Why they did it: Staff, volunteers explain reasons

Why they did it: Staff, volunteers explain reasons

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.”

Longtime GOP official Samp endorses Tim

Longtime GOP official Samp endorses Tim

SIOUX FALLS—A longtime South Dakota Republican Party official who worked closely with a congressman and two governors, all Republicans, is backing Tim Bjorkman for Congress.
Rollyn H. “Rolly” Samp of Sioux Falls endorsed Tim Bjorkman this week in a release from his law office. In his release, he said he could not support Republican Dusty Johnson for the state’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“On the other hand; I’ve known Judge Bjorkman for many years. We fought together during the 1980s to save many South Dakota farms. His heart is deep in South Dakota, not in partisan politics. I will be casting my vote for Tim Bjorkman for Congress.”
Bjorkman said he appreciated the endorsement from Samp, who has been known for his encyclopedic knowledge of South Dakota government and politics.
“Rolly’s support means a great deal to me and this campaign,” Bjorkman said during his statewide tour in the closing days of the campaign.
Bjorkman, a former circuit court judge and fifth-generation South Dakotan, said he has received the support of a lot of Republicans and independents across the state, as well as Democrats who have responded to his campaign based on fundamental reform and change.
Samp was a staff member for Rep. Ben Reifel, the first Native American elected to Congress, chief of staff for Gov. Frank Farrar and a key adviser to longtime friend Gov. Bill Janklow, whom he met when they were growing up in Flandreau. For more on Samp, go to http://www.fyi-dakota.com/index.php/biographies/rollyn-h-samp

Here is Rolly Samp’s press release:
I have made a practice of not telling people how to vote. But in this election with so much at stake I’ve had many requests to discuss the various candidacies.
For Governor: No office is more important in South Dakota than the Office of Governor because it affects virtually everything we do. Having been involved in politics for 54 years, I try and carefully measure each candidate. In the past, I have supported Republican candidates believing they were the best choice.
However, this election is very different. Pierre needs a good house cleaning and that will only come with a new administration.
Secondly, I compared the record of Kristi Noem to others and find that she has been a very poor U.S. Representative. I can’t imagine, for instance, Representative Ben Reifel missing so many critical votes and having such a lackadaisical attitude toward the job. Being Governor is the toughest job in South Dakota; it requires being on the job 24/7. While I know Representative Noem would love the title, I cannot see her doing the hard work necessary to be successful as our next Governor.
Therefore, I am voting for Billie Sutton.
For Congress: We only get one vote in Congress. My test for every Congressman is Representative Ben Reifel, whom I had the pleasure of working for for 6 years. He was not a consummate politician. He was a man who saw the job as being full-time. I’ve watched Dusty Johnson over the years and have never seen a person so consumed with extreme politics. He’s no Ben Reifel, nor does he have the ability to get things done for South Dakota.
On the other hand; I’ve known Judge Bjorkman for many years. We fought together during the 1980s to save many South Dakota farms. His heart is deep in South Dakota, not in partisan politics.
I will be casting my vote for Tim Bjorkman for Congress.
Attorney General: Attorney General Marty Jackley cannot run again, we need a new Attorney General. Jason Ravnsborg of Yankton has the energy, ability and desire to lead what is the largest law firm in South Dakota.
Jason has led over 600 troops into battle in Iraq and Afghanistan as a reserve officer. He has the ability to lead the office of Attorney General.
I’m going to cast my vote for Attorney General for Jason Ravnsborg.
I’m also going to vote for the other Republican Constitutional officers who I believe are far superior to those nominated by the other party.
Sincerely yours,
Rollyn H. Samp

Protecting Social Security

Protecting Social Security

My 10th South Dakota Promise: I will be a sentinel to protect Social Security against attacks from the Republican Congress.
Republicans promised us the tax breaks for the wealthy would pay for themselves.
As I and anyone else familiar with arithmetic said then, that was wrong — and untruthful. That tax cut sent the nation’s budget deficit soaring.
So when Republicans like Dusty call the increased national debt “very disturbing,” it’s like an arsonist wring his hands over the ashes of a fire he started.
So when I hear Republicans claim Social Security is a driver of the debt and needs to be cut, they’re not close to the truth. Social Security isn’t part of the budget. It is part of the Social Security trust fund which will only be able to satisfy 70-80 percent of current obligations beginning around 2015 if we don’t make changes.
The sad truth is that the tax cuts were step 1 for this Republican Congress. Step 2 is to say that the soaring debt means we need to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid for all Americans. Don’t rely on me for this: It’s from their own mouths.
And it’s an immoral approach. Congress needs to keep its hands off our Social Security.
We need to preserve the promise government made to working Americans when they took money out of their paychecks every month.
I support modest and manageable measures to fortify the Social Security system’s finances and expand benefits, including legislative proposals that would keep Social Security solvent for decades. These measures will boost revenue by increasing the amount wealthiest Americans contribute in Social Security payroll taxes (currently capped at $128,700 in annual income), while modestly boosting benefits and adjusting the formula for cost-of-living adjustments to more accurately reflect retirees’ true expenses.
One in five South Dakotans receives Social Security benefits, with the vast majority of them being senior citizens.
They worked for this benefit and have earned that sense of well-being and, yes, security. AARP estimates it keeps 40 percent of our senior citizens out of poverty.
The last thing these folks need is a cut. There are other ways to fix this.
Why should someone earning $1 million pay a far lower rate toward Social Security than the person making $50,000? It’s unwise and unfair when Social Security can be stabilized for the future by taxing them fairly.
Dusty said he wants to balance the budget by cutting Social Security benefits for those who will retire in 25 years.
First, Social Security isn’t part of the budget; it’s in a separate trust fund outside the budget. Congress already raided Social Security.
They should keep their hands off it.
But even if it were in the budget, it’s easy for people who don’t know what it’s like to do hard physical labor to say others should work longer.
Dusty won’t join me in a proposal to end congressional pensions, but he’s glad to cut off ordinary workers who’ve already paid in for 25 years or more in many cases.
Here’s the reality: half of all Americans right now take benefits by 63. Half.
Dusty’s life expectancy data is just wrong. That has gone up mostly because of reduced infant mortality. Life expectancy from age 67 is the key: it’s only a few years longer now than 60 years ago.
Let’s get tax fairness first. Right now, people who earn $1 million pay maybe 2 percent of earnings while those who are self employed making $80,000 pay 15.6 percent. That’s wrong.

Hold officials accountable

Hold officials accountable

My 9th Promise to South Dakota: I’ll introduce legislation to hold state officials personally accountable for graft that they knowingly allow on their watch.
We understandably complain about the federal government wasting taxpayer dollars, but it doesn’t just happen at the federal level; it happens at the state level too.
That’s why one of my first acts as our next Congressman will be to introduce legislation to state officials personally accountable for graft they knowingly allow under their watch.
That’s the only way to stop it. We have a tragic example of such waste here in South Dakota.
I have lived my entire life in South Dakota. One of the foremost qualities of our people is integrity—an unwavering adherence to moral and ethical principles. Our citizens say what they mean, and they walk the talk. We expect no less from our public officials.
At first as a South Dakota Circuit Court judge for 12 years and now as a candidate for Congress, I have traveled to about 180 cities and towns, listening to my fellow citizens. One of their deepest concerns — even anger — arises over the Gear Up tragedy and scandal.
One of the major purposes of GEAR UP and related federal education grants such as College Access and Teacher Quality in South Dakota is to prepare Native American students to succeed in college. The chronic academic achievement gap and the high school graduation rate gap between Native children and white children in our state are intolerable. We will only become one community in reality by closing these academic gaps and not squandering our precious God-given human resources.
The state of South Dakota has spent tens of millions of state and federal tax dollars on these programs. Yet, no one anywhere has ever come forward with a credible, honest figure for the number of Native kids who have gone to college because of our expenditure of all this money. So where did the money go?
For many years, state officials looked the other way as their friends — outside program managers and a small army of advisors and consultants — misappropriated, embezzled, squandered, wasted, and sometimes just plain lost millions. Large amounts of tax dollars never reached the kids or their teachers.
One consultant, who pocketed over $2 million, was paid for managing a grant and for being the evaluator of that same grant. Another consultant was paid for managing one grant and being the “independent” evaluator of a similar grant from the same entity. Two advisors “worked” for months without filling out time sheets. One manager put 10 of his relatives on the payroll for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Year after year, the corruption was hiding in plain sight. From 2011 well into 2015, the beginning months’ balances for the GEAR UP account were tens of thousands of dollars lower than the previous months’ ending balances. Those balances were posted on the Internet for anyone to see.
In September 2015, when the state Education Department finally canceled its management contract with an educational cooperative, the department complained about “conflicts of interest.” Those conflicts had been in annually filed documents on the public web site of the Secretary of State since 2011.
In January 2011, South Dakota Director of Indian Education LuAnn Werdel reported serious management problems with GEAR UP to the state education secretary. The education secretary responded by firing the whistleblower.
Werdel’s replacement, Roger Campbell, provided the secretary with hard evidence of horrible problems within Gear Up. Campbell, a good man, finally became frustrated at the lack of effective and courageous problem solving and left.
Any cabinet secretary confronted with damning evidence of immoral and illegal activities certainly does not sit on it. She takes that information to the chief of staff. So who was our chief of staff for South Dakota during those years – 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014? It was Dusty Johnson.
During his primary election, Dusty Johnson actually criticized the federal government for poor supervision over Gear Up. It’s true that federal auditors didn’t bother to show up until after six people — including four innocent children — were dead and millions of dollars had been stolen from deserving kids. But when our state started
taking Gear Up money, it promised the federal government that South Dakota would use that money properly. That was a duty the State of South Dakota owed the federal government.
Because Dusty, touting his “South Dakota values,” now seeks to become our lone member in the 435-member US House of Representatives, he should tell us what he knew about GEAR UP and when he knew it during his time as the governor’s chief of staff. It’s not about our state’s politics. It’s about our state’s integrity.
That’s why I’ll introduce legislation to keep such graft from being ignored by state officials handling federal dollars. It’s time to call an end to corruption both at the state and federal level, and my proposed legislation will do just that.

Lowering healthcare costs

Lowering healthcare costs

My 8th Promise to South Dakota: Our healthcare costs are twice that of other nations. They’re a chief cause of our deficits, and keep families from getting ahead.
And far too many can’t afford to see a doctor for mental illness and addiction, hurting our workforce, increasing crime, filling our jails and keeping children in unsafe homes. We can do better.
I’ll work across the aisle to lower healthcare costs and fight to ensure everyone who’s sick can afford a doctor.
For more on what I will fight for go here.

I never will take special interests’ money

I never will take special interests’ money

My 7th Promise to South Dakota: I will refuse all PAC, corporate, and national party money.
Congress is broken; both parties are responsible, controlled by special interests and Wall Street, while failing to help ordinary Americans afford healthcare which is now twice that of other developed nations.
We won’t fix it by sending more career politicians. Change will need to come from outside politics.
As a judge, my duty, every day, was to listen to both sides, then try to do what was right. It was my duty was to try to do the right thing every time. No one would think it would be right for a judge to accept money from one side of a case before ruling on it.
That’s why I’ve refused to accept any PAC, corporate, or national party money. I’ll be the voice of working families. You can’t stand up for ordinary Americans and against the Special Interests if you take their money. You’ll never have to wonder who I represent.
So this race gives voters a clear choice between an entrenched member of the Pierre establishment who has benefited from more than half a million dollars of PAC and Super PAC dollars – and me. I don’t consider Dusty Johnson my real opponent though. My opponents are the special interests and Congressional leaders who want to control politicians like Dusty, because all that money he has accepted will be a debt he owes if we elect him.
Dusty is an affable guy who represents the classic revolving door Pierre establishment politician: twice elected to the PUC, leaves to take a better job as the governor’s chief of staff, then entered the private sector with a six-figure job in the industry he was charged with regulating, relying heavily even now on contributions from utility executives.
Those special interests Dusty takes his money from aren’t giving it to him because they believe he’ll make a fine Congressman from South Dakota, but because they want to own and control him.
This kind of politics is why Congress has become so dysfunctional and why it doesn’t represent the voice of those who elected them. It’s because they have become addicted to special interest money to get them elected and keep them in office. It’s why pharmaceutical prices are 2,7, even 10 times what other nations pay and why our healthcare rates are twice as much as the rest of developed nations while leaving more out of access to timely care than all others. And why we have such low workforce participation rates despite an abundance of jobs; and why we imprison more than any other. And why, today, nearly two-thirds of Americans had no rise in take home pay as a result of the tax cuts, but the average person who earns $1 Million will see savings of around $70,000 per year.
And why, after the tax cuts and other spending, our current majority in Congress has brought us permanent annual $1 Trillion deficits: we take in $3 Trillion and are spending $4 Trillion. What will we do when the next recession comes and we need to stimulate the economy? This has caused inflation to spike, driving up home mortage and other rates.
Meanwhile, we’re left with a loophole-riddled tax code that still hasn’t been reformed, and all of it paid for with a bad check our children and voiceless future generations will have to make good.
While Wall Street has thrived, Main Street and farm families have struggled. Tariffs – which are taxes on Americans – are devastating our economy, and farm prices are at decade lows, so that our state economy has fallen behind the rest of America over the last eight years blockage of Country-of- Origin labeling.
Meanwhile, our own delegation and would-be Congressman stand by, unwilling to stand up for South Dakotans.
It’s time for change. I won’t be a lapdog for the president or any congressional leader and no one will own me.
As we’ve travelled all across South Dakota from Sisseton to Edgemont, from Buffalo to Beresford and 180 other communities, this campaign has caught people’s imaginations. South Dakotans It appeals to their belief that the people still are in charge in this country under law and it should be that way in reality once again.
I’m not running against any person or party, but for South Dakota and America. And together we’ll decide if we want to be identified by our fears and prejudices or by our aspirations.
On November 6, in the quiet of a booth, you get to decide who you want to be your voice in Congress. Please give me your vote – so that I can restore to South Dakota a strong, independent voice for us, free of special interest or party control that represents the best of who we are. You’ll never have to wonder who I represent.

Combating addiction and mental illness

Combating addiction and mental illness

Here is my 6th Promise to South Dakota: I am committed to work across the aisle to combat addiction and the mental illness that so often accompanies it.
Addiction, particularly to meth, is ravaging our communities, overwhelming our healthcare system, filling prisons, spiking taxes, adding in big ways to our workforce shortages, and overburdening law enforcement agencies.
It’s the leading reason our prisons have grown at 30 times our population and undermines family stability, school performance and, worst of all, leaves thousands of vulnerable children exposed to harm.
Our political leaders still downplay its profound impact and fail to attack the root of the problem. Their focus is mainly on trying to reduce the supply; but if we fail to meaningfully address the reason for demand, we won’t make progress.
Ninety percent of South Dakota prison inmates have a substance disorder; 80 percent are there for a nonviolent crime. It became clear to me as a judge that imprisoning addicts isn’t the answer; but neither is leaving them untreated to use again and commit additional, sometimes violent crimes.
When we see addiction – and the mental illness that underlies half of all addiction – as the public health epidemic they are, then we’ll begin to strengthen our community health services, develop effective in-patient treatment programs – and combat the root problems that lead to demand.
Many long-term meth addicts require treatment in a secure facility, yet our state’s only such facility is the Intensive Methamphetamine Treatment Unit at the state’s Women’s Prison. No one should need to go to prison to get treatment and prison is a poor place to house addicts and mentally ill people.
We need secure, intensive treatment centers on each side of the state that will address addiction and underlying mental disorders.
State leaders’ rejection of Medicaid Expansion has cost South Dakota dearly: on the order of $300 million each year since 2013, for a total of around $1.5 Billion and counting. While Medicaid is not a plan I would devise, the Republican Congress kept it in place, and we continue to pay federal taxes so that other states’ poor receive medical services to treat their needs, while ours go unmet. Today, with program waivers that allow sliding scale fees, workfare, deductibles, and other innovative approaches, many other Republican-led states receive billions for care of their poor, resulting in fewer in prisons and more in the workforce, all while we in South Dakotans pay federal taxes to support them.
Here is the reality: 75 percent of us have some form of subsidized health coverage–many with moderate and high incomes– through tax-deductible employer sponsored healthcare. Those tax breaks often equal several thousands of dollars annually; others qualify for ACA subsidies. Yet some 50,000 South Dakotans lack any coverage and they’re not all poor: many run small businesses or work jobs that don’t offer health coverage while they earn too much for ACA subsidies and have seen costs skyrocket. Many more have coverage with high out-of-pocket costs. They get health care; it just is untimely and costly.
That leaves us with this reality: many people in prison lacked access to treatment for their mental illness and addiction; but once they’re in prison, we provide them free health care, paid for by a lot of taxpayers who cannot afford their own.
That’s why I support a Medicare option for anyone without access to affordable coverage.
The profound negative impact across our state caused by the lack of affordable healthcare for South Dakotans is a key reason I seek a seat in Congress. I am committed to work across the aisle to combat addiction, and exorbitant insurance costs for ordinary South Dakotans, who’ve been long ignored by politicians who take care of the wealthy and powerful and too often leave the rest of us without a voice in Congress.

New leaders for Congress

New leaders for Congress

Here is my 5th Promise to South Dakota: I will demand new leaders in Congress.
I was among the first to call for new leadership in Congress, doing so in July 2017.
I am listed as one of 51 Democrats opposed to Nancy Pelosi serving another term as the Democratic leader. NBC News reported on the Democratic candidates demanding change in their party’s congressional leadership.
It’s a position I have taken, and repeated, for months. I am running a campaign based on change and fundamental reform and Pelosi and other long-entrenched congressional leaders cannot be expected to fix the mess they helped create.
We must have new leaders in Congress and I will stand alone, if needed, for that to happen.

Re-establish COOL, standing with producers

Re-establish COOL, standing with producers

My 4th South Dakota Promise is to support COOL and other reforms in the livestock industry.
I will be an unwavering proponent of reestablishing Country of Origin Labeling [COOL]. U.S. beef is the standard of quality worldwide and U.S. consumers deserve to know when they buy USDA beef that it’s the high quality our producers in this country have raised. We have the technology to identify exactly where it was grown and it should be implemented. Data shows that, since COOL rules were removed meat packer profits have gone up and producers’ have gone down.
I also support amendments to the 1921 Packers and Stockyards Act to prohibit physical ownership of livestock by the big 4 packers.
Finally, I will work in Congress to re-establish the Obama-era protections farmers and ranchers have to sue when forced out of business by a packer or buyer.
I have more details on supporting agriculture here.

We must demand term limits

We must demand term limits

My 3rd Promise to South Dakota is one I made months ago: that I will support a Constitutional Amendment imposing Term Limits on Congress, six years in the House and twelve in the Senate, to include any service prior to the amendment’s adoption, which would send home roughly half of all incumbents as their current terms end.
Here’s the problem: Congress has an approval rating that hovers between 10 and 15%, incumbents have re-election rates of over 90%. That suggests we have a hard time firing people who we think are doing a lousy job for us. A major reason for this is that corporate and special interests supply those they control with massive amounts of PAC and other money to keep them in office.

Today we have members of Congress from both parties who have served for 30, 40, and even 50 years there. This isn’t what the founding fathers had in mind. Instead, the Constitution’s framers envisioned public servants who would “lay down their plows for a season of service” and then return to their communities to again live as one of the governed.
The reality of human nature is that the longer people spend time in Washington the less responsive they tend to be to the people who sent them there. Worse yet, those in Congress now who have been there for such a long time are taking seats in Washington that could go to new faces and a new generation of public servants with fresh ideas. It’s time for change in Washington.

I want to end the thinking that suggests that only a select few Americans can serve in Congress, and that it is a place to go to advance a career rather than a place to serve.

If a political leader is truly a wonderful public servant and wants to continue to serve, it doesn’t hurt our nation to allow that individual to sit out an election cycle, watching from the bench for awhile to regain the people’s perspective, and then seek election without the benefit of incumbency.

That’s why, in addition to other Congressional reforms I have recommended, I support term limits. It is a necessary first step to more fundamental reform in Congress, because we’re not going to reform Congress by sending and keeping career politicians there. Real change will come only from the outside.

Promoting economic development

Promoting economic development

Here is my 2nd Promise to South Dakota: Economic development will be a primary focus for me.
This promise specifically involves the role that our lone congressional delegate can and should play in economic development for South Dakota communities: I promise to train each and every member of my congressional staff – 18 individuals – in economic development for South Dakota. There should be few higher or more important priorities for our sole member of Congress than helping our own communities grow and thrive.

As a lifelong rural South Dakotan, I believe that our South Dakota towns and cities remain a good place to raise families. They offer opportunities in school and community that few others enjoy, which is why my wife, Kay and I chose to raise our own family of four sons in Canistota.

But the fact is, our communities face real challenges these days: the ag economy is soft, our small businesses face stiff competition from giant online companies that have unfair tax advantages, and we lack a strong voice in Congress, which seems more interested in taking care of Wall Street than Main Street.

While the challenges rural South Dakota communities face are real, in my travels to well over 100 of our communities during this campaign, I’ve also been reminded of the strong desire of many of them to prosper and grow. These communities display the heart of South Dakota as they find ways to deliver healthcare, sustain businesses, maintain their infrastructure, and improvise to provide needed services through whatever means are available to them. Broadband and its benefits such as telemedicine, telepharmacy, and telecommuting will transform rural America in important and positive ways – but we need to keep our infrastructure strong to take advantage of them.

And yet many of our 311 South Dakota communities lack the knowledge of specific federal programs that are available to cities and towns, a fact that I learned first-hand while serving as a city attorney for several communities.

A key role that our sole representative in DC can play is to promote the vitality and livelihood of South Dakota’s communities, and also aid in the promotion and development of the entrepreneurial spirit in them so that they can continue to serve as great places to raise our families. That’s why my congressional office will serve as a clearing house and a resource for them to access federal programs, to assist entrepreneurial efforts, and work together with the State Office of Economic Development to promote South Dakota communities and their growth.

We’ve got to join in fighting alongside communities all across the state who’ve shown the spirit to not only survive but to thrive over the coming decades. And we’ll do it so they can continue to raise great children who have opportunities to remain within our borders to live, work, and raise families of their own.

We must reform Congress

We must reform Congress

As a way to let voters know what I will fight to accomplish in Washington, I am making a series of promises to you of what I will do and what I won’t do as South Dakota’s lone congressman. I call it my Promises to South Dakota.
Here is my 1st Promise to South Dakota: I will represent the people, not the special interests.
I believe the fundamental question to be answered in this election is this: Does the government represent wealth? Or does it represent We the People? Is it Government of, by, and for the People? Or of, by, and for Wall Street? Are we two nations, or one nation in which everyone has a chance to succeed?
I want to be a part of restoring it to a government of, by, and for the People. So, I will also fight for these fundamental reforms:
1. Enacting a Congressional Term Limits Amendment;
2. Ending the deeply troubling Congressional Dues System, in which members pay dues to their parties to serve on committees of their choice;
3. Prohibiting members from raising money while Congress is in session;
4. Requiring Congress to live by the same insurance coverage as the average American, eliminating low cost Capitol Hill medical services that the rest of America lacks; and
5. Prohibiting a member of Congress from employment in firms that employ lobbyists for five years after leaving office.
Dusty has declined to tell the voters whether he intends to participate in the congressional dues system if he is elected. Importantly, he hasn’t rejected it, nor has he joined me in signing the term limit pledge that I signed a year ago. He first didn’t support Senate term limits at all. After I pointed that out he has taken the vague position of calling for them but not stating how many terms he believes should be enough. More wishy-washy political talk.
I will support a constitutional amendment imposing term limits on Congress, six years in the House and 12 in the Senate, to include any service prior to the amendment’s adoption, which would send home roughly half of all incumbents as their current terms end.
Here’s the problem: Congress has an approval rating that hovers between 10 and 15 percent, incumbents have re-election rates of over 90 percent. That suggests we have a hard time firing people who we think are doing a lousy job for us. A major reason for this is that corporate and special interests supply those they control with massive amounts of PAC and other money to keep them in office.
Today we have members of Congress from both parties who have served for 30, 40, and even 50 years there. This isn’t what the founding fathers had in mind. Instead, the Constitution’s framers envisioned public servants who would “lay down their plows for a season of service” and then return to their communities to again live as one of the governed.
The reality of human nature is that the longer people spend time in Washington the less responsive they tend to be to the people who sent them there. Worse yet, those in Congress now who have been there for such a long time are taking seats in Washington that could go to new faces and a new generation of public servants with fresh ideas. It’s time for change in Washington.
I want to end the thinking that suggests that only a select few Americans can serve in Congress, and that it is a place to go to advance a career rather than a place to serve.
If a political leader is truly a wonderful public servant and wants to continue to serve, it doesn’t hurt our nation to allow that individual to sit out an election cycle, watching from the bench for awhile to regain the people’s perspective, and then seek election without the benefit of incumbency.
Real change will come only from the outside.
South Dakota can send a ripple across America by electing a person who refuses to participate in the big money campaign process so we can begin to reform Congress. These are the first steps to restoring government of, by, and for the People. If we continue to venerate and elect the candidate who raises the largest war chest and conducts politics as usual, let’s stop decrying big money in politics.

Lies, damn lies, and polls

Lies, damn lies, and polls

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics,” Mark Twain was quoted as saying.
Polls can be all three.
Just ask Presidents Alf Landon, Tom Dewey and Hillary Clinton.
Wait, Landon didn’t win in 1936, Dewey did not defeat Truman in 1948 and Clinton, despite being assured she was about to win in a landslide, lost to Donald Trump.
Polls aren’t perfect. They are snapshots in time, and as with all photos, some are sharper than others.
That’s why we in this campaign take the recent poll numbers with concern but not with the assumption that any sample of 500 voters among the nearly 300,000 South Dakotans likely to vote is automatically reliable.
In 1936, President Franklin Roosevelt was seeking a second term, but pollsters said challenger Alf Landon, the governor of Kansas, would sweep him out of office. Literary Digest, one of the leading magazines of the time, guaranteed a Landon win.
Instead, FDR won in a historic landslide. The polls were faulty and Literary Digest was soon out of circulation permanently.
In 1948, President Harry S. Truman trailed challenger Tom Dewey, the former New York gang-busting attorney who was elected governor of his state before losing a close race to FDR in 1944.
The 1948 election was so out of hand, pollsters stopped collecting data and reporters wrote off Truman. On Election Day, the Chicago Tribune didn’t wait for the results before printing a massive Page 1 headline: “Dewey defeats Truman.”
Nobody could convince Harry he was licked. He traveled across the nation, much as Tim has crossed South Dakota, seeking votes and telling voters to send the “do-nothing” Congress a message by electing him.
After winning in a stunning upset, President Truman wore a broad grin as he held up the Tribune with the dead-wrong headline.
You must recall the 2016 election, when the pollsters and pundits said former first lady, New York senator and secretary of state Hillary Clinton would win in a walk.
On Election Night, the networks and major newspapers announced Clinton had a better than 90 percent chance of winning. The voters thought otherwise, electing Donald Trump.

These three presidential elections aren’t the only example of faulty polls. It’s happened in South Dakota, and not that long ago.
In 1994, Bill Janklow was running for a third term as governor after an eight-year respite from public life. He challenged Gov. Walter Dale Miller in the Republican primary.
On June 3, 1994, the Argus Leader, in a Page 1 story, proclaimed Miller in the lead just four days before the election. According to the story, Miller led Janklow 48-41 in an Argus-KSFY poll.
The paper had to eat its words on June 7, when Janklow defeated Miller 54-46. That means the poll was 14 points off.

Tom Lawrence, communications director for the Tim Bjorkman for Congress campaign, worked for the Argus in 1994 and helped cover the gubernatorial race. Lawrence said he was surprised by the poll figures, since Janklow drew large, enthusiastic crowds everywhere he went that year.
The same is true with Tim, who has been met with strong signs of support across South Dakota for the past 16 months. He’s counting on that more than statistics.
Not all polls are wrong, but enough have been to raise questions about their reliability. That’s why we’re moving forward with a head of steam, armed with the knowledge that South Dakota voters will have the final say in Nov. 6.
After all, Landon, Dewey, Clinton and Miller all learned a lesson about polls. Perhaps others this year will, too.

Tim tours SE South Dakota

Tim tours SE South Dakota

Tim has traveled to every corner of South Dakota in this campaign and on Thursday, he was in the southeast part of the state, over 180 communities in all.


Thursday he was in beautiful downtown Burbank, where he stopped to meet the locals at Whimp’s Place, one of his favorite South Dakota establishments, and a place he’s eaten at many times through the years.


From there it was on to Elk Point, where he sat for an interview with Elk Point Leader-Courier editor Susan Odson, about healthcare, economic development, agricultural issues and other topics, including national issues, that have been major parts of the campaign.
He also discussed the impact of tariffs and a restrictive trade policy on soybean producers in the state. Even before the tariffs were in place, Tim issued a warning on their potential harmful impact on farmers and ranchers.
Bjorkman said it’s vitally important to learn from history and not make the same errors.
“Ninety-five percent of the world’s consumers live outside our borders, so we’re highly dependent on fairly negotiated and enforced trade deals, the kind forged in deliberate, sensible ways through negotiations that maintain predictability in markets, so essential to sound business planning,” he said. “These tariffs represent none of that, having been
enacted by the administration over the objections of its own chief economist who quit over them.”
America erected trade barriers in 1930, which caused trade partners to retaliate. That contributed to a decline in international trade of 50 percent over the course of the Great Depression and likely made the Depression worse as a result.
“These tariffs almost certainly will not end well either,” Tim said in June.


Tim then headed to Canton, home of the historic Lincoln County Courthouse and other architecturally interesting buildings on and around main street. As a former circuit court judge with a lifelong interest in history, Tim is glad to see history honored and preserved. A decade ago, he wrote a book on South Dakota outlaw Verne Sankey.
Tim shook hands and spoke with people in downtown, including customers at the Sioux Valley Grill in downtown.
As Election Day approaches, South Dakotans welcome a chance to talk with the candidates and discuss what matters to them.
Tim entered this race for Congress from the judiciary because he believes it is vital to our democracy that rather than leaving government to career politicians citizens take back the reins of their government.
He promises to work for affordable healthcare for all, fight to protect Social Security and has signed a term limits pledge.
Tim refuses all PAC, Super PAC, corporate, and national Democratic Party money because he doesn’t believe a congressman can stand up to the Special Interests if he takes their money.
“You can’t fight special interests if you are taking their money,” he said.
Tim has promised to cross-train his congressional staff in economic development and have them work with local governments, businesses and residents to take advantage of specific federal programs that are available to towns and cities.


Tim ended the night with a well-attended meet-and-greet fundraiser at Tailgators in Brandon. Two waitresses came to meet and have their pictures taken with him, since will be the first election in which they can vote, and they look forward to supporting Tim.
More than two dozen people came out to hear from Tim, who also was interviewed Brandon Valley Journal editor Jill Meier.
Tim a fifth-generation South Dakotan, is the Democratic candidate for South Dakota’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. He will face Republican Dusty Johnson, Libertarian George Hendrickson and independent Ronald Wieczorek in the Nov. 6 election.

Tim: I’ll keep working hard

Tim: I’ll keep working hard

No one wants to be down by a big margin in a poll 12 days out.
But let’s keep it in perspective: lots of South Dakotans face long odds in life. It might be fighting cancer or trying to keep a farm or business afloat, or struggling with a loved one who is fighting addiction. They don’t stop fighting and anyone who knows me realizes that, just like them, I’ll keep working hard for votes until the final vote is cast.
I want to show South Dakotans there is a better way to run for office in this state than relying on big money donors, because that leads to representing monied interests over the people. My goal for our state and nation is to re-establish a place at the table of opportunity for every person again and to help every child have a fair shot at a decent life.
While these poll numbers show twice as big of gap as our internal polling has consistently shown, it does point to a key challenge: that while voters who know me have highly favorable views, almost two-thirds of the voters don’t know me well enough to have formed an opinion.
That’s a challenge I knew I faced entering this race without any political background or connections against a well-known career politician like Dusty.
I’ve purposely run a positive, issue-based campaign, drawing honest distinctions with Dusty – doing it respectfully. The biggest difference between us is this: I’ve refused to accept PAC, Super PAC and national party money while Dusty has benefited from over $500,000 in PAC and Super PAC money. I’ve refused this money because we will not see real change on issues that matter most to South Dakotans like affordable healthcare and reigning in an out of control budget until we start loosening the grip of special interests over our Congress.
So I offer a clear choice: If you are happy with the way Congress is working, I’m not your guy. But if you want someone who will work tirelessly for fundamental reform there, vote for me.

Police groups back Tim

Police groups back Tim

Two police organizations have endorsed Tim Bjorkman for Congress.
The National Association of Police Organizations, Inc.and Teamsters Local 120, which represents more than 100 South Dakota men and women working in law enforcement, are backing Bjorkman.
“NAPO is pleased to support your campaign and is confident you will continue your strong support of the law enforcement community in Congress,” the NAPO endorsement states. It’s signed by Executive Director William J. Johnson.
The endorsement comes on the recommendation of Teamsters Local 120, which represents several South Dakota law enforcement officers and staffers. Local 120 also is endorsing Bjorkman.
Local 120 represents officers and employees with the North Sioux City Police Department, the Brookings Police Department and Brookings County Sheriff’s Office, Elk Point Police Department, the Sturgis Police Department, Box Elder Police, Deadwood Police, Belle Fourche Police, Davison County Jail staff, Union County Jail staff and Codington County Jail.
James Heeren, a retired North Sioux City police officer and Local 120’s business agent, said he was impressed by Bjorkman after meeting him and studying his background. He recommended supporting him and the union membership agreed.
“Talking with him, seeing his understanding of the law, his work as a judge, doing research,” Heeren said. “We decided to endorse him.”
He said he was impressed by Tim running a grassroots campaign without taking special interest money.
“This shows Tim is for the people of a South Dakota and will represent us and not the special interest groups,” Heeren said. “Tim understands this from being a judge how will the people trust your decisions are truly impartial if you are funded by the special interests groups. That means a lot to me as a retired law enforcement officer and as a voter.”

Photo: Tim poses with Marlon Mollet, Heidi Henle and James Heeren at the Native American Day Parade in Sioux Falls on Oct. 8.

Tim to tour state in closing days of campaign for change

Tim to tour state in closing days of campaign for change

Tim is a runner, and he’s ready for a closing sprint to wrap up this campaign to bring change and fundamental reform to Congress.
Starting Thursday, Nov. 1, Tim will caravan across South Dakota, making multiple stops in different cities to meet with supporters and hold rallies. The tour will conclude with a rally in Sioux Falls on Monday, Nov. 5.
He will conduct media interviews, speak at rallies and meet with voters to discuss the campaign and why he can deliver the change that is needed in Congress.
Locations and times, which are subject to change, are as follows:
Thursday, Nov. 1:
10:30 a.m. – Madison Public Library, 209 Center St E, Madison
12:30 p.m. – Cottonwood Bistro, 1710 6th St, Brookings
3 p.m. – Redlin Arts Center, 1200 33rd St. NW, Watertown
6:30 p.m. – Brown Co. Democratic Office, 220 S. Main St, Aberdeen

Friday, Nov. 2:
10 a.m. – Huron Campaign HQ, 1459 Dakota Ave S, Huron
5 p.m. – Fork Real, 324 Saint Joseph St, Rapid City

Saturday, Nov. 3
1 p.m. – Cornerstone Coffee House, 123 E. 3rd Ave, Mitchell
4 p.m. – Location TBA, Yankton

Monday, Nov. 5:
Location and time TBA, Sioux Falls

Reporters are welcome to arrange interviews with Tim, a fifth-generation South Dakotan and former circuit court judge, and are invited to ride along during parts of the caravan.
For more information, contact field coordinator Kaleb Peterson at 605-553-4975 or kaleb@timbjorkman.com or communication director Tom Lawrence at 605-789-1605 or tom@timbjorkman.com.

Bjorkman: No PAC or special interest money; just people serving people

Bjorkman: No PAC or special interest money; just people serving people

I’ve pledged to run a campaign free of special interest political action committees (PACs), corporate and national party money. Unlike me, Dusty has taken over $221,000 of PAC dollars. On the other hand, I’ve lived up to the exact promise I made to voters – at significant sacrifice to our fundraising. 
That’s OK, because individuals made up the difference.
During last night’s SDPB Congressional Forum, Dusty showed he’s willing to distort truth in order to divert attention from how he’s sold out to special interest PACs and corporate PACs. So much for Dusty’s clean campaign pledges. Now, it’s obvious that Dusty pored through our more than 5000 individual donations in this campaign, and couldn’t find a single PAC or national party donation among them. None.
So what’s left for him other than explaining why he took all that money? Distort the truth.
He did just that by claiming donations from six individuals — two-thirds of it from former Sen. Tom Daschle – is special interest money. That isn’t truthful. Each of those individuals made individual gifts out of their own pockets,  not on behalf of any special interest.
I’m proud to have Sen. Daschle’s support and that of the other donors – either South Dakota natives, former workers for Sen. Tim Johnson, or in one case a former North Dakota congressman. They believe in my message of reform and gave out of their own pockets to help a reformer.
Our campaign has received the vast majority of it’s donations – most of them relatively small – from South Dakotans. I’m honored and humbled by the trust and confidence every one of these as well as each of our thousands of donors has placed in our joint cause to reform Congress.
Does Dusty feel similarly proud to have accepted money from the 90 or so special interest PACs who gave him over $220,000? Those groups, like the Koch Brothers aren’t giving him money because they believe he’ll be a great congressman for South Dakota, but because they want him to be the next congressman for Koch Brothers.
I’m glad Dusty has raised this distortion, because he’s not only acknowledging that he feels the heat in this campaign, but more importantly, he acknowledges what I’ve been saying all along: the central theme of this election should be special interest PAC money — and Super PAC dark ads — and their harmful impact on the democratic process.
I will be a voice for all the people in Congress, not just the PACs who control Washington, and that includes not spinning the truth to try to make political points.
Finally, rather than doing as promised and publishing the amounts they gave, Dusty just published names leaving the opportunity to further distort. So I’ll include them here:
Name Relation to the Campaign  Amount to Date  Contribution Dates
Dwight Fettig South Dakotan  $500.00 3/30/18 – $500
Haroon Khan Former Tim Johnson Staffer, Friend of adviser Drey Samuelson  $500.00 12/31/17 – $500
Earl Pomeroy Former North Dakota Congressman  $500.00 3/31/18 – $500
Tom Daschle Former South Dakota Senator  $5,400.00 2/14/18 – $2700, 6/27/18 – $2700
Greg Billings Father of a Campaign Intern  $250.00 8/31/18 – $250
Nikki Heidepriem South Dakotan  $500.00 8/31/18 – $500
Total Given:  $7,650.00