Chris Kassin is running as a Republican for the South Dakota State House in District 17. District 17 stretches along the borders of Nebraska and Iowa, and includes the communities of Vermillion, Elk Point, and North Sioux City. Kassin and fellow Republican William Shorma are in the race, along with Democrat Rebecca Engquist-Schroeder.
1. Who are you? Tell us about yourself in 100 words or less.
I am a husband, father, and proud South Dakotan. My family and I make our home in Vermillion. My wife, Katie, and I have two children, Collins (8) and Kellen (6). I serve as the Vice President for External and Corporate Relations at the University of South Dakota Foundation. As a USD graduate, it’s rewarding to secure resources to help with affordability and enhance the student experience for fellow Coyotes. Katie and I work to bring awareness and raise funds in search of a cure for Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic illness with which Collins was born.
2. What prompted you to run for office/re-election?
My children are at the heart of every decision I make including my decision to run for the legislature. Our pro-business, low tax, low regulation, and fiscal policy approaches have afforded me many opportunities over the past 20 years in SE South Dakota. Our district has a rich and varied heritage, including foundations anchored in education and agriculture that support growth in other industries and opportunities. I want to ensure even better possibilities for my children and South Dakota’s future generations.
3. What public policies are you passionate about? What would your policy priorities be in Pierre?
South Dakota was built on a foundation of values that are in line with what’s most important to me:
• A government that is small and responsive to the citizens;
• Low taxes and minimal regulations that result in a pro-business atmosphere that supports job growth and economic opportunity;
• Common-sense, practical problem-solving that respects individual freedom.
As a legislator, I will fight to ensure that the next generation has access to opportunities in the decades ahead.
4. Cutting the grocery tax has become central to this election cycle. Do you think that the legislature should cut the grocery tax next legislative session? Is there any taxes you would cut instead, or in addition to?
Keeping our tax burden low is good for every South Dakotan. As a legislature, we should be looking for sustainable tax cuts. I’ve heard from constituents across the district the pain from inflation. I look forward to discussions on eliminating the food tax as well as proposals for property tax cuts. I’m interested in considering any tax cut that fits into our state budget.
South Dakota has one of the best run budgets in the nation. We are conservative and keep state government within its means by balancing the budget. This respects the hard-earned money paid in taxes by our state’s citizens. Any tax cut needs to be supported by an alternate revenue to pay for the proposal; we should not create a bigger problem for our state by spending more than our income.
5. The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade earlier in the year. South Dakota currently has a law that prevents abortion almost completely outright. Are there any exceptions you would like to see the legislature enact? What other laws would you like to see passed to support mothers and families?
The voters I have talked with have asked me not to make broad generalizations and try to understand all the different facets of the abortion issue. One request I have consistently heard from voters is for clarification on a more than a decade-old law. People I’ve spoken with believe the state should consider the evolution of thought and medical practice, including a careful review and further definition of any law to eliminate ambiguity. I am committed to listening to the public and reserving judgment until I’ve had the opportunity to thoroughly study how policy decisions might positively or negatively impact our state. It is essential we take our time to thoughtfully and compassionately analyze the current state of our abortion laws. It is also an opportunity to look at the support we provide pregnant women, mothers, and children, including a focus on childcare and early childhood education.
6. Recreational marijuana is on the ballot in November. If it passes, would you commit to legalizing it?
My role as a legislator would be to uphold the will of the people. If a majority of South Dakotans support the legalization of recreational marijuana, it will be my charge to ensure the state enacts safe and effective laws for sale and distribution. The voters I have talked to are looking at this issue very closely. The underlying sentiment is people are seeking to understand what makes the most sense to reduce substance abuse in our communities.
7. What is the most important quality for an elected official to possess?
An effective elected official’s most important quality is temperament and how they go about their decision-making. I pride myself on not being a single-issue candidate – due to the vast nature of the issues dealt with during each session. From my days as a college basketball coach, I understand the importance of building consensus to succeed. I look at issues using a LISTEN, LEARN, LEAD approach. Listen – I will listen to my constituents to understand their positions. Learn – I will work tirelessly reading and researching bills to understand the intent and avoid unintended consequences. And I will Lead with care and love for the communities and families I represent.
8. Who do you take inspiration from, and why?
As a family man, I take inspiration from my family near and far. Most notably, I admire my daughter who is afflicted with cystic fibrosis (CF). She is a little fighter and takes it all in stride. We met some other little fighters through the Children’s Miracle Network (CMN). Spending time with these kiddos who battle each day with different life-threatening illnesses is special. These little kiddos are fighting unimaginable battles, but you would never know it from their laughs, jokes, and spirit. Their can-do spirit and incredible strength are something from which we all can learn.
State legislative candidates in contested districts this election season were emailed the same survey to complete for Dakota News Now/KOTA Territory News. With the exception of a quick spelling and grammar check, answers were not edited by the poster. Those who responded to the survey questions had their results posted.