Close vote leads to Democratic co-candidacy in S.D. House district

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ANADARKO, Okla. – Through the night of June 3 and into the early morning hours of June 4, the returns for South Dakota’s House District 27 showed Kevin Killer in third place out of a four-candidate race.

However, Killer said he felt confident throughout the early returns because of the hard work done by both himself and his handful of staff members in the area of Shannon County, S.D., which makes up a large part of the Pine Ridge reservation.

When all results came in, Killer had first place with 919 votes and 30.59 percent of the vote; second place went to Ed Iron Cloud III, with 914 votes and 30.43 percent of the vote. But there was no declared runoff between these two Oglala Lakota tribal citizens. Instead, in a historic moment in this state representative district, both Killer and Iron Cloud are at press time co-Democratic candidates going into the November general election.

Killer said that he felt good about sharing the ticket with Iron Cloud because there were two Native candidates.

“At first, I was really relieved that the whole process was over. I felt good, because we worked really hard. We also worked hard on making sure we got Natives to vote and registering people. It was celebratory for me, I guess. It felt like we did a good job.”

In addition to campaigning in Shannon County, Killer also said that the voter turnout for Bennett and Jackson counties was also successful. Throughout the district, he has been campaigning for both Native and non-Native votes to hear the concerns of potential future constituents.

A large part of Killer’s work has also been fundraising and thanking his volunteers and contributors. When Indian Country Today contacted Killer for a phone interview, he was driving back to Pine Ridge from a fundraiser in Rapid City, S.D. At press time, his “limited campaign staff” was scheduling a dinner and campaign rally for supporters.

Killer’s platform includes creating job opportunities, expanding opportunities for health care, higher salaries for teachers in public education, and creating wind energy and other alternative energy incentives within South Dakota. Another one of Killer’s issues during the campaign includes making the recognition of tribal IDs more widely accepted in areas of business throughout the state.

“One of the ironic things is that you can take a tribal ID and open up an account, but you can’t pick up a money order,” he said. “To me, that’s really unfair to people who can’t afford to pay for a state ID and, in our case, we don’t even have a county office to go to even get IDs except once a week.”

Killer said that, if elected, he wants to find ways to create better relations between South Dakota tribes and the state government, especially in regards to Indian gaming and the creation of what Killer refers to as “market-driven compacts.”

One attribute that he sees as an advantage is his relatively young age. At age 29, the senior at Oglala Lakota College and employee of the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s burial assistance program has gained political experience on the campaigns of fellow Democrats Tom Daschle and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin and has also served as the national president of the Young People For fellowship program.

“I bring a young person’s perspective. Also, growing up in two different places like Denver and Pine Ridge, I bring that perspective of living in the city and some of the issues that go along with that, versus coming back to a rural community and having that perspective. Family and friends in [Pine Ridge] really helped me know the issues better.”

Killer said that a large part of the Pine Ridge reservation population is under 18, and as a candidate and potential elected official, he wants to reach out to these future voters in the district’s communities.

“It’s not about me. It’s about them, ensuring that they have a better future.”