SD Legislative candidate survey: Helene Duhamel

The South Dakota State Capitol Building in Pierre.
The South Dakota State Capitol Building in Pierre.(Austin Goss DNN/KOTA)
Published: Oct. 31, 2022 at 7:46 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - Helene Duhamel is running for re-election to the South Dakota State Senate in District 32. The district encompasses much of downtown Rapid City, and runs south towards Upper Spring Creek Road. Duhamel is being challenged by Democrat Nicole Heenan.

Helene Duhamel is running for re-election to the South Dakota State Senate in District 32.
Helene Duhamel is running for re-election to the South Dakota State Senate in District 32.(Submitted)

1. Who are you? Tell us about yourself in 100 words or less.

I’m a fifth generation Rapid City girl with a long history of small business, community support and work with the Native community. I spent my 35-year career in TV news and the last five years at the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office. My goal is to always do what is best for Rapid City, West River and South Dakota. I champion meat and potato issues that impact people’s lives and pocketbooks: water, public safety, workforce housing, quality education and mental health solutions. The list goes on. I am a common-sense conservative who digs into big issues and fights for solutions.

2. What prompted you to run for re-election?

I was strongly encouraged to throw my hat into the ring for consideration of an open Senate seat in Rapid City’s District 32 in 2019. I was appointed by Governor Noem in 2019 and then was elected to the seat in 2020. I have found service in the legislature to be one of my most fulfilling joys. I very much enjoy the work and hope to continue standing and fighting for the needs of Western South Dakota.

3. What public policies are you passionate about? What would your policy priorities be in Pierre?

I am the face of public safety and law enforcement in the South Dakota Senate. I was vice chairman of Senate Judiciary and was glad to highlight the needs and concerns of our citizens regarding crime and safety. On Senate State Affairs we tackled the most controversial and thorniest issues to come before the legislature. My policy priorities are solving the big issues facing Rapid City and Western South Dakota. A clean source of reliable water tops my list, along with public safety, support for local government and economic development. My litmus test is always what is best for South Dakota.

4. Cutting the grocery tax has become central to this election cycle. Do you think that the legislature should cut the grocery tax next legislative session? Is there any taxes you would cut instead, or in addition to?

In walking neighborhoods, I hear more concern about high property taxes than sales taxes. Nevertheless, we will take a long, hard look at all proposals for tax relief. With a constitutionally mandated balanced budget, we are conservative in South Dakota, always saving money for a rainy day. The budgeting process takes the entire legislative session with plenty of opportunity for public input. I encourage citizens to weigh in and let us know their preference for the different options on the table.

5. The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade earlier in the year. South Dakota currently has a law that prevents abortion almost completely outright. Are there any exceptions you would like to see the legislature enact? What other laws would you like to see passed to support mothers and families?

The legislature needs to approach this issue with care and compassion. I have heard a lot of public support in my district for the exceptions for rape and incest. We have work to do to define the 2005 trigger law and better support moms and babies, promote early learning, protect the doctor-patient relationship and continue to look at ways to facilitate and encourage adoption.

6. Recreational marijuana is on the ballot in November. If it passes, would you commit to legalizing it?

Yes.

7. What is the most important quality for an elected official to possess?

When you hire someone to represent you in Pierre, more than anything you want someone with good judgement. You want an honest person--someone you know and trust. I’m an open book. For three decades I shared my life with viewers in western South Dakota. I gave my time and effort to a whole range of community efforts. You may not agree with every decision I make, but you know I get educated, dig into and hear from all sides of the issues. We may disagree but I will not be disagreeable. I don’t play politics.

8. Who do you take inspiration from, and why?

President Ronald Reagan is an inspiration. He was a great communicator and unifying force in the Republican party with his big-tent philosophy. Now more than ever we could use a little more kindness and unity. As Reagan famously said, “The person who agrees with you 80% of the time is a friend and an ally--not a 20% traitor.”

State legislative candidates in contested districts this election season were emailed the same survey to complete for Dakota News Now/KOTA Territory News. With the exception of a quick spelling and grammar check, answers were not edited by the poster. Those who responded to the survey questions had their results posted.