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Gov. Kristi Noem, Jamie Smith double down on campaign strategies in final sprint of SD governor’s race

Gov. Kristi Noem called her race against Democrat Jamie Smith "close" during dual appearances in Sioux Falls. In the final stretch, Noem has continued her focus on Smith's 'extremism' while Smith has continued to appeal to 'working together.'

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Gov. Kristi Noem presents Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia with a white cowboy hat before his speech at the Military Heritage Alliance Center in Sioux Falls on Nov. 2.
Jason Harward / Forum News Service
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — In the final full week before voters cast their ballots in-person on Nov. 8, Gov. Kristi Noem and her Democratic challenger Jamie Smith doubled down on the dominant themes of the gubernatorial contest.

Continuing her message of the “extreme” positions of Smith, Noem held dual appearances on Nov. 2 at the Military Heritage Alliance Center in Sioux Falls: the first with Glenn Youngkin, the governor of Virginia, and the second with Tulsi Gabbard, a former congresswoman from Hawaii.

Noem also released a campaign advertisement with a similar theme.

That morning, Noem was in Rapid City with Gabbard for a similar event. The messages from these surrogates aimed to underscore the stakes of the gubernatorial race, which Noem called “close” less than one week before the Nov. 8 election.

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Youngkin commended Noem's record on the pandemic, crime and education during his speech. These topics were key in his upset victory in Virginia one year ago.
Jason Harward / Forum News Service

“Anyone I’ve talked to who has moved here in the last few years, they’re all voting for me,” Noem said during both rallies, previewing the talking points of Youngkin and Gabbard. “This race is close because of people that have lived here forever that are taking our freedom for granted.”

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On the other hand, Smith used the events by Noem as another example of his opponent’s obsession with out-of-state politics.

Throughout Nov. 2-3, Smith made his way through Native country, highlighting his desire to create a working relationship between the government and the tribes.

“The situation that we're in right now with our current governor, and her inability to get along with tribes,” Smith says during his stump speech. “It's terrible.”

Noem calls in out-of-state stumpers, tying ‘extreme’ Smith to national Democrats

While the liberal excesses of Smith have been the major tune of the Noem campaign for months, the specific stories of Youngkin and Gabbard allowed these speakers to strike slightly different notes under this theme.

At the evening’s event, Gabbard, who ran for president as a Democrat in 2020 but made headlines recently for her ceremonious departure from a party she has often disagreed with, spoke from the position of a defector from the “extremism” of national Democrats, which she tied to Smith.

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Gov. Kristi Noem poses with Tulsi Gabbard after gifting her a white cowboy hat.
Courtesy Kristi for Governor

As he did during his 2021 upset of Democrat Terry McAuliffe, Youngkin’s afternoon speech focused on how Virginia handled the pandemic — “locked tight, shut down,” he said — as well as the role that parents should play in education, specifically in stemming “critical race theory.”

Several signs in the crowd reading “Parents Matter” underscored this point.

Another parallel between the races of Youngkin and Noem is the shared proposal of cutting the grocery tax, though Youngkin’s newcomer status helped him avoid Noem’s reversal on the issue, which she attributes to the state’s improving economic situation.

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“I couldn’t believe that people were being taxed on milk, eggs and butter, the essentials,” Youngkin told Forum News Service. “The fact Gov. Noem is going to get rid of your grocery tax is hugely important. At the end of the day, the government's job is to make sure we are not over-taxing people.”

Smith also supports cutting the grocery tax.

Smith visits Native country in focus on open communication

Smith, for his part, has not held any events with out-of-state politicos. Around the same time as these rallies, he was speaking on the Crow Creek Reservation, a community of about 2,100 people just east of the Missouri River between Chamberlain and Pierre.

“Unlike you, I would rather hear from [South Dakotans] than fly in national politicians who tell South Dakotans what to do and how to think,” Smith tweeted last week when the dual appearances were announced.

On Thursday, Nov. 3, Smith continued his tour of Native country, attending several events on the Pine Ridge reservation.

“Things have gone really well out here,” Alex Matson, a spokesperson for the campaign, wrote in a statement to Forum News Service. “Jamie has done what he's always done with the tribes: approaching them by listening.”

Noem has also continued her town halls focused on voter concerns, appearing in Madison on Nov. 4. Her campaign said she is planning stops in Lennox and Yankton on Nov. 5.

In Madison, Noem addressed the perceived difficulties of the proposed social studies standards.

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“The governor gave the message that you've probably heard or read about challenging our kids to do difficult things,” Ian Fury, the communications director with the Noem campaign, wrote in a statement. “They will blow us away with what they're able to accomplish.”

On the evening of Nov. 4, Smith will stop in Rapid City for the final time. This weekend, he will be in Pierre, Huron, Aberdeen, Watertown and Brookings.

“People involved in the decisions you make should be at the table,” Smith said about the driving theme behind his campaign. “And you should also reach out to people and say how can I help?”

MORE BY JASON HARWARD
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Jason Harward is a Report for America corps reporter who writes about state politics in South Dakota. Contact him at 605-301-0496 or jharward@forumcomm.com.

Jason Harward covers South Dakota news for Forum News Service. Email him at jharward@forumcomm.com.
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