Former chief of staff for governors Noem and Daugaard is running for South Dakota Legislature

A notable name in South Dakota politics who has served under three governors wants a legislative role at the state Capitol.

Tony Venhuizen, a member of the South Dakota Board of Regents and former chief of staff during both the Kristi Noem and Dennis Daugaard gubernatorial administrations, announced his candidacy Tuesday for state Legislature, vying for one of two District 13 seats in the House of Representatives up for grabs this year.

"I know the issues, I know the process, and I know how to get things done in Pierre,” said the 39-year-old Armour native.

A lawyer by trade working in trust and estate law, Venhuizen has been an influential force in South Dakota politics for more than a decade. First serving as a student regent to the South Dakota Board of Regents under Gov. Mike Rounds, he went on to serve as an education policy adviser in the Governor's Office. There, Venhuizen chaired the Council on Higher Education Policy Goals, Performance, and Accountability and the Open Government Task Force.

Tony Venhuizen
Tony Venhuizen

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His candidacy means District 13 will likely see a June primary among Republicans, with both Reps. Richard Thomason and Sue Peterson declaring they intend to seek re-election. Neither, though, has yet formally filed re-election petitions with the Secretary of State's Office.

Peterson did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday, however, Thomason said he's looks forward to working with Venhuizen should voters elect both of them.

"I know and respect Tony Venhuizen," Thomason said. "I bring a common sense approach to Pierre as I know Tony will do too if he's elected."

Venhuizen said he's not aiming to replace either, but rather he feels his approach to pro-life, pro-family and pro-liberty politics and governing will serve Sioux Falls and South Dakota well.

If elected, he said he'll work to create more opportunities for businesses and residents, keep the state in a strong financial position and keep working to make education better in the state.

Venhuizen said his time in the executive branch of South Dakota government, while impactful, has primarily been a more behind-the-scenes role in carrying forward the goals, initiatives and policies of the governors he worked for. Now, he's ready to have a more independent role, he said.

"I’m looking forward to being in a position where I can make my own judgements and speak on my views and not just on behalf of someone else," he said.

Other former chiefs of staff to turn legislators include Dave Knudson and Ron Williamson, both former lawmakers from Sioux Falls who served as former Gov. Bill Janklow's chief of staff.

Venhuizen and his wife, Sara, have three children. He is son-in-law to former Gov. Dennis Daugaard.

If elected, Venhuizen would be required to step down from his position as a Regent.

Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Dave Knudson's name. The story has been updated to reflect this change.

This article originally appeared on Sioux Falls Argus Leader: Former chief of staff for South Dakota governors running for office