Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, July 12

Governor candidates need to discuss real issue

The first shots fired in the South Dakota governor's race were duds if you work, own a farm or ranch, raise children, strive for college or technical school, seek health care or want to buy a home or rent an affordable apartment.

Rep. Kristi Noem, about to finish her fourth term in Congress after serving four years in the state Legislature, is offended that her opponent, state Sen. Billie Sutton, called her an "insider" in a digital media campaign.

In a press release sent Monday, Noem denied the allegation and counter-punched by calling Sutton a "long-time Pierre insider and card-carrying member of the Democratic establishment."

Serious stuff? Not if you live in the real world where the issues are serious.

First, Noem appears a bit out of touch when she calls a Democrat a capitol insider. The party barely registers a blip on the state's political radar screen and has left little more than a toe print on any significant legislation in recent years. Its record of futility is undeniable.

Noem, on the other hand, is a former assistant majority leader for the political party that dominates every level of government in South Dakota. There is no disputing that Republicans set policy in this state.

But who is considered the most entrenched politician is not the issue in this race. While most agree the political status quo is not particularly adept at problem-solving or innovation, the parties have made their choices for the general election. Now, the conversation needs to be about what can be done to improve South Dakota's standard of living.

An election should be a contest of ideas. Rather than argue about insider status or proclaim what won't be done if elected, the candidates need to address critical quality-of-life issues — and there are many. For example:

— Agriculture is slumping

President Trump's trade wars pose a substantial threat to farmers and ranchers already contending with the softest markets in years. Retaliatory tariffs and uncertainty over trade pacts like NAFTA have heightened anxiety in the agricultural industry.

If the trade wars drag on what will Noem and Sutton do to protect and nurture an industry beyond supporting the farm bill?

— Workforce shortages, low wages

For decades, state officials and lawmakers have argued that South Dakota's low cost of living allowed workers to earn less yet enjoy comparable lifestyles to those in higher-paying states.

That is no longer the case, however. Health care is expensive regardless of where you live. The cost of housing in the state's larger cities is out of reach for many if not most young families. The cost of insurance, food, cellphones, internet service, cable TV, gasoline and utility services do not vary much from state to state any longer. As a result, more young people are leaving the state to earn more money and professionals are becoming more difficult to recruit.

What can the next governor do to put more money into the pockets of the working class and rebuild a workforce that currently is not meeting the demand for jobs in the state?

— Costly secondary education

Over the years, the state has shifted more college costs to students while universities have embarked on building projects that are primarily financed by those same students.

Consequently, college enrollment continues to flat line and those who do graduate have much more debt than their parents, which means many are looking for higher wages and that often takes them out of state. The state's colleges also have the highest tuition in the region.

Will either candidate work to reduce tuition and fees and incentivize more students to stay in the state after graduation?

— Access to health care

Congress' inability or unwillingness to rein in soaring health care costs is among the biggest burdens imposed on Americans. The state, however, can work harder to expand the health-care network to better serve smaller communities while providing low-cost screening opportunities for everyone. More mental health care facilities are needed, too. The state also needs a program to recruit more doctors and retain them in a more competitive environment.

What can a governor do to make health care more available, more competitive and promote prevention?

A governor's race that starts with finger-pointing is a red flag for those who desire real solutions to real problems. Let's all insist that these two candidates get out of the political playpen and treat us like adults. Tell us what you will do to make South Dakota a better place for those who live and work here.

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American News, Aberdeen, July 10

NSU wrestler shows his character by coming out

Coaches like to talk character.

And Justice Horn has shown true character and bravery.

Horn is a Northern State University student from Missouri.

Not only that, he is a heavyweight wrestler for the Wolves. He also is a good student with a promising future in academics and athletics.

And recently, he told his teammates, schoolmates and the thousands of readers of this newspaper that he is gay.

Profound stuff for a 20-year-old athlete.

"I was battling with stuff and had to come to terms with who I am," Horn told American News reporter Cuyler Meade. "I was getting closer to God with who I am, realizing I can't live this life a lie. I was opening up to myself that this is who I am, and I have so many things to be grateful for and blessings in my life."

Horn wanted what we all want in life.

Honest relationships built on trust. And dishonesty or a lack of truthfulness was not something Horn wanted to be a part of his life.

This was his way of extending his hand, heart and honesty.

Scary, we imagine, but also full of relief. This was part of a young man's journey through periods of darkness into the fullness of his light.

Some will condemn him, for who he is and how open he has become. He likely will face some rejection in months ahead because he opened up.

Others will embrace him and rejoice in the bravery, strength and honesty he has shown.

Count us in that camp.

"There were nerves obviously, but what really put me over the edge to where I needed to do it is I need to live a fearless life and stop hiding," Horn said. "I need to live life. Wherever things go, they go."

His words and choice to open up about his lifestyle certainly will help others who still linger in the shadows.

Just as it did for Horn when former Missouri college football star Michael Sam became the first openly gay player to be drafted in the NFL.

Horn found strength, encouragement and acceptance in Sam's story.

We imagine Horn's story, just as Sam's did, will help other athletes who are struggling with who they are. Especially in testosterone-injected sports such as football and wrestling that have an emphasis on their physicality.

Wrestling mats and football fields are not places where fear traditionally does well.

And fear of the unknown can be explosive and unpredictable in such places when the topic turns to sexual orientation.

Horn says his Northern State teammates and coaches have been supportive of him.

We are happy to hear that. We hope those type of receptions continue on campus, in the community and through the eyes of opponents.

Horn is a regular 20-year-old who is trying to find pockets of success in athletics, academics and life. He isn't searching for special treatment, he just wants normalcy.

He sounds just like the rest of us.

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The Daily Republic, Mitchell, July 9

Week in review: the best, worst

CHEERS to the grand opening of the Mitchell Indoor Aquatic Center. Drive by the pool or take a swim inside and it's hard to not be impressed with the quality of the facility that is now available in Mitchell. It was an $8 million investment that was hotly contested for most of the last four years. But now that the project is finished, it's hard to argue that the facility isn't an asset for the community and the region. And given there are two pools, two slides, play equipment, a zipline and therapy pool, there's something for everyone who makes use of the center.

HISSES to the news that 600 defendants nationwide have been accused of more than $2 billion in false billings to federal health care programs or for their role in prescribing more than 13 million illegal doses of opioids and other narcotics. That includes a Wagner man who was indicted for two counts of obtaining hydrocodone by fraud. A year ago, a similar federal sweep for fraud resulted in 412 defendants. In the words of the U.S. Attorney General, "in many cases, doctors, nurses and pharmacists take advantage of people suffering from drug addiction in order to line their pockets." Here's hoping authorities make it clear that won't be tolerated.

CHEERS to the community of Ethan for its work to build a new veterans memorial in the city's park. It took three years and about $50,000 in fundraising, but it will be a permanent tribute for the small town of fewer than 400 people. These are the types of projects that are meaningful for so many residents of the community and help leave an impression upon visitors to the community.

CHEERS to the peaceful passing of power at the most recent Mitchell City Council meeting, moving Mayor Bob Everson and the new council into place to govern. We take it for granted but it is, of course, one of the tenets of democracy. There will be disagreement but as long as civility has a place in the city's government, Mitchell will be in a good place. Let's hope Mitchell leaders continue to carry Mitchell forward and do so in a respectful, civic manner.