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Noem campaign hits reset button at state fair, enters unofficial start of campaign season

After a viral incident in Sioux Falls where two women confronted Gov. Kristi Noem at a campaign event, the governor was in high spirits at a campaign stop at the first day of the South Dakota State Fair.

Gov. Kristi Noem pauses for a photo at the Republican Party tent at the state fair.
Gov. Kristi Noem pauses for a photo Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022, at the Republican Party tent at the South Dakota State Fair in Huron.
Jason Harward / Forum News Service
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HURON, S.D. — Gov. Kristi Noem was back on the campaign trail and in high spirits, making several stops Thursday, Sept. 1, at the first day of the South Dakota State Fair in Huron. The incumbent courted the core of her base with events focused on agriculture, veterans and workforce development as well as a meet-and-greet in the Republican Party booth.

“The governor had a fantastic day celebrating so many things that make South Dakota special,” Ian Fury, the communications director for the campaign, told Forum News Service. “Folks were supportive and encouraging, and she always loves the opportunity to enjoy our state’s sport.”

The entirely positive reception as Noem made her fairground rounds offered the campaign a reset ahead of Labor Day weekend and the unofficial start of the gubernatorial campaign’s final sprint. Her Huron visit stood in contrast to a stop in Sioux Falls earlier in the week, where a short interaction with two voters saw Noem being challenged on her stance surrounding abortion rights.

“I didn't want to confront her in the event. I had questions and concerns I wanted to talk to the governor about, and I wasn't there to make a show or anything,” Leah Bothamley, one of the two women who interacted with Noem before she left the event, told Forum News Service. “Politics aside, this is a human morality issue. It’s being made into politics, and that's what I'm against.”

A video of the interaction posted to social media made the rounds on left-leaning outlets such as the Daily Beast and The Young Turks .

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Noem began her day at the fair at the South Dakota Farm and Ranch Recognition Program, an event hosted by the South Dakota Farm Bureau honoring farmers and ranchers whose families had retained ownership of their land for uninterrupted spans of 100, 125 and 150 years.

“Like my dad always used to say, ‘Never sell land, because God’s not making any more of it,’” Noem said as part of her short speech at the outset of the crowded event, using a popular refrain of hers that made its way into her book and often accompanies stories of her father.

After the speech, Noem and Lt. Gov. Larry Rhoden congratulated the award recipients and posed for photographs.

Noem and dogs
In between speaking events, the governor stopped to look at some Vizsla puppies, the same breed as Hazel, the Noem family dog who died in June. According to Noem's social media, she and Bryon decided to purchase a new puppy on the evening of Sep. 1, naming him Foster.
Jason Harward / Forum News Service

Next on the itinerary was a stop at the Salute to Veterans event, which served mainly as an opportunity to spread awareness for the Midwest Honor Flight , a no-profit that flies veterans who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, to Washington, D.C.

The stage was set right next to multiple food vendors, and the smell of roasted corn wafted over the crowd.

Noem’s speech encouraged the mainly elderly attendees to pass on their lessons of service to the next generation. She also pointed out that she filled two major roles in her office with veterans, as both Rhoden and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Greg Whitlock served stints in the state’s National Guard.

Noem speaking to veterans
As part of her speech honoring veterans, Gov. Kristi Noem told a story about how her mother tried to volunteer for the Midwest Honor Flight: “She kept applying to be a volunteer year after year and kept being denied, and finally I said to her ‘Mom, I think you’re too old, I don’t think you would be much of a help.’”
Jason Harward / Forum News Service

After a meet-and-greet at the Republican Party’s tent, where she was joined by her husband, Bryon, Noem left the fairgrounds to attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Huron High School, which unveiled a new career and technical education center, which will allow students to gain experience in trades such as construction.

Noem’s speech at the unveiling of the center focused on her administration’s efforts in workforce development, especially training skilled trade workers in South Dakota. The $2.6 million project in Huron included $1.8 million in federal money and $225,000 from the state’s workforce education grants .

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“We're really trying to allow kids to be aware of the different opportunities other than four-year college,” Jolene Konechne, the director of career and technical education in the Huron School District, told Forum News Service.

Noem finished off the night at the fair's Tuff Hedeman Bull Bash rodeo event. She will face Democratic challenger Jamie Smith, a representative from Sioux Falls, in the gubernatorial election on Nov. 8.

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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.

Related Topics: KRISTI NOEMELECTION 2022
Jason Harward covers South Dakota news for Forum News Service. Email him at jharward@forumcomm.com.
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