A South Dakotan has never won the presidency of the United States, and the chances of that happening in the 2024 election are zero.
But that hasn’t stopped a Watertown man from making a more-than-longshot bid for the White House.
Donald Kjornes, 53, is one of two dozen candidates seeking the presidential nomination in New Hampshire, where voters will head to the polls today for the nation’s first primary election of the year. And not only will the South Dakotan appear on the statewide ballot for voters in the New England state, he’s also earned a spot on primary ballots in the upcoming Nevada election.
“I want to improve the economy, reduce inflation, and close the border,” Kjornes said, also owning his position as a “January 6th truther.” “I’d make America great again, so to speak.”
A father of one whose primary trade is real estate investments, Kjornes is a South Dakota native who returned to the Mount Rushmore State last year after spending much of his adult life living in the northeast.
He acknowledges his candidacy won’t be shocking the world. And that’s not just because he’s an unknown and former president and GOP frontrunner Donald Trump is the odds-on favorite. Even should he garner votes in the Nevada primary, it won’t have any bearing on who Republican presidential delegates support. That’s because even though he’ll appear alongside the likes of Nikki Haley on the Silver State ballots, the Nevada Republicans there hold a separate caucus election where party delegates decide the fate of the state’s 26 electoral votes.
Kjornes’ run for president ‘hasn’t been easy’
“It hasn’t been easy; I’m on my own without a team,” Kjornes said on the eve of the New Hampshire primary, adding that he wanted to run for an office he’s personally interested in rather than a local office where he might have had a better chance at success.
“I pay special attention to the presidency… I know a lot more about it than I do local stuff. I wouldn’t want to downgrade myself,” he said.
Still, Kjornes’ Federal Election Commission-certified bid for president has resulted in some national attention. The former realtor turned land speculator has been included in candidate questionnaires from New Hampshire local media outlets, been a guest on political radio talk shows and been the subject of interviews with various print and digital media publications, including Time Magazine.
Kjornes is unlikely to appear on South Dakota’s primary ballot in June, as he is not actively gathering signatures to qualify ahead of the March 26 deadline.