VIEWPOINT: Why I’m contributing $50,000 to the open primary ballot initiative in South Dakota
Guest column by Drey Samuelson
On May 14, 2022, 18-year-old Payton Gendron walked into a Buffalo, New York grocery store carrying an assault rifle and mercilessly killed 10 patrons in cold blood.
In response, less than two weeks later, Buffalo-area Republican Congressman Chris Jacobs, who had previously been endorsed by the NRA, announced that he could no longer in good conscience vote against legislation to ban assault weapons. The reaction to his statement from Republican party officials – and the NRA – was so ferocious that just a few days later Jacobs announced he would not run for re-election, realizing that he would have no chance to win re-nomination in a closed Republican party primary, and that his political career was over.
To be clear, the point I’m making has nothing to do with the issue of whether military-style firearms should be legal or not – that’s an argument for another day – my point in noting it is simply this: An elected official should be able to vote for legislation that he/she believes is right, and not be forced to live in fear of losing their nomination in a closed partisan primary where only a relative handful of party regulars vote.
And I feel so strongly about it that I, in no way a rich person, am withdrawing $50,000 from my retirement account to help facilitate that. If successful, the initiative will allow every voter – including independents, the fastest growing group of voters in South Dakota – to participate in the nomination process. In an open primary system, voters nominate the top two candidates, irrespective of party, and they face off in the general election.