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SD leader for medical marijuana joins the District 19 House race

EMERY -- The unimpeded path to victory for District 19's two incumbent state representatives has gone up in smoke. Democrat Melissa Mentele, 39, of Emery, who helps lead New Approach South Dakota and is the driving force behind a proposed ballot ...

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EMERY - The unimpeded path to victory for District 19's two incumbent state representatives has gone up in smoke.

Democrat Melissa Mentele, 39, of Emery, who helps lead New Approach South Dakota and is the driving force behind a proposed ballot measure to legalize the use of medical marijuana within South Dakota's borders, threw her hat in the ring to battle Republican State Rep. Kent Peterson and Kyle Schoenfish for a spot in the South Dakota Legislature.

Mentele, who filed to appear on November's ballot on Monday, replaces Ardon Wek, who withdrew his name from November's ballot.

District 19 is made up of Bon Homme, Douglas, Hanson, Hutchinson and McCook counties.

After being nominated to run by former state legislator Frank Kloucek, Mentele is excited for the opportunity to represent the constituents of District 19 in Pierre. That is, if she can oust one of the two incumbent Republicans.

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And while Mentele hasn't singled out one campaign issue as a priority, she's ready to do what she can to give the people of her district a voice in Pierre.

"I know the people of South Dakota are calling, they're emailing, we're trying to get them to listen, and they're not," Mentele said about state officials. "So we definitely need somebody that's going to listen to what the people want."

Mentele said an example of the Legislature's unwillingness to listen is her main cause, the authorization of medical marijuana in the state. And she feels as though her experience with the tough issues like medical marijuana could be advantageous if her fellow District 19 voters propel her to the state capitol.

But the issues that are most important to Mentele are the concerns of her neighbors in District 19.
"I want to get out and talk to people more and see what their concerns are and what they'd like to see happen in Pierre next year, or the next two years, and see what changes need to be made," Mentele said.

Her first hurdle will be overcoming Schoenfish and Peterson. The two incumbents received overwhelming support in June's Republican primary, with Schoenfish earning 48.11 percent of the vote and Peterson gaining 40 percent. Schoenfish and Peterson's opponent, ReGina Osborn, received 11.89 percent of the vote.

While Mentele isn't sure if she will be the victor in November's general election, she said more South Dakotans should give campaigning for political office a chance. And with her children growing up and becoming more independent, the mother of three said now is the right time for her to enter the field.

"Part of me says I'm running for the experience, and whatever the outcome is, at least I got to learn what the process is," Mentele said. "And I think more people in the state of South Dakota need to be brave, and even if you don't win, step up and be part of the process."

Related Topics: ELECTION 2016EMERY
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