YANKTON, S.D. - Terry Begay announced he will run for the Congressional seat left open by the resignation of William Janklow.
Begay, Navajo and Lakota, will be on the ballot in June as an independent candidate to fill the remainder of Janklow's term. Janklow's resignation from Congress will be effective Jan. 20. The resignation followed his recent manslaughter conviction.
Begay ran for the Congressional seat in November 2002 and received nearly 1 percent of the vote as a Libertarian. He said he would prefer to run as a Libertarian if he gets enough signatures on a petition, otherwise as an independent.
He attended school at Holy Rosary Mission on the Pine Ridge Reservation for three years then finished his education in Rapid City, S.D.
As an independent candidate Begay will need to receive more than 3,000 signatures on a petition.
Begay is one of two people who have been announced for the position. Democrat Stephanie Herseth who ran a very close race against Janklow announced her candidacy prior to the traffic accident involving Janklow in which Randy Scott lost his life.
Republican John Thune, who lost to Sen. Tim Johnson in the 2002 election, is considered the man to beat in Republican circles. Other Republican candidates are waiting for Thune to make a decision to run for his old seat in Congress or against Sen. Tom Daschle.
Begay is ready and running. He said he can bring a different perspective to the office than either of the other candidates because he has experienced hardship and racial discrimination.
"They don't understand both sides of the culture, I understand. As a Congressman I can help heal the hate between each other (culture). I can make people understand that we are not looking for something special, we just want to be treated like everyone else," Begay said.
South Dakota has only one representative in the House and that person must deal with issues relevant to the entire country and the state.
Begay said he opposed the war against Iraq because of the cost. The money, he said, could be best used to help the people in the U.S. "The money spent would help the whole country in health care and other areas. Spend the money here first and then help other countries. Take care of the people here first," he said.
On the economy he said the government has to look at ways to save money and not pander to the special interest groups that cost tax payers money. "That puts the economy in a bad situation," he said.
"As an American Indian I look at what I try to accomplish. Look at me as a person."
Begay said he could add insight to the movement in South Dakota on reconciliation efforts.
Begay worked in the federal and state prison systems for 22 years. He retired after working at the Yankton prison.
Since the State of South Dakota has dealt with problems of American Indians incarcerated in the state and federal systems, he said he could help as a Congressman.
"I tried to point out to administrations they should give American Indians the opportunity to believe in a religion the way they want. Some people thought that American Indians used the Religion Act as a means to get things they wanted. Just because they did something wrong does not mean they don't have a belief system.
"Some saw it as a privilege. It's no different than another religion outside."
Begay said Janklow's guilty verdict on the manslaughter charge was a surprise to him, "the way people in the state believe in him."
"I see suffering where there should be none, and that's a big reason I am running for Congress.
"So many politicians talk about the working class and poverty, but they do nothing. Until you have experienced hunger and poverty you can't understand it. They had their chance in office. We need new ideas and perspectives," Begay said.
Begay will run in the special election on June 1 and will also be a candidate in the general election in November.