Independents have six short days to collect signatures and submit nominating petitions to run for office in South Dakota this year. 21 independents have filed to run for county commissioner, six have filed to run for sheriff, and thirteen have filed for other county offices.
But so far, only one independent has filed to run for any higher office. Brian Burge (that’s a soft g, so he rhymes with verge) of Marion filed a petition on April 11 to run for District 16 Senate. Freshly reconfigured District 16 already has a potentially hot Republican primary between incumbent Senator Jim Bolin of Canton and former four-term Representative Nancy Rasmussen of Hurley. Rasmussen lost her District 17 Senate primary bid in 2020 to Senator Arthur Rusch of Vermillion by just four votes. The primary victor will face independent Burge and Democratic candidate and lawn mower salesman Donn Larson of Hudson.
Burge attempted to run as an independent for Senate in 2020 in District 15 but was tossed from the ballot due to petition deficiencies. Burge declared an apartment on North Phillips in Sioux Falls as his residence for that abortive candidacy; Burge must have moved back to his corporate headquarters on Cherry Avenue Marion since 2020.
Burge does enjoy hanging out with Bolin’s Club in Pierre. When he’s not selling garage door sensor wiring accessories and advice on “finding value at the margins,” Burge frequently lobbies at the South Dakota Legislature. In this year’s Session, Burge testified to Legislative committees on multiple days:
- January 15: Burge testified to Senate Health and Human Services in favor of Senate Bill 15, which cleaned up Initiated Measure 26 to more succinctly protect all licensed professionals from discipline for engaging in legal activities related to medical cannabis. Burge said (1:46:00 in the SDPB audio) he liked the generalization of this law but expressed concern about possible tension with federal law.
- January 26: Burge testified to House Judiciary against House Bill 1026, a bill that would have prohibited suspending imposition of sentence for anyone convicted of rape. “I’m a big opponent to the notion of doing special carve-outs on the item at hand,” said Burge (at 2:12:45 in the SDPB audio). “We should have laws that are more general in nature and universally applied.”
- January 27: Burge testified to House Health and Human Services against House Bill 1103, which expands Medicaid payments to dentists, chiropractors, and optometrists. Burge said the bill fit “patterns of the past” (0:57:20) in writing carve-out laws that give “certain industries special treatment.” Burge also complained that Medicaid reimbursement rates drive up health care costs.
- January 27: Burge squeezed in an appearance before Joint Appropriations to contend (3:46:26) that the Constitution does authorize spending federal funds on daycare, that allocations of federal dollars would go to straight profit for providers, and that the proposed daycare subsidies (which Governor Kristi Noem approved in February) constituted “the federal government essentially buying our child health care systems in the state and then eventually buying our children and how they’re taught and raised for the next five years.”
- February 1: Burge testified to Senate Education in favor of Senate Bill 105, which would have required school boards to get estimates on renovation from before issuing contracts for new construction and get those estimates from architects or engineers not involved with bids for the new construction. Burge gave the only proponent testimony (0:24:10) on a measure that the schools fought and Senate Ed (including Senator Bolin) killed seven minutes later. (Burge, run the ad! Bolin supports conflicts of interest, insider deals, and rampant wasteful spending!)
That’s not an exhaustive list, just the instances of Burge’s regularly concise statements to Legislative committees that pop up in some casual Googling.