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Johnson, Duprel spar on abortion, gay marriage in SDPB debate

2022 sdpb house debate.png
South Dakota Focus Host Jackie Hendry and candidates for U.S. House: Republican Dusty Johnson and Libertarian Colin Duprel

The two candidates for South Dakota’s lone seat in the U.S. House differ on two key social issues.

The candidates drew those lines in Thursday night's debate on South Dakota Public Broadcasting.

Libertarian Collin Duprel and Republican incumbent Dusty Johnson share similar ideas about the role the federal government plays in economic and spending policies. But they differ widely on the issues of abortion and gay marriage.

On abortion, both candidates said they are pro-life. However, Duprel said he would not support a federal ban on abortion. He said his morality should not determine reality for others.

Johnson said he believes a fetus in the womb is a life and worthy of protection.

A recent US Supreme Court ruling overturned constitutional protections for abortion. In that ruling, Justice Clarence Thomas suggested the courts should also look at cases establishing legal gay and interracial marriage.

Johnson voted against House democrat effort to legalize both forms of marriage. The two candidates were asked if they would support a bill banning gay marriage.

Duprel said he would vote against the ban.

“I think that the right to people to marry who they want is an American right. That’s the reality. We shouldn’t dictate to people what they do with their private lives," Duprel said. "For the minute and thirty seconds my opponent had to address that question he spent more than a minute of it talking about things unrelated to the question. I don’t think I heard your response, Congressman Johnson, would you vote to let people continue marrying who they love or not?”

Johnson countered by saying gay marriage is law of the land, and that 8 of 9 Supreme Court justices are not looking to prohibit gay marriage.

“These things are the business of the states. In fact, the full faith and credit provision of the constitution says that if any state has those gay marriages that other states need to recognize them," Johnson said. "Listen, when it is in the constitution—when Speaker Pelosi is going to put up these political-show bills I think she’s got to understand she’s going to find it a lot harder to get Republican support for those.”

South Dakota’s constitution prohibits gay marriage.

Dusty Johnson Collin Duprell debate
Rep. Dusty Johnson (R, S.D.) shakes hand with his challenger, Libertarian Collin Duprell, following SDPB's U.S. House Debate Oct. 20.

One topic on which the candidates agreed — limiting the power meatpackers have over livestock producers.

Duprel said the country needs stiffer anti-trust laws.

"When the price is high on cattle, they buy foreign beef, or they buy their own stock. Then when prices are low they pull producers clean," Duprel said. "We need to strengthen the anti-trust laws. We need to make sure those meatpackers are held accountable. Right now, they control so much of the market, competition isn’t even a reality."

Johnson pointed to some of his own legislation he said addresses part of the problem.

"My cattle contract library has passed out of the house. That would force the packers to provide unprecedented transparency into what they pay for cattle. Not just at the sale barn, but if it’s in the alternative marketing agreements as well. With additional transparency, additional competition, and frankly doing a much better of job labeling," Johnson said.

Both candidates said stronger country-of-origin labeling measures are needed.

You can watch the full debate on the SDPB Facebook page.

There is no Democrat running for U.S. House.

Election day is November 8.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.
Josh Chilson is the news director at South Dakota Public Broadcasting. A Florence, S.D. native, Josh graduated with a journalism degree from South Dakota State University. He has worked as as a newspaper reporter and videographer, and most recently as managing editor for Dakota News Now. Josh is based out of SDPB's Sioux Falls studio.