ABERDEEN, S.D. - Tyrell Heaton wants to change the conversation from divisive to unifying in his quest for president in 2020.
Heaton, 44, originally from Redfield, has had paperwork on file with the Federal Elections Commission since 2017. He hopes to be a Democratic presidential candidate and announced his bid with a news release this week.
"The partisan pendulum is swinging further and further from the center after each election cycle," he said in the release. "As a society we need to elect officials who represent us all. Someone who truly understands the difference among our diverse population and the needs each person faces daily."
In a Wednesday phone interview from his home in Minneapolis, Heaton said he's traveled the nation and overseas. Some of his visits were out of curiosity about other parts of the country, some through his work in the military.
In those travels, he said, he's found more similarities than differences.
"We all speak the same language. We have different dialects, but we're all the same," he said, describing a demographic that's full of people with different hobbies and interests all yearning to have a family, affordable health care and a happy life.
Heaton knows there are several steps along the way, like securing the Democratic Party's nomination in primaries and caucuses across the country. He hopes to do so without accepting donations from political action committees.
"I want to do it on my own," he said. "You don't need money, you just need votes. Whether we get elected or not, I just want to change the conversation."
Heaton said he wants to unite rather than divide.
"Politics isn't a sport," he said. "It's not red versus blue."
One of those conversational changes, he said, includes the appointment process for U.S. Supreme Court justices. Instead of lifetime appointments, Heaton said, they should be for 18 years.
"That gives each president two justices per term to appoint," he said.
Heaton is an adjunct professor who teaches online courses as an independent contractor for about 20 schools, including Baker College in Michigan and Rasmussen College, which has 22 campuses in six states. He previously worked in Washington, D.C., for the American Nursing Association, writing legislation for lobbyists and articles for magazines, he said.
His career has also included 13 years in the Army National Guard and seven years in the Air National Guard. During some of that time, he said he was a speechwriter for generals and others in Washington.
Heaton also worked as state trooper for the South Dakota Highway Patrol, teacher at Roosevelt High School in Sioux Falls and professor and coach at Augustana University.
He graduated from Redfield High School in 1992, received his undergraduate degree from Northern State University and earned a master's degree from South Dakota State University.