Varilek slams Noem at Dem conventionABERDEEN — Democratic congressional candidate Matt Varilek told party activists Friday he can defeat Republican Rep. Kristi Noem for South Dakota’s lone seat in the U.S. House because Noem has sided with millionaires and big corporations during her two years in Congress.
By: Chet Brokaw, The Associated Press
ABERDEEN — Democratic congressional candidate Matt Varilek told party activists Friday he can defeat Republican Rep. Kristi Noem for South Dakota’s lone seat in the U.S. House because Noem has sided with millionaires and big corporations during her two years in Congress.
“I’ll take the side of middle-class and working-class people instead of spending all my time defending those millionaires and billionaires. I’ll be willing to stand up to big oil,” Varilek said in a banquet speech to about 150 people Friday night at the Democratic State Convention.
Varilek, a former aide to Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., won a primary race June 5 to become the Democrats’ congressional candidate.
He criticized Noem for voting to privatize Medicare, cut financial aid to college students, extend tax cuts for wealthy people and continue subsidies for oil companies. The Democrat has said he would keep tax cuts in place for people with modest incomes but would end the tax cuts for people earning higher incomes.
“I say to you and the rest of my fellow South Dakotans, I’ll take your side when I go to Congress,” Varilek said.
Noem’s campaign manager, Tom Erickson, said the Republican incumbent’s campaign looks forward to drawing a contrast between the two candidates in the general election run.
“Matt Varilek spends all his time tearing down Kristi Noem because he doesn’t want South Dakotans to know where he stands on the issues,” Erickson said.
For example, Varilek wants to raise taxes on people and he supports President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, Erickson said.
Varilek has said he wants to revamp the health care overhaul, but not repeal it. He has said provisions should be kept that allow people to stay on their parents’ health insurance policies until age 26 and prevent insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing health problems.
Varilek on Friday also criticized Noem for missing a lot of House Agriculture committee meetings. The South Dakota Democratic Party has said Noem attended just four of 20 Agriculture Committee meetings since being appointed to the committee a year ago.
The Democrat said a lawmaker from a state where farming and ranching are so important should attend Agriculture Committee meetings, particularly now that a new farm bill is being written.
“I’ll show up,” Varilek said.
Noem has called the allegations “hogwash,” adding that she missed some Agriculture Committee meetings because she had to be at other committee meetings. She has said she hasn’t “mastered the art of being two or three places at the same time.”
Varilek acknowledged that it won’t be easy to defeat an incumbent, but he said he has built a strong campaign organization and will work hard to highlight Noem’s record during the campaign.
Noem, a former state lawmaker who defeated Democratic Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin two years ago, starts with an advantage over Varilek because South Dakota is a heavily Republican state and her campaign has raised much more money than Varilek’s has.