Chris Nelson Looks to Move from Secretary of State to Congress
Dakota Digest - 06/01/2010
by Gary Ellenbolt
This week on Dakota Digest, S-D-P-B Radio is featuring the candidates for next Tuesday's Republican Congressional Primary. Current Secretary of State Chris Nelson was the first Republican to enter the race-he says he's ready to take on Stephanie Herseth Sandlin this fall, and feels confident state voters will send her home in November.
For a group of people a few minutes away from facing an entire state on television, the Republican candidates for congress are a pretty relaxed group. Kristi Noem stands at the door discussing high school track and field. Blake Curd is casually discussing billboards. The third candidate, Chris Nelson, has yet to enter the studio-he visits with a campaign aide before his appearance on SDPB Television's South Dakota Focus.
It's the second straight night the candidates have met in a televised forum-they appeared on a Sioux Falls station, KELO, the evening before. Nelson agrees with most voters that he, Curd and Noem are basically coming from the same place with their ideology.
Nelson says, "The message I am bringing is the message that I've started this race with, and that is-I'm the one candidate in this race that has served the people state wide for the past seven years as their secretary of state. And what that's done is given the people of South Dakota a chance to really know who I am and how I operate as a state leader-they're not going to get any surprises with me."
Nelson is entering the race after what he calls an enjoyable two terms as Secretary of State. He can't run for that position again due to term limits. The White Lake native says it's the right time for him to enter politics on a national scale.
"As I've talked-and I've talked to a lot of people across South Dakota," Nelson reflects, "I think what they see is the country being taken in an ideological direction that they don't like-that the majority of the people don't subscribe to. And they see that direction going faster and faster and faster, if you will, maybe taking this country away from the direction that people would like it to be."
Whether next Tuesday's winner is Nelson, Blake Curd or Kristi Noem-they'll advance to the general election against incumbent Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, a popular Democrat who a people say has a moderate view. Nelson doesn't buy that.
On Herseth Sandlin, Nelson says "The incumbent has painted this picture of being this moderate, Republican, Blue Dog Democrat-but when you look at the voting record, you don't see that. You see a lot of votes for bigger spending, increasing the deficits, increasing the national debt limits, and those kind of votes that are NOT conservative."
There's another part of Herseth Sandlin's voting record that's not currying Nelson's favor-that's on the controversial health care bill.
"The incumbent voted no on the bill," says Nelson, "then two weeks later, when faced with a potential primary, said, ‘but I won't vote to repeal it.' So inside of two weeks, 180 degree difference on this major issue. In Chris Nelson, they'll see consistent, solid positions on those issues."
From White Lake, Nelson earned an Ag Business degree at South Dakota State University-in addition to his government work, he manages a cattle operation in the Pierre area. Nelson served as election commissioner before succeeding Joyce Hazeltine as Secretary of State. His opponents in the primary have both said during the campaign, they do not want to make Congress a career-but Nelson stops short of that promise.
He says, "So far as making a pledge to x number of years, I have not done that-what I have said to people in meetings where that topic has come up is simply this: you, the people of South Dakota hold that answer in your hands; and if it's two years down the road, and you don't think I'm doing the job, then you oughta send me home. I don't want to set a magic number on that, I think it oughta be up to the people."
Nelson says his time as an elected statewide official should prove to voters his devotion to fiscal conservatism and smaller government. He says those same values and philosophies will follow him as a member of Congress.
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