The SDWC Top 10 Political stories of 2014: #3 Kristi Noem will kick your butt.
2014 put an underline and an exclamation point behind Congresswoman Kristi Noem as she three-peated her election victories, and doubled down in turning away Democrat challengers to her position as South Dakota’s lone representative in Congress. And she’s shown that each and every time she wins with a bigger margin.
In 2010, Noem managed a narrow win in a hard fought race against Democrat Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, arguably the top Democrat in South Dakota. Noem won 48.1% to Sandlin’s 45.9%. Many considered that year a “wave” election which turned out many Democrats from office, but as time has passed by the wave assessment becomes more questionable, as the wave has never abated.
2012 was a race where Noem faced a prodigy of Senators Tom Daschle and Tim Johnson, Matt Varilek. Democrat critics chided Noem for missing meetings. Some thought Noem might be vulnerable and characterized Noem’s debate performances as “lukewarm.” The farm bill had stalled in Congress, and 2012 looked to be a very anti-incumbent year. Assessing the situation, Noem’s team hit Varilek first and hit him hard for his strong environmental activism, and support of the unpopular carbon credit cap & tax scheme. The Noem team was aggressive, and as noted by the Argus, ran “a vigorous, disciplined campaign,” and brought her margin of victory to an impressive 57% to 43%.
And then we arrived in the 2014 election cycle. After the battle of 2012, Noem took a pass on a hard primary fight for the US Senate race in favor of remaining in her current position. And clearly, she made the most of it. Early on, problems that Democrats criticized her for went away, with all of the bumps worked out of her office operation, allowing her constituent services and time spent in the state to shine and be more productive. Noem worked harder than ever to get the troubling farm bill passed, and went to war with her leadership when she needed to over the measure.
And the state’s media noticed:
The Noem who visited our offices was a different person from candidate Noem in 2010. Now a two-term Congresswoman, she is studied on top issues, and that gives her anger and passion justification. Once a freshman GOP leader, today she is comfortable taking her own party to task on top-of-mind issues for South Dakotans.
That 2013 editorial was effective notice that this scrappy fighter was the Kristi Noem going into the election in 2014. Noem’s attention to the farm bill landed her a place on the conference committee, something no South Dakotan had done in 2 decades. Noem also fought hard on saving the Hot Springs VA, introducing measures on campus safety, school lunches, and taking on human trafficking as a signature issue.
And it showed with who the Democrats put up against her. Democrat Consultant Steve Jarding, after laughably being labeled “super tough” in purchased ads in 2013 regarding a run against Noem took a pass. Democrats eventually found a candidate in Virginian Corinna Robinson, who moved to the state to run for Congress, having been a Rapid City resident until she left at age 17. She was to be their standard bearer. (Just as soon as she sold her house.)
As opposed to the early air war that Noem waged against Varilek in 2012, 2014 had a fully confident Congresswoman Noem fighting a ground war. Against Corinna Robinson she gladly and confidently took on debates, and won every single time.
It was quickly apparent that Noem was going to win the election. Her opponent was unknown, and unable to raise money on the basis of being competitive. The only question was going to be “by how much” would Noem win?
When it was all said and done, she beat her opponent on a 2 to 1 basis. 66.5% to 33.5% And going into the 2016 election cycle, Noem has $820,000 left over in the bank to start with.
Noem is currently a top (if not the top) contender for moving to another office, should she elect to run for Governor in 2016, (or Senator Thune’s seat should he get tapped to be a VP candidate). Or she may elect to remain in her current office.
But let it be said that whatever she may decide to do, if you think you’re going to try to take her on, there’s a good chance Kristi Noem will kick your butt. And history has proven it.