Mixed results as South Dakota’s Noem intervenes in GOP races

Jun 11, 2022, 5:15 PM | Updated: Jun 12, 2022, 6:00 am
FILE - South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, speaks Feb. 25, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. Noem has tried to shap...

FILE - South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, speaks Feb. 25, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. Noem has tried to shape the state's Legislature to her liking. She publicly supported at least a dozen candidates, including several challengers to sitting lawmakers who are part of a contrarian group of Republicans. But Tuesday's primaries saw limited results for the governor. (AP Photo/John Raoux File)

(AP Photo/John Raoux File)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Ahead of a potential presidential bid, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem handily won the Republican nomination last week for a second term. Many of the candidates she hoped to elect to the Statehouse, however, did not have such a good night.

She had hoped to replace contrarians with personal allies in the Republican-controlled Legislature, which has consistently defied she wishes, so the governor rallied behind roughly a dozen candidates who challenged incumbents. Two-thirds of Noem’s favorites lost.

The setback was a reminder that while endorsements often draw attention and financial resources, they do not always translate into support from voters. It’s a lesson that Donald Trump, Noem’s ally, is learning as he falls short, notably in Georgia, in trying to punish Republicans who have crossed him. In the GOP primary last month, Georgia voters overwhelmingly backed Gov. Brian Kemp, who had rebuffed Trump’s lies about widespread fraud during the 2020 election.

Trump has tried to shake off his initial losses, but it is unclear whether Noem will be able to move forward so easily. Some incumbents who survived her efforts to defeat them are left wondering why a governor they support and generally agree with went to such lengths to try to oust them.

“There was a belief system that the party was a family — you do not campaign against other members,” said state Sen. Al Novstrup, a longtime lawmaker who perennially scores high on conservative organizations’ scorecards. “Obviously, that concept has broken dramatically in this primary.”

Noem entered the primary election with a somewhat strained relationship with Republican lawmakers. The results from the vote could only deepen the tension. Those tenuous bonds with the Legislature could raise further questions about her ability to make a competitive bid for the Republican presidential nomination as multiple contenders, including Trump, take steps to announce campaigns later this year.

She spent most of her first term crafting a vision of South Dakota as an exemplar of conservative policy, tapping into activist fervor in what was widely seen as a play to be part of the White House conversation. But she also tempered her proposals with consideration for state government operations and the business community.

That fueled conflict with some House Republicans in the Legislature over proposals aimed at transgender children, exemptions to COVID-19 vaccine requirements and tax cuts. Even though her party held 90% of the legislative seats, Noem’s agenda foundered this year. House lawmakers hamstrung her proposals and often brushed aside her input.

They even openly criticized her.

One-third of the House Republican caucus voted for an unsuccessful effort to publicly scold Noem for taking a hands-on role in a state agency while it was evaluating her daughter’s application for a real estate appraiser license.

Among them was Republican Rep. Fred Deutsch, who has mostly been supportive of the governor but said he makes votes based on his conscience. He had also sparred with Noem before: His proposal in 2020 to bar puberty blockers and gender confirmation procedures to transgender children under 16 was rejected in the Senate after Noem expressed reservations about the proposal.

As primary campaigns ramped up in April, the governor publicly criticized Deutsch and put her support with a candidate she could trust — her childhood babysitter, Stephanie Sauder.

But Noem’s wishes in the primary race were only partially fulfilled in the contest where two House candidates advanced from a field of four Republicans. Sauder received the most votes but Deutsch beat out the two other candidates for the Republican nomination.

Noem was able to see off one of her loudest Republican critics, House Speaker Spencer Gosch, as he challenged a state senator for the GOP nomination to that chamber. She also gained several other allies in the Legislature, including a former chief of staff.

Her decision to wade into the primaries did not go unnoticed by the grassroots groups animating the current divide in the state GOP. Noem received blowback from conservative media after a newspaper report that she was working with state Sen. Lee Schoenbeck, the president pro tempore, to rid the Statehouse of certain conservatives.

Sensing trouble ahead, Noem tried to minimize damage and maintain her ties with conservatives. The effort included a private meeting in mid-May at a church in Sioux Falls with a group called Patriot Ripple Effect.

Noem seemed eager to convince the dozens of people who filled a conference room at the church that she was like-minded. She pointed to her decision during the COVID-19 pandemic to forgo statewide lockdowns and mask mandates despite plenty of criticism and objections. She also clapped back at Republican lawmakers who pushed sweeping vaccine exemptions, espousing a hands-off approach to government that extends to businesses as much as individuals.

“They were blowing me up saying I wasn’t conservative because I would not come in and tell Sanford (the state’s largest hospital system) and tell big businesses that they couldn’t require vaccines for their employees,” she said. “My answer for them was, ‘You’re telling me as the government to tell them as a private business what to do.'”

Her assertions drew some applause. But their questions mostly challenged Noem, picking at her record throughout the 45-minute meeting. They wanted to know why she would target reliably conservative lawmakers?

“My babysitter’s running for office. I kind of like her,” she responded.

The group continued to press the question, with one member pointing to Noem’s statement backing a challenger to Novstrup, the state senator. Noem’s answer suggested her support for Rachel Dix was based more on personal connection than political ideology: “She’s a friend of mine and has been for years.”

As the primary results crystallized, it became clear the internal party conflict is not going away.

Rep. Tom Pischke, who is from the party’s hard-line conservative wing and easily beat Noem’s pick for a state Senate seat, said he got a boost after being targeted by Noem’s allies. A letter was even circulated among voters pointing out that Noem’s preferred candidate, Lisa Rave, was married to the chief lobbyist for the state’s hospital systems — a favorite target of certain conservatives during the pandemic.

“That was the nail in the coffin for her,” Pischke said of the letter’s effect on his rival.

He added that the fallout from the race may have even spread to the governor’s standing among ardent conservatives: “It actually hurt Gov. Noem a little bit,” he said.


Follow AP for full coverage of the midterms at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections and on Twitter, https://twitter.com/ap_politics

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Copenhagen: Passenger jet safely evacuated after engine fire

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — A passenger jet was evacuated at the Copenhagen airport Wednesday after a fire broke out in one of the engines, Danish police said. Everyone left the plane safely and no one was injured as firefighters put out the fire, police said on Twitter. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the plane was […]
13 hours ago
An anti-abortion supporter sits behind a sign that advises the Jackson Women's Health Organization ...
Associated Press

Scramble as last Mississippi abortion clinic shuts its doors

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi’s only abortion clinic has been buzzing with activity in the chaotic days since the U.S. Supreme Court upended abortion rights nationwide — a case that originated in this conservative Deep South state and with this bright-pink medical facility that is closing its doors Wednesday. Physicians at Jackson Women’s Health Organization […]
13 hours ago
Associated Press

Closing prices for crude oil, gold and other commodities

Benchmark U.S. crude oil for August delivery fell 97 cents to $98.53 a barrel Wednesday. Brent crude for September delivery fell $2.08 to $100.69 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline for August delivery fell 9 cents to $3.24 a gallon. August heating oil fell 19 cents to $3.41 a gallon. August natural gas fell 1 cent to […]
13 hours ago
FILE - Investigators search for evidences outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, May 25, ...
Associated Press

New report details missed chances to stop Uvalde shooting

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A police officer armed with a rifle watched the gunman in the Uvalde elementary school massacre walk toward the campus but did not fire while waiting for permission from a supervisor to shoot, according to a sweeping critique released Wednesday on the tactical response to the May tragedy. Some of the […]
13 hours ago
Associated Press

Driver charged in Buffalo police chase that ended in gunfire

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — A driver accused of shooting at police officers during a long car chase through the streets of Buffalo that ended with an exchange of gunfire was arraigned Wednesday on five counts of attempted murder. The wild March 29 chase resulted in three officers being struck, along with the suspect, Kente Bell. […]
2 days ago
Associated Press

Judge blocks West Virginia school voucher law

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A judge in West Virginia’s capital struck down a law on Wednesday that would have funneled state money into a program that incentivized families to pull their children out of K-12 public schools. Immediately following the ruling, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said his office plans to appeal. Kanawha County […]
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Mixed results as South Dakota’s Noem intervenes in GOP races