Meeks: Campaign is a positive experience

Meeks: Campaign is a positive experience by David Lias The governor's race in South Dakota may best be known by its often controversial, often negative tone as Democrat Bernie Hunhoff tries to unseat incumbent Republican Bill Janklow.

For Elsie Meeks, Hunhoff's running mate, the experience of campaigning across the state in recent months has been anything but negative.

"I didn't realize it would be as positive an experience as it has been," she said during a recent campaign stop in Vermillion. "Win or lose, I'm going to have gained a lot from this, but heck, we're going to win."

Meeks said her knowledge of and upbringing in West River South Dakota aren't the main reasons that Hunhoff approached her and asked her to be his gubernatorial running mate against incumbent Republican Bill Janklow.

"The main reason is because I've been involved in economic development," she said.

She said during a recent campaign stop in Vermillion that she and Hunhoff, a magazine publisher from Yankton, share the same outlook on what goals the state of South Dakota needs to focus on in the coming years.

"I worked with Bernie in 1993 and 1994 on a statewide economic development board that Sen. Tom Daschle actually spearheaded," Meeks said. "I worked with him probably for over 18 months or so and I found Bernie to be somebody who really cared about people on a personal level, and he just wanted to see people succeed."

Meeks and her husband operate a ranch, and she operates a small business and is involved in economic development.

"I feel like I have a real stake in what happens for the future of South Dakota, and I'm really glad I can be a part of that," she said.

She knew, when accepting Hunhoff's offer to be the Democratic lieutenant governor candidate, that she would be faced with unique challenges.

She pleased that, even though she hasn't held a statewide elected political office in South Dakota, her name is becoming familiar to more and more South Dakotans.

"Actually, I had gotten to know a lot of people through the South Dakota Rural Enterprise Initiative Board that I was on," she said, "and I was also on the South Dakota Community Foundation Board, so I do know a lot of people even though I have never been in office."

Meeks doesn't believe that holding an elected office would be a great advantage to her campaign.

"I'm not really sure that the state office holders, rather than the statewide office holders, really have much name recognition," she said. "I think Bernie is unique because of the South Dakota Magazine. I think you almost have to hold a statewide office to get much recognition in this state."

In recent weeks, the Hunhoff/Meeks campaign has focused on the personal finances of Janklow, and requested Attorney General Mark Barnett to test the legality of some of the governor's financial practices.

"Nobody has any complaints with Bill Janklow being wealthy," Meeks said. "That is not the issue at all. But the point is that he's misused public money and he's misused his office, and that's what we think people have the right to know and should know."

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