Why did so many people join Tim Bjorkman’s campaign for Congress?
What drew them to work for this former judge who started out with so many challenges, including a lack of a political background, a refusal to accept money from special interests, and a determination to stand, alone if necessary, for fundamental reform to our political system and real, meaningful change?
So we asked some of them.
Lucille Middleton of Sioux Falls has been the most ardent volunteer for Tim. Lucy has put in countless hours, making phone calls, inputting data and doing anything she was asked.
“I started early,” she said Saturday at the Sioux Falls campaign office while making calls urging people to vote on Tuesday.
“Every election I seem to find a candidate I care about,” Lucy said.
This year, it was Tim. She said his refusal to accept money from special interests and political action committees was one reason. Another was his personal kindness and caring for people on the fringe of society. His experience as a circuit court judge, and the lessons he has learned and shared with others was “really powerful,” she said.
Alex Fall was the first staffer Tim hired and has served in a variety of positions, as a driver/scheduler, field organizer, photographer, “hype man” in parade, campaign manager, FEC specialist and, finally and most crucially, as a hands-on operations manager.
The Nebraska native said it’s been a fascinating and challenging experience, and one he wouldn’t have missed.
“I was told about Tim through a mutual connection, Drey Samuelson, and I first thought, ‘No, no way am I gonna go and work my tail off for pennies for some judge.’
“What changed? At the 2017 Turner County Fair in Parker, I had a chance to actually meet Tim. I met a man whose integrity, honesty, and commitment to ethical leadership in the face of a panoply of power pushers was astonishing,” Alex said. “Campaigns are stressful and hectic in their best days, but I’ve always come to work excited and ready to work because I believe in Tim, and I believe Tim is one of few candidates truly committed to making South Dakota and America better for the next generations.”
He said there are too many stories to tell about the campaign without pouring a cold drink and pulling up a chair, but Alex did offer this one:
“When the campaign first began, I had the opportunity to travel across the state with Tim, stopping in towns all over the state. We traveled in every direction we could find, visiting towns like Kadoka, Parkston, Tulare, Scotland, Tripp, Lead and so many more.
“Nearly without fail, at every stop in every town, Tim would beckon over to me and say, ‘Make sure to get their name.’ Was it important to get their name so we could send them a fundraising letter, or use their photos in a press release? No.
“What Tim always needed was for me to get their name and information so that he could help them with the problems they voiced to him. Why is that an important story?
“He was doing the job of a congressman before he had the title. Unlike many politicians, who are all hat and no cattle, Tim is all cattle and it doesn’t matter if he ever has the hat, because he’s already made South Dakota a better place to live.”
Kaleb Peterson of Beresford joined the campaign in the summer. He rose to become a field staffer who took on a variety of jobs and did them all well.
“Tim was the best candidate,” Kaleb said. “The first thing I agreed with Tim wholeheartedly on was his not taking PAC money. That’s one of the biggest issues I feel strongly about.”
He said there have been “a lot of interesting things on the campaign” including putting out campaign signs from Sioux Falls to Roscoe, located in the far northeast corner of the state, and back in one day.
The 20-year-old USD student has a great interest in politics, and feels working on a campaign was a hands-on way to learn more about it.
“It was great experience,” I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Better than sitting in class!”
Kerry Billings was a college student in Virginia when he decided to pull up stakes and join the campaign. He worked during the summer and returned for the final weeks.
“I am supporting Tim Bjorkman in the race for South Dakota’s sole congressional seat because of the authenticity and decency Mr. Bjorkman has,” Kerry said. “When I met Mr. Bjorkman in the winter of 2018, I had questions that I wanted to ask him before I moved across the country to work for him. He spent over an hour answering all my questions, with sound, in depth policies that he wanted to pursue.
“What sealed the deal with me, was he came outside in negative 7 degrees with no jacket on to introduce himself to my grandmother,” he recalled. “I thought, ‘Wow, this guy is impressive. As I have gotten to know him over the last year, he is a thoughtful, true public servant who I am honored to work for.”
Linda Kelly of Sioux Falls has volunteered for both Tim and for Billie Sutton, the Democratic candidate for governor.
“I want to get a Democrat in D.C.,” Linda said while taking a short break from making calls on Saturday.
“I like the fact that Tim won’t take PAC money,” she said. “I have always been a Democrat and I want to see them win.”
Joan Haagenson of Sioux Falls said she was driven to volunteer because of current events.
“First of all, I’m a lifelong Democrat,” Haagenson said. “I’m appalled at what’s going on in this country. We need direction and from what I’ve read about Tim, I think he’s a good one to give it.”
She said Tim would bring a much-needed judicial temperament to Congress.
“I honestly think he would listen to both sides and make a decision,” Haagenson said.
Taylor Casey of Rapid City comes from a family of Republicans but he felt compelled to work for Bjorkman, a Democrat who reaches across party lines and labels. He was very successful in leading a fundraising effort, making calls and organizing events to help keep the campaign running.
“I support Tim because of his pledge to refrain from accepting PAC money and that he’s willing to work across the aisle for the betterment of South Dakotans,” Taylor said. “The sheer amount of money and partisanship in politics inhibits necessary progress and reform and it is refreshing to see a candidate break away from that mold to run a different type of campaign.”
He said there was a lot of hard work but also some bright, fun moments.
“One of my favorite memories during the campaign happened at a fundraiser in Montrose,” Taylor said. “As I was talking to the folks gathered there, I met a woman who worked with my grandmother many years ago. It was a neat little moment that showcased just how connected South Dakotans are, and it was one of many I had the privilege of experiencing while on this campaign.”