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Former South Dakota lawmaker, Trump campaigner may take second shot at US House seat

Neal Tapio, former South Dakota state legislator and campaigner for President Donald Trump.

PIERRE, S.D. — A former South Dakota state legislator and statewide campaigner for President Donald Trump might take another shot at winning the state's single seat in the U.S. House — this time, up against Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson.

Neal Tapio, a Republican from Watertown, announced on Facebook Monday, Aug. 12 that he is "actively considering a run for the U.S. House" in 2020. Tapio represented District 5 in the state Senate from 2017 to 2019, and worked as the Trump campaign's state director in 2016.

This wouldn't be Tapio's first congressional bid. In a 2018 primary bid for the U.S. House, Tapio came in last after Johnson, who now holds the seat, and former Secretary of State Shantel Krebs. Johnson got nearly 48% of Republicans' votes, to Krebs's 29 and Tapio's 24.

Now, more than one year after that June 5 primary, Tapio says Johnson is "show(ing) weakness in times of emergency," referring to Johnson's 'no' vote on Trump's declaration of a national emergency on the U.S.-Mexico border.

"South Dakotans want a Representative that has the courage to face problems head on, and are tired of slick Establishment politicians who want business as usual," Tapio said in his Facebook post.

In an emailed statement, Johnson appeared unconcerned with Tapio's Facebook post.

“I am concerned about getting results for South Dakota -- like securing the forage date for our ag producers and making progress on welfare reform -- not internet rumblings," Johnson said. "I'd put my record up against anybody. I have been, and will continue to be, South Dakota first."

Tapio made headlines during his time as a legislator and a candidate for calling to end the Native American reservation system and advocating a Muslim travel ban during an interfaith ceremony at the state Capitol in 2018.

According to his website, Tapio currently works as president of the Watertown-based NT Sales and Leasing, Inc., which sells and finances industrial cleaning equipment for oil, agriculture and transportation companies.