RAPID CITY, South Dakota — South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem likes to present herself as a “normal everyday” person “who enjoys life.”
Appearing at FreedomFest 21, a gathering of 2,700 conservatives and libertarians, Noem said, “nobody knew who I was until liberals began attacking me every night on the national news.” She’s referring to her conservative views on economic and social issues.
Noem benefits from a roaring economy. She says there are fewer than 2,500 South Dakotans on public assistance and 28,000 job openings. The state has no state income tax. Property taxes average 1.22 percent. Annual economic growth is 9.9 percent, among the nation’s best. Houses are inexpensive relative to many other places. With such figures it’s no surprise there’s been a population growth of 8.9 percent since 2010.
We talked shortly after recent shootings in Northwest Washington, D.C., and an outraged Robert J. Contee III, the police chief in Washington, blamed judges for releasing criminals back onto the streets where they often engage in more violent criminal behavior.
Noem believes Republicans can — and should — re-take the law-and-order issue in 2022 and 2024. In an interview, she told me, “What we are seeing … on our streets (are) the consequences of … what’s happening in the Democratic leadership and their lack of support for police officers and those who step up and serve. (It’s) being played out in the violence citizens are having to live with. It’s going to continue if something doesn’t change.”
She says the street violence and looting in major cities is not only the fault of judges and district attorneys, but “also overcrowding in our prison system. There’s less funding for the judicial system so they release individuals instead of putting them through the process of prosecution and sentencing, or through rehab. It’s a problem that hasn’t been addressed for many, many years (and) has gotten worse as the violence has escalated. When there’s no consequence for it, law and order goes away.”
Asked about the state of the Republican Party, she responds, “It’s the party that is bringing hope. If you look at what Democrats are embracing — socialism, communism, lack of personal responsibility. Every problem that presents itself they think some bureaucrat in Washington, D.C., would handle it better than a Mom or a Dad, or a cousin or grandparent…
“The Republican Party has a unique opportunity to talk about what we stand for and have always stood for and have proven to be the policies and the values that create opportunities for families and states and businesses. … When you look at some states that have done what we believe in you can see overwhelming prosperity and families healthier and in school getting educated and that’s what the American dream is and what the Republican Party needs to be talking about.”
Noem believes Donald Trump will run for president again in 2024. “I think (former) President Trump did a great job. … I believe that is something we all (can) — and should — welcome back. The policies of seven or eight months ago were contributing to a booming America. We were creating jobs and addressing challenges confronting us together. I think he’ll run and if he does, I’ll certainly support him.”
She is open about her Christian faith and says it influences many of her policy positions: “What the government has done in the last (several months) is to continue to push secularism.” She thinks that will continue and is “something we will have to fight. We will drive people to us by our optimism. You turn on the news and it’s discouraging. You see the violence played out on the streets. Christians have a unique opportunity to bring hope and light…”
Noem turns 50 later this year and is a first-time grandmother. She also displays qualities for national office Republicans claim to want. Trump and others (including her opponents) should keep an eye on her.