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Democrats coming forward to seek S.D. governor seat
Sioux City Journal
By Bret Hayworth
March 23, 2006

After months of being unable to field a candidate, the Democratic Party of South Dakota is making headway to find opposition for Republican Gov. Mike Rounds.

Rounds, who won his first run for governor in 2002, had looked to be unopposed until recently. Three Democrats are now mulling a run, including two who have officially announced. Candidates have until April 4 to file nominating petitions to be on the ballot for the June 6 primary.

Jack Billion of Sioux Falls was the first Democrat to announce his intention to run for governor, and on Tuesday Dennis Wiese of Flandreau stepped forward. Tyler Smith of Aberdeen is also circulating petitions, S.D. Democratic Party spokesman Donald Carr reported. The party won't endorse candidates prior to the primary.

A business consultant, Wiese previously served as president of the South Dakota Farmer's Union for 12 years. He said "a full-court press is underway to complete the petition drive which will place my name as a candidate for governor." Wiese said he can put forth the rigor needed to take on "a well-known incumbent governor."

Based on the number of registered Republicans, Rounds can draw on an advantage in the fall. Of the 485,259 South Dakotans registered to vote as of Wednesday, the S.D. Secretary of State office summarized, 231,443 are Republicans, 184,339 are Democrats, 66,158 are Independents, 2,110 are registered as Other, along with 1,062 Libertarians and 147 for the Constitutional Party.

Although Rounds has not filed papers for the governor nomination, Republican Party of South Dakota executive director Max Wetz said he has every expectation Rounds will do so. "He wanted to wait until after the legislative session before he made a formal announcement," Wetz said. Since the legislature adjourned Tuesday, that step could be coming soon.

Wetz said South Dakotans will look favorably upon Rounds, since residents want strong education, economic growth and taxes kept in check, and the governor "has provided excellent leadership on all those things."

South Dakota Democratic Party executive director Jason Schulte said Rounds' approval rating has dropped after signing a bill that would outlaw almost all abortions in the state. Schulte contended that "controversial" signing by Rounds would put him at risk, while Democratic candidates will be working on education, better wages and creating more open government.

The Survey USA poll showed Rounds' approval rating dropped from 72 percent to 58 percent in the last month.

Bret Hayworth may be reached at (712) 293.4203 or brethayworth@siouxcityjournal.com

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