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Mentele Fills Democrats’ District 19 Vacancy, Faces Schoenfish and Peterson in November

Melissa Mentele and Frank Kloucek seal the deal with official declaration of Mentele's candidacy for District 19 House, sent to Secretary of State Shantel Krebs Friday. Photo posted publicly on Facebook, 2016.08.05.
Melissa Mentele and Frank Kloucek seal the deal with official declaration of Mentele’s candidacy for District 19 House, sent to Secretary of State Shantel Krebs Friday. Photo from Mentele for House Facebook page, 2016.08.06.

Russell Graeff will not charge forth alone with the Democratic banner in the District 19 Legislative contest. Bon Homme County Democratic Party chairman Frank Kloucek informs me that District 19 county party officials have named Melissa Mentele of Emery to run for District 19 House. That ballot slot came open following Ardon Wek’s surprising abdication two weeks ago, for which no public explanation has yet surfaced.

Mentele’s candidacy for House caps a busy news week for the Emery organizer. Her ballot question committee Tuesday launched a last-ditch lawsuit to place its medical cannabis initiative on the November ballot. That committee, New Approach South Dakota, says its ballot-access suit will be heard in Pierre on Tuesday at 9 a.m. (That’s also the due date for filling candidate vacancies, so Melissa, maybe when the court breaks for lunch, drop by the Secretary of State’s office with a certified copy of your candidacy paperwork, just to make sure Secretary Krebs isn’t missing anything!). New Approach is organizing an online auction to pay its legal fees for the ballot-access lawsuit. New Approach also responded publicly to Attorney General Marty Jackley’s announcement Wednesday of charges against two Monarch America marijuana consultants who helped the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe line up marijuana for its aborted pot resort plan in 2015.

While medical cannabis policy has been Mentele’s public focus for the last couple years, my interactions with her have indicated there’s more than marijuana on her agenda. She’s a skilled organizer—and remember, skills like that can get a person elected President. Expect Mentele, a trained nurse, to put those organizing skills to use rallying supporters on a range of health care issues and other positive Democratic policies.

With Mentele now challenging Republican House incumbents Kyle Schoenfish and Kent Peterson and Graeff challenging past Republican legislator and gadfly Stace Nelson in the Senate race, District 19 Democrats have a chance to turn two seats in Pierre back to sensible Democratic votes. District 19 Democrats failed to come up with a candidate for the second House seat last spring, so one of the Republican incumbents is bound to return to Pierre. If Mentele wants to focus her fire on one Republican to dislodge, she might want to start with Rep. Schoenfish, whose auditing company reviewed the books of the Mid-Central Educational Cooperative for at least nine years and failed to notice what the Attorney General now tallies as $1.2 million in stolen funds and a corruption scandal that has resulted in three felony indictments and six dead people. If the Department of Education can blame Schoenfish and Company for not catching Mid-Central’s corruption, perhaps so should District 19 voters?

Congrats to Melissa Mentele on taking her first plunge as a candidate, and congrats to Frank Kloucek and his fellow District 19 Democrats on finding a good candidate to take up the challenge of running as a Democrat in a district where 57% of voters are Republicans and 27% are Democrats.


  1. owen reitzel 2016-08-06 10:22

    Melissa will be a great asset to the South Dakota Legislature.
    She’s has a ton of energy and is progressive, which is exactly what we need more of in this state.
    We’ve seen what the conservative have done to this state over the last few decades and it’ll get much worse with ultra-conservatives in charge.

    Proof? Let’s look at a tale of 2 states. Look at Kansas and see what Tea Party policies have done to that state.
    At the same time look at California and the comeback they’ve made thanks to the progressive leadership from Governor Jerry Brown.

    I encourage fellow District 19 voters to take a look at what Melissa says and seriously consider her as our next Representative.

    Congratulations goes to Frank Klocek for his endless work for Dist. 19

  2. Stace Nelson 2016-08-06 13:43

    @Owen You hate when Sibby and others call RINOs liberals, as wrong as that qualification is? Calling the clowns who went along with Democrats to raise taxes, increase fees, increase spending, and expand government, conservatives? Is even further from the ideological truth.

    Instead of spitting in the face of 2/3rds of the registered voters in Distict 19? Maybe check the ranid radical Lefist rhetoric at the door. Let the voters know they have a choice between an honest Democrat in Melissa and a dishonest opportunist in “former” dedicated liberal Obama Democrat Schoenfish.

  3. owen reitzel 2016-08-06 14:23

    first off all Stace the increases were made because even some Republicans realized that roads and bridges needed to be fixed and we needed to raise teacher salaries because we’re losing teachers to surrounding states or because students aren’t going into the field due to low wages. As of yet you’ve shown no desire to show us how to fix these problems except by saying the money is already. This of course isn’t true because many legislatures looked into that and couldn’t find the money unless they cut other programs.
    The Democrats voted with the Republicans because they knew something had to be done. The Democrats had a increase that would have taken the sales tax off of food but the Republicans just laughed at it-including Peterson and Schoenfish.

    As Cory mentioned Schoenfish has some explaining to do about EB-5. I think we both agree with that and Melissa should point this out, along with other differences with her and the Republicans.

    Spitting in District 19 faces? Ranid radical leftist rhetoric? No. I’m trying to show the difference between a progressive agenda and a Tea Party agenda. Again look at California and Kansas.

  4. Stace Nelson 2016-08-06 15:38

    @Owen So? Let me get this straight… 100’s of millions missing out of $5-600 million EB5 corruption; millions out of 10’s of millions in the Gear Up MCEC corruption (legislative committees said everything was good on both), but you believe every penny is well spent in a $4.5 BILLION state budget and we couldn’t afford to properly fund two of our core infrastructure needs out of that $4.5 BILLION?!?!??!! I would like to offer you first crack at the prime ocean front property I have in Northern Handon County and give you first dibs on lesson Mt Rushmore and the Brooklyn Bridge.

    Melissa should ask that you campaign for her opponents, she’ll get more votes that way.

  5. owen reitzel 2016-08-06 16:46

    I’m guessing it’s a little more complicated then that.

    Melissa will campaign the way she wants to Stace.

    It won’t all be on EB-5. It’ll be easy to show the progressive way versus the conservation way or more importantly the ultra conservative way. No name calling just the facts. Like the difference between Kansas and California. What is the best way for our state to go.

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-08-06 18:05

    Hold on: I post to celebrate District 19 Democrats’ success in recruiting a replacement for cold-footed Ardon Wek, and the discussion turns into this? I’d much rather hear an analysis of Mentele’s chances against Democrat Republican Kyle Schoenfish and his pal Kent Peterson. Stace, will you be appearing in the next edition of the James Valley Republican as part of a brave three-man Republican team standing against its Democratic opponents? Will the House and Senate candidates be working together? Or will Melissa be able to take advantage of GOP angst in the conflict between RINOs and true believers, not to mention frustration with the easy rollover of the District 19 delegation to the Mickelson CAFO agenda, and come out in first place in District 19?

  7. owen reitzel 2016-08-06 18:12

    I’m bad Cory. My apologies.

    One last question for Stace though. Where do you get the $600 million figure? I’m curious?

    Yes Cory. Let’s hear where Melissa’s views on the issues are.

  8. Tim 2016-08-06 18:29

    $600 million? Isn’t that the amount this state gives away annually to business and big Ag? Could Stace possibly be willing to put the taxpayer funded golden egg on the table to pay for what the state obviously needs? Stace, your republican buddies won’t like that, but I applaud you if that is what you are thinking of doing.

  9. Darin Larson 2016-08-06 19:09

    Cory, you may have short circuited the discussion when you mentioned that 57% of voters in District 19 are Republicans and only 27% are Democrats. I applaud Ms. Mentele’s gumption and effort, but the odds are stacked against her. If she gets all the Democrats and all the independents to vote for her, and the Republicans vote straight party ticket, she loses by 14%. That is a heck of a hole to climb out of.

    I don’t know if this is a district that would benefit in a nonpartisan redistricting scenario, but right now it is a Republican playground.

  10. Tim 2016-08-06 19:32

    Darin, this whole state is a republican playground.

  11. Darin Larson 2016-08-06 19:47

    Tim, you got that right! It does make me laugh when Stace says stuff like “the clowns who went along with Democrats to raise taxes . . .” as if it was the Democrats’ proposals and the Republicans just went along for the ride. The only reason Democrats have an effect on some of these votes is that the Republicans decided to make it require a 2/3 vote. This also makes the Tea Party types more relevant than they should be.

  12. Curt 2016-08-06 20:26

    Gentlemen –
    Yes, 19 is one of those districts drawn to stack the deck in favor of Repubs … and former Sen Kloucek is the reason. The majority party could not abide the fact that Frank won eleven consecutive elections in districts drawn to disadvantage him. When they finally got the job done (giving Frank an un-winnable territory) it resulted in Dems winning in the next 3 districts to the west of 19. Frank lost but other good candidates won. Give Frank a fair chance and our legislature will be a little better.

  13. Stace Nelson 2016-08-06 21:49

    @Owen saying “ultra conservative” is as ignorant as saying “liberal liberal.”

    You are one of the few people In the nation who thinks the insanity in California is progress for the USA. You are also one of the few people who is celebrating the increases in taxes, fees, more government, and more spending of the last two years.

    You appear to be conflating the two massive corruption scandals of the Rounds/Daugaard (Daley? Tammany Hall?) political machine.

    @CAH I’m a conservative Republican, I won’t be joInning the Powers’ cadre of self promoting dishonest newspaper publishing “moderates.” With all of Schoenfishs string pulling with the SDDP, it appears he is still the Obama Democrat he was when he ran as such in 2012

    I wonder when the whole story will come out about Kyle Schoenfish calling Mr Wek and asking him to drop out of the race against him, and that occurring..

  14. Leo 2016-08-06 22:49

    Perhaps because California has a coastline, has been crippled by drought and just happens to be the eighth largest economy in the world all by itself has something to do with that state’s environmental policies. News: Climate Change affects us all! – even here in remote South Dakota.

    What are Melissa’s stances on climate change, Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline?

  15. MJL 2016-08-06 23:04

    So Stace fully supports Schoenfish? Are you endorsing him?

  16. leslie 2016-08-06 23:13

    funny leo:)

  17. Leo 2016-08-06 23:28

    One can never be too sure about anything, Leslie, sad to say. Issues, issues, issues!

  18. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-08-07 07:49

    The District 19 GOP Senate candidate is calling a District 19 GOP House candidate a “clown”, “self-promoting”, “dishonest”, “opportunist”, and “Obama Democrat.” I’ll be curious to hear what response that GOP House candidate offers to this assault from his own ticketmate.

    Now how will this GOP discord affect District 19 voters? As Darin and Curt note, District 19 is a hard fight for District 19 Democrats, whom the GOP most concertedly targeted with its 2011 gerrymandering. District 19 Democrats should remain united no matter what, but which scenario is most likely among the GOPers?

    1. Nelson-Schoenfish discord depresses GOP turnout, giving both Mentele and Graeff better chances of winning?
    2. Anti-establishment District 19 Republicans rally behind Nelson and don’t mark their House ballot, decreasing Graeff’s chances but increasing Mentele’s?
    3. D-19 GOP voters get tired of Nelson’s slagging fellow party members, abandon him to rally behind poor bullied Schoenfish and Peterson, and thus boost Graeff’s chances but lower Mentele’s?
    4. D-19 voters catch none of this fuss, mindlessly vote party labels, and Graeff and Mentele better put up lots of billboards, push early voting, and hope for a blizzard on Election Day?
  19. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-08-07 07:54

    Stace says, “I wonder when the whole story will come out about Kyle Schoenfish calling Mr Wek and asking him to drop out of the race against him, and that occurring.”

    This blog editor says, “What the heck? Seriously? Collusion between Republicans and Democrats to determine who’s on the ballot?” Is that true, Stace? Do we have non-hearsay evidence, witnesses on the record supporting that claim?

  20. barry freed 2016-08-07 08:18

    Ms. Mentele,
    Not everyone who wishes to financially support your efforts is on Facebook. Paypal?
    Thank you

    P.S. You should take advantage of SD’s low information voters and run as a Republican. You will get a lot of those straight ticket voters and those who would vote against you for the D, will vote for you because of the R. Also, the voting machines are rigged to go R, so with the current climate, there will be little restraint by those controlling the Boxes and you won’t win as a D.

  21. Darin Larson 2016-08-07 09:56

    Of your choices, #4 is my bet, Cory.

  22. owen reitzel 2016-08-07 10:48

    I made an error in a earlier post. Schoenfish audited Mid-Central Educational Cooperative not EB-5. Sorry about the mistake

  23. owen reitzel 2016-08-07 11:01

    @Stace. there is conservative and then a right wing conservative. Not ignorant but the truth.

    No Stace a lot of people are looking at what is going on in California and also what is happening in Kansas. Where the tea Party playbook in in force and reaping chaos on its people. Great story on the two states listed below. Not a guess Stace, but fact. Ignoring the facts are ignorant Stace.

  24. Stace Nelson 2016-08-07 14:06

    @Owen Take your Left left hand and slap yourself with it. Now, was it your Left left hand that struck the blow, or was it your left hand?

  25. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-08-08 17:38

    Then Stace, send me that first-hand information for the record!

    Darin, you’re such a pessimist. :-)

  26. Melissa Mentele 2016-08-08 21:35

    I just want everyone to know I have seen the comments & questions. I will be back tomorrow to properly answer them. My oldest daughter had orientation at SDSU this weekend & it was required that parents attend both days. I have not had a chance to sit down and address you all individually. I will I need sleep first we are leaving at 4am for Pierre.


  27. Russ 2016-08-09 00:33

    Congratulations, Melissa, you are officially recorded on the Secretary of State website as District 19 Democratic State Representative Candidate! (Page 3)
    Hope to talk to you soon.

    I’m also happy that vacancies in other districts have been filled by Dems.:
    Eric Bliss – Dist. 22 (Senate)
    Leona Wieland – Dist. 11 (Representative)
    Susan Randall – Dist. 12 (Representative)

  28. Leo 2016-09-25 19:48

    Melissa, please speak to the Dakota Access Pipeline issue. What is your position?

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