Noem, Varilek clash before large crowd at Dakotafest (with video)The stalled farm bill was the major issue under discussion during the first debate between Rep. Kristi Noem and her challenger, Matt Varilek, Wednesday at Dakotafest.
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
The stalled farm bill was the major issue under discussion during the first debate between Rep. Kristi Noem and her challenger, Matt Varilek, Wednesday at Dakotafest.
Noem, a freshman Republican, and Varilek, a Democrat in his first run for office, sparred over the farm bill, which has passed in the Senate but has yet to come to a vote in the full House. Varilek sought to cast blame on Noem for that, while she said she is working behind the scenes to bring it to the floor.
“Folks, I’ll tell you, Washington, D.C., is a wreck,” Noem said. “It is a wreck.”
She said she has worked to cut spending and repeal “Obamacare” while trying to make government more responsive to its citizens.
“This Obama administration has been hostile toward agriculture,” Noem said. Its policies and practices have shown that, she said.
“I share your frustration with the my-way-or-the-highway approach in Washington these days,” Varilek said to the audience.
He said he would work for “progress” in Congress and getting a farm bill done would be a major part of that.
“The farm bill is always important for South Dakota because we are a farm state,” Varilek said. “It’s even more important because we have a drought.”
The candidates also fielded audience questions on Country Of Origin Labeling (COOL), the estate tax, ethanol and biofuels and other ag issues.
At the end, they clashed over Medicare, with Varilek claiming Noem was working to end it or force people to pay more, while Noem said she wants to preserve a program that faces severe fiscal challenges.
The two candidates for South Dakota’s lone U.S. House seat held the first debate of their campaign at Dakotafest at a farm on the southeast edge of Mitchell. The debate drew hundreds of people who packed the South Dakota State University tent on a hot late-summer afternoon. Veteran WNAX radio newsman Jerry Oster was the moderator.
Former Sen. George McGovern was introduced by Oster and he drew applause, including from both candidates. Varilek supporters made it a standing ovation from their side of the tent.