting THC products like Delta 8 and Delta 10.

"That's maybe controversial, but the fact is being in this world of VOA and the chemical dependency world, we see the impacts of those types of over-the-counter THC drugs," Mulder said. "We needed some sort of regulations around that."

Keri Weems (R)

Keri Weems, 58, works several jobs including independent contracting and driving for Lyft. She wanted to run because she has previously served in the state legislature about 20 years ago.

"When I left, I said, 'Well you never know, I just might come back when the time is right,'" Weems said. "And now the time is right."

Weems said her priorities are low taxes, pro-family legislation and, at the end of the day, representing her district.

"The thing about the legislature is you never know what’s going to come up," she said. "So even if you have an agenda, other things come up. From my standpoint, I love to be educated on both sides of whatever that issue is and then make the decision."

John Kunnari (R)

John Kunnari is 69 and retired after a career including carpentry and software engineering. He's running because he sees a lot of things that are "troubling" and feels like he can and should be doing something about it.

He wants to see legislation requiring age verification on explicit and pornographic websites. Other priorities include property rights, more parental choice in education and "defending unborn lives through birth and natural death – a natural, God-given right."

"Last year, (I spent time) educating people in the 'Decline to Sign' effort," he said, referencing a group opposing a ballot measure that would legalize abortion in the state.

District 12: S.D. House of Representatives

Amber Arlint (R)

Arlint could not be reached for comment. There is some information about her candidacy on her Facebook page.

Greg Jamison (R)

Greg Jamison is a 59-year-old commercial real estate broker who is running because he wants to continue serving in the legislature.

"I know the ins and outs, and can do an even better job as I've gotten more experience," Jamison said.

His priorities – or as he said the framework he uses to approach decision-making in Pierre – are to keep sales and property taxes low, keep government small, support the second amendment and add more transparency to government.

"It appears as though the public feels as though more should be done, more should be open, and I’ve aways just considered that if it's the public's money, they have the right to know," he said.

Manny Steele (R)

At 84, Manny Steele is the oldest candidate running for state legislature, and he's previously been in the legislature five times. He said he's gotten frustrated with the people who are running in his district and decided he wants to run again.

"I feel (my opponents) are slanting more towards the business community and the government instead of slanting towards the day-to-day people," Steele said.

His main priorities, and what he's hearing most from voters, are concerns about the economy, frustrations with taxes and eminent domain. He's also hoping to see more research done on the plans to move the state penitentiary to Lincoln County.

District 13: S.D. House of Representatives

John Hughes (R)

John Hughes is a 67-year-old attorney who decided to run because the timing is right, and he wants to bring his skills and experience as a lawyer to Pierre.

His number one concern is the need for immediate property tax relief and long-term property tax reform.

"I've had seniors tell me they've already downsized," he said. "I've had older millennials that are raising kids – to have young people tell you they think the American dream is dead, they can't afford to buy a house, rents are increasing, we don't have real wage growth in South Dakota," Hughes said. "I look at all of that, and I'm like, 'I can't just sit by and watch this anymore.'"

Brad Jankord (R)

Brad Jankord, 36, is the vice president for lending for South Dakota Development Corporation. He's running for office because he wants to focus on the future of the state for his two young kids.

His main priorities are to expand on economic development, maximize public-private partnerships and to ensure the conversation around property taxes continues.

"I'm not saying I have a solution, but I am going to continue to work on (property taxes) because I continue to hear that as a topic from my constituents," he said.

Penny BayBridge (R)

Penny BayBridge did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Tony Venhuizen (R)

Tony Venhuizen is a 41-year lawyer with extensive experience working in state government in the governor's office, serving on the Board of Regents and in the legislature. He's running again because he wants to continue on the budget work completed in his first term.

"We’ve had a very unusual period in the state budget over the last few years because of COVID relief money, inflation and fast economic growth – it'll be a more normal financial situation this year," Venhuizen said. "We could be looking at a much tighter year for revenue growth and state spending."

Other important issues he noted are education and workforce.

District 14: S.D. House of Representatives

Tony Kayser (R)

Tony Kayser, 64, works in financial services and has had a firm in Sioux Falls for 40 years. He was asked to run by several of his friends in the state House who "wanted to have more of a conservative coalition," he said.

His priorities include anti-abortion legislation, family issues, lower taxes, limited government, election integrity and parental rights.

"(Parents should have) more rights to their kids in schools as far as what's being said, not being said, and their ability to actually get more involved with their kids' schools," he said.

Taylor Rae Rehfeldt (R)

Rehfeldt did initially respond but was unable to provide comment ahead of publication.

Tyler Tordsen (R)

Tyler Tordsen, 32, is president and CEO of the Sioux Metro Growth Alliance, a regional economic development organization.

"I had a great first term bringing a semi-unique perspective being able to show that we can take care of people and run state government responsibly," Tordsen said.

He's hoping if elected he can serve again in the House Education and Judiciary committees. He's also anticipating a "more normal" budget season but isn't worried about navigating that.

"We can make common sense reforms to the criminal justice system and then also find ways to support educational opportunities for all of South Dakota kids," he said. "Part of my model has been focused on the future. I wanna make sure it continues to be a great place for not just my kids but all of South Dakota's kids."

District 15

No primary races.

District 16: S.D. Senate

Kevin D. Jensen (R)

Kevin Jensen, 69, is a semi-retired, self-employed firearms instructor and former IT director. He previously served on the Canton School Board for 15 years and then in the state House for eight years. Now, he's running for state senate to fill the seat vacated by Sen. Jim Bolin.

"I believe that we need to represent the people of the district and the businesses of the district," Jensen said. "And I don't represent large corporations, big business and the big money. Big money is buying and paying for our state."

His main priorities are property rights, eminent domain and voicing his opinion that relocating the penitentiary to Lincoln County is a "horrible mistake."

"I'm a second amendment guy, constitutional conservative, pro-life," he said. "I wanna make sure we protect our education, and by that I mean also protecting homeschooling."

Eric Hohman (R)

Hohman did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

District 16: S.D. House of Representatives

Karla Lems

Karla Lems is a 55-year-old small business owner who's seeking re-election after first running in 2022.

"You kind of get your feet wet (in the first term) – get a feel of how things work, and it does take awhile to try to learn the ropes and see what you can do," Lems said. "I do think I made a difference these last two years and made progress with property rights."

Other priorities for Lems are property tax reform and specifically looking at the amount of money going to schools. She said she wants to think "outside the box" and take into account the voices of home-school families and private school families who may or may not want vouchers.

Richard Vasgaard

Vasgaard did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Brian J. Burge

Brian Burge is a 33-year-old mechanical engineer and owner of a tree cutting business. He's running because he's spent a lot of time observing how things work in Pierre and he's ready to get involved.

He's got some specific ideas for legislation related to the depth of buried utilities – but on a more philosophical level he said he wants to see fewer "handouts" to businesses in the form of public-private partnerships.

He's also interested in bringing changes to the state's mental health systems.

"It’s a really broken system," he said. "I'd like to take some lessons from what used to be in the 70s – take some good things from it."

District 25: S.D. Senate

Jordan Youngberg (R)

Jordan Youngberg is a 33-year-old business owner and Dell Rapids native. He previously served in the legislature from 2016 to 2020 and then took a break, but he said the political division is too much.

"Yours and my kids deserve to have better representation," he said.

His main priorities are to focus on agriculture and transparency, and he said he'll publish his personal cell phone number.

"If there's an issue, they get to contact me," he said. "You're not gonna get an intern or a voicemail, you're gonna get me."

Tom Pischke (R)

Tom Pischke is a 42-year-old system quality analyst who's running to maintain "strong Christian conservative representation" in the state senate.

"I was the only candidate with those values that stepped up to run," he said.

His top priorities are to "defend and protect the life, liberty and property rights enshrined in our Constitution."

And here's your guide to some common election questions:

How do I know where to vote?

You have to vote at your designated polling place.

When do I vote?

The primary election will take place on Tuesday, June 4. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

What if I'm not registered to vote?

You're out of luck this time.

South Dakota doesn't allow same-day voting. BUT, if you're not registered to vote, it's still worth registering now so you know you're all set next time a big election rolls around like – ahem – November.

What do I need to have with me in order to vote?

Nothing – but the process will go quicker for you if you have your ID.

If you don't have an ID, you can still vote. You'll just have to sign an affidavit saying that you're you.

What if I have to work?

Per South Dakota lawyour employer has to allow you paid time off work for up to two consecutive hours to go cast a ballot.

  • For what it's worth, you'll likely be able to get in and out of your precinct within a few minutes.

Have a question that's not answered here?

Reply to this email or text me at 605-545-4565, and I'll do my best to help you find the answer!