Ronald Wieczorek submitted around 4,000 signatures to the Secretary of State's office Tuesday afternoon in Pierre, in a bid to make the November ballot as a candidate for South Dakota's sole seat in the U.S. House.
It's a candidacy based in part on support for President Donald Trump, who Wieczorek says "has been trapped by partisan politics." Tuesday afternoon, in the Capitol just outside the SoS office, he described himself his way: "I'm a Roosevelt Democrat and a Abraham Lincoln Republican. But neither party seems to know what that is anymore and that's another reason I chose to run as an independent."
Wieczorek – it's pronounced wuh-ZOR-ek – is also basing his campaign on the political thought of perennial presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche: "If the silent Americans who 'unexpectedly' elected Trump and want him to succeed, follow my stance and join me in campaigning on the principles of LaRouche’s Four Laws, we can actually cause the necessary changes in time to save our nation."
Tuesday was the deadline for independent candidates like Wieczorek to submit their signature petition. The deadline for primary candidates was March 27.
If enough of Wieczorek's submitted signatures are determined to be valid, he'll make it onto the November ballot with Democrat Tim Bjorkman, Libertarian George Hendrickson and the winner of the Republican primary.
The Republican primary on June 5 is being contested by three candidates: current Secretary of State Shantel Krebs, former Public Utilities Commissioner Dusty Johnson, and current State Senator Neal Tapio.
Wieczorek needs 2,775 signatures in order to qualify for the ballot. The number comes from the statutory requirement for independent candidates that specifies "not less than one percent of the total combined vote cast for Governor at the last certified gubernatorial election..." In the 2014 election that gave Dennis Daugaard his second term as governor, a total of 277,403 were cast.
It's not the first time Wieczorek has collected signatures for elected office. According to online Secretary of State election archives, he's run for U.S. Representative three times previously – in 1992, 1994 and 1998. The first two times, he appeared on the ballot as an independent in the general election and got 2 percent and 3.5 percent of the vote.
The third time, when he sought the nomination of the Democratic Party, and got 23 percent of the vote in a race won by Jeff Moser. Also in 1998, he ran for governor and got 1.4 percent of the vote in the race won by Bill Janklow.
Wieczorek, who lives in Mt. Vernon, about 10 miles west of Mitchell, earns some of his livelihood raising Charolais bulls.
Tuesday morning after he turned in his petition, he said that of LaRouche's "four laws," it's the restoration of the Glass-Steagall Act that is his number one focus.
The Glass-Steagall Act – which separated commercial banking from investment banking – was signed into law in 1933 by President Franklin Roosevelt. Wieczorek describes the law as having been passed with the help of "one of South Dakota's best senators" – Peter Norbeck. In 1999, the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act undid the Glass-Steagall Act.
Asked how he imagined he could, as South Dakota's lone representative to the U.S. House, get other congressional representatives to focus on Glass-Steagall, Wieczorek said he'd take the same approach as in 2013 when he organized an effort to get the South Dakota Legislature to pass a resolution calling on the U.S. Congress to "enact legislation that would reinstate the separation of commercial and investment banking functions that were in effect under the Glass-Steagall Act (Banking Act of 1933)."
The 2013 resolution was approved by the Senate on a 19-16 vote. It passed the House 67-2.
Tuesday afternoon Wieczorek said he did not believe in using "food as a weapon" which is how he analyzes sanctions against Russia, Iraq and Korea.
Asked what kind of agricultural policy the U.S. should pursue, Wieczorek said it should begin by changing the country's financial system, which he said is "based on speculation usury and gambling rather than productivity and building infrastructure."
Given his support of Trump, how does Wieczorek feel about the impact of Trump's recent tariffs on Chinese goods – which have prompted retaliatory tariffs on some U.S. exports like soybeans, which are key to South Dakota's agricultural sector?
"Tariffs and duties are actually essential to making a good trade policy," Wieczorek said. He spoke of any negative impact on South Dakota farmers as "short term."
Wieczorek rejects the "British free trade" system – which he says has meant "the destruction of agriculture and laboring people in the United States of America." The free trade system that's been accepted in the country is one where "somebody has to lose and somebody has to win," he says.
What's needed, according to Wieczorek, is a return to the "American political economic system that promoted production agriculture and the uplifting of human beings with a classical education, teaching our young people how to solve problems in the school system, educating their subconscious, instead of turning them into fodder for these predatory capitalists as cheap labor."
Instead of "enslaving" students with debt, Wieczorek says: "If these kids are ... developing their minds, in a process of doing something for the betterment of mankind, that should be a benefit to everybody. Up to the age of 25, in my book, education should be free, if they're going to school to learn something."
A robust field of candidates is running to represent South Dakota in the U.S. House this year, because the state's incumbent for its sole seat, Kristi Noem, is not seeking re-election.
Instead, she's running for governor, competing with the state's current attorney general, Marty Jackley, for the Republican Party nomination. On the November ballot for the Democrats will be Billie Sutton, who was unopposed in the Democratic Party primary for governor.