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Oakes Offers Libertarian Challenge to Republican Walk-on for District 30 Senate

Gideon Oakes, chairman of the Libertarian Party of South Dakota, sees an opening for his party. With long-time Hot Springs legislator Lance Russell doing a last-minute switcheroo and deciding to run for his old job (which didn’t go perfectly smoothly) as Fall River County state’s attorney (likely a move to position himself to renetwork with state’s attorneys and make a run at replacing our current incompetent Attorney General in 2022), with radical but low-output conservative back-bencher Julie Frye-Mueller switching from House to run for Russell’s District 3o Senate seat and facing a divisive primary against Hot Springs mayor George Kotti, and with no Democrat filed to run and split the anti-Lance/anti-Julie vote,  Oakes is declaring his Libertarian candidacy for that seat.

With no Democrat in sight, I’m more than happy to endorse Oakes for District 30 Senate. I’d much rather have in the Legislature an honest, rational conservative Libertarian who will challenge the one-party monolith in Pierre than a radical right-wing Republican who can’t turn her party away from crony capitalism.

Here’s Oakes’s full announcement:

Gideon Oakes announced Tuesday he is seeking the state senate seat currently held by Sen. Lance Russell, who has opted to run instead for Fall River County State’s Attorney.

Oakes, 34, is a Keystone-area real estate agent and former restaurateur who currently serves as chairman of the Libertarian Party of South Dakota. He and his wife, Mary, have two children.

In addition to being elected twice to the Keystone Board of Trustees between 2012 and 2016, he has also served on the Keystone Fire Protection District as well as the boards of several civic organizations including Black Hills & Badlands Association, Keystone Economic Development Association, Holy Terror Days Association and United Way of the Southern Black Hills.

Oakes first ran for the seat in 2018 against Russell, a Republican, and Democrat Kristine Ina Winter, earning 2,134 votes, or nearly one in five of all votes cast. He also was endorsed by several prominent local leaders, including Mike Verchio, Lyndell Petersen, Phil Lampert, Jim Sword, Jared Carson and Sandi McLain.

“We brought a unifying message that resonated with Republicans, Democrats, Independents and Libertarians alike,” Oakes said. “And we’re going to do the same thing in 2020. If there’s one thing we need during these trying times, it’s unity.”

This year, with no Democrats in the race and no GOP incumbent, Oakes is optimistic about his chances. Once nominated at his party’s state convention in May, he will go head to head in November with the winner of the June primary between Rep. Julie Frye-Muller of Rapid City and Hot Springs Mayor George Kotti.

“Over the years, I’ve watched many principled candidates go to Pierre, only to be brought in line by their party leadership. And, I’ve also seen candidates go to Pierre with such a narrow agenda that they become a voice for only a select few,” Oakes said. “I will always put principle before party, and above all, I will always listen.”

Oakes said he and his team knocked on more than 3,500 doors across the district during his 2018 run. District 30 includes Fall River and Custer counties and most of Pennington County outside of Rapid City and Box Elder, stretching from the Wyoming border to east of Wall.

Repeating that feat, however, may prove difficult during the current pandemic.

“Hopefully people remember the conversations we had on their doorsteps two years ago,” Oakes said. “Nobody wants the election to be defined by illness, but the political landscape is remarkably different this year. The one thing COVID-19 doesn’t change, though, is the fact that our success will depend on how many of our neighbors we can reach.”

Oakes’ campaign website,, lists the candidate’s phone number and encourages voters to call, text or video chat with questions [Gideon Oakes, press release, 2020.04.21].

There’s no reason every Democrat in District 30 should resist voting for Oakes to unseat a Republican incumbent. Oakes will also need to convince a big chunk of local Republicans to pick him over the Rapid City radical.

Now if we can just get the Libertarians to work with Democrats to nominate an effective Congressional candidate to prevent Congressman Dusty Johnson from going unchallenged in November….


  1. Gideon Oakes 2020-04-21

    Thank you for the coverage, and for the kind words, Cory. I would normally say I’m looking forward to another year in the trenches, but in the age of COVID-19, that metaphor feels a little too literal.

  2. JW 2020-04-21

    I”m all in except I’m not in Gideon’s district.. Independents can be reasonable. Anybody beside Tim Goodwin’s best buddy that has proven to be about as worthless as a screen door in a submarine. Is there a Libertarian available to run against him? Please!!!!

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