Rapid City business owner Dave Johnson announced Wednesday his candidacy for the District 33 Senate seat now held by Phil Jensen. Johnson says Jensen’s priorities are an embarrassment, and he hopes to bring common sense to the position.
Johnson says the senator representing constituents has to hear what they’re talking about and look for solutions to problems that are real. He says Jensen champions issues that don’t reflect local concerns.
“To be frank, they’re embarrassing to the state of South Dakota, they’re embarrassing to the Republican Party, and I am his constituent, and it’s embarrassing to me," Johnson says. "The issues that he’s brought up and the laws that he’s proposed are the classic solution in search of a problem. We have real social issues and real economic issues in our district.”
Phil Jensen most recently made national news by sponsoring a bill that would allow business owners to claim religious beliefs as a foundation to refuse service to gay people. In an interview with the Rapid City Journal, Jensen said that the free market would correct the situation if business owners could legally refuse to serve black people.
In the aftermath, fellow legislators, Governor Dennis Daugaard, and conservative bloggers condemned his statements.
In previous legislative sessions, Jensen has made national headlines with other bills, including one to keep Sharia law from applying in South Dakota courts and another that could be interpreted as allowing lethal measures against anyone threatening the life of an unborn fetus, without exempting physicians performing abortions.
As a Republican, Johnson will challenge Jensen in the primary election. He says if elected he plans to focus on funding the battle against the mountain pine beetle infestation in the Black Hills.
A message left for Phil Jensen at the home and business number listed on the Legislative Resource Council website was not returned.