- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 1, 2014

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - One of the youngest females ever elected to the South Dakota Legislature hopes to move to the Senate after two terms in the House.

Rep. Jenna Haggar, a Sioux Falls Republican, is running to fill a seat vacated by Sen. Shantel Krebs. Haggar will face a Democratic candidate Michael Schultz in the general election.

Jenna’s a formidable candidate. In the past she’s knocked on every door in her district,” said Dave Roetman, interim executive director with the South Dakota Republican Party. He said he wore out a pair of shoes helping her do that as a volunteer with her campaign in 2012.

Haggar didn’t think she had a good chance of winning when she first ran for office four years ago. She was 24, homeschooled and without a college education.

Her father encouraged her to run, because the Democrat incumbents didn’t have challengers. So Haggar ran as an independent, joining the race after the deadline for primary petitions.

“Even up to the few months before I decided to run for office, I had no intention of becoming a legislator,” Haggar said.

She and her family had been involved in congressional campaigns and volunteered in the community and church while she was growing up.

“She was interested, and she was motivated. And I was excited for the opportunity for her to be a groundbreaker,” said Rep. Don Haggar, her father.

She did win in 2010, with more votes than either incumbent. Don Haggar, R-Sioux Falls, said she showed that the Legislature doesn’t have to consist of 55-year-old men.

He followed her into politics the following session with her encouragement.

“It’s kind of a weird little flip there,” she said.

Her grandfather, also named Donald Haggar served in the Legislature in 1958. He shared his insight with his granddaughter until he died during the 2013 legislative session.

Family plays a big part in Haggar’s life. She still lives at home with her parents and considers her role as aunt a hobby she loves.

Haggar championed successful human trafficking and anti-abortion bills this session. She said she will continue to address those issues if elected to the Senate. Her Senate run will be a way to continue her service, Haggar said, not climb the next rung on the political ladder.

With no other Republicans on the ticket, Haggar has a clear shot in the Nov. 4 general election.

“I think it’s going to be a very close race,” said Zach Crago, executive director of the South Dakota Democratic Party.

Schultz is the former mayor of Brandon and was encouraged to run by state and county Democrats and community members, Crago said.

Don Haggar said he is confident in his daughter’s chances, though he said she’ll have to work hard.

She said she gained experience during her campaigns that helps the marketing business she launched after last year’s session. Previously she worked as a chiropractic assistant.

Haggar is the sole employee of her company, Vashti Media.

“Hopefully I can grow with it, and it can grow with me,” she said. As for her political career: “I feel like I’m still growing as a candidate. I’m growing as a legislator.”

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