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U.S. House candidate Hawks calls for debates

State Rep. Paula Hawks is crisscrossing the state to meet with South Dakota voters, but there's one South Dakotan she hopes for a chance to speak with face-to-face.

Democratic State Rep. Paula Hawks, who will square off with U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem in November's election, speaks to attendees of a town hall meeting at the LifeQuest building in Mitchell on Tuesday. (Evan Hendershot/Republic)
Democratic State Rep. Paula Hawks, who will square off with U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem in November's election, speaks to attendees of a town hall meeting at the LifeQuest building in Mitchell on Tuesday. (Evan Hendershot/Republic)

State Rep. Paula Hawks is crisscrossing the state to meet with South Dakota voters, but there's one South Dakotan she hopes for a chance to speak with face-to-face.

At a town hall meeting at Mitchell's LifeQuest building on Tuesday, Paul Widman asked the Democratic candidate for U.S. House of Representatives when she will debate her opponent - three-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem.
Hawks noted that she will be back in Mitchell to speak at DakotaFest on Aug. 18, but not to debate Noem, who will be speaking in a forum alongside U.S. Sens. Mike Rounds and John Thune the day prior.

But Hawks, a two-term state representative from Hartford, is up for the challenge to debate Noem whenever Noem accepts the invitation.

"I'm ready to debate her anytime, anywhere," Hawks said. "I think it's time for the people of South Dakota to demand that, because she represents the people of South Dakota, so she should be ready, willing and able to speak to them and answer their questions."

Widman, of Mitchell, followed his question with another regarding a potential down-ticket boost Hawks could receive due to the inclusion of Republican nominee for president, Donald Trump, on the ballot in 2016.

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Hawks suspected Trump's candidacy could give her a boost in Democratic and Independent circles by bringing more moderates and left-leaning voters to the polls.

Trump only earned 67.09 percent of the vote in South Dakota's June primary despite being the sole remaining candidate who had not suspended their campaign. And Trump has since earned the support of Noem, Rounds and Thune.

Hawks then questioned Noem's support of Trump.

"I would have liked to have seen the representative of the people of South Dakota distance themselves from him, instead they have endorsed him," Hawks said. "And I'm sorry, but if you endorse somebody like that, it's basically saying you agree with what they have to say and what they believe in."

With 13 members in attendance Tuesday night, many spectators had the opportunity to ask a question of Hawks, and some asked for her thoughts on specific policy issues.

One spectator asked Hawks for her thoughts on the Trans Pacific Partnership free trade agreement, which Hawks said is concerning because it was crafted behind closed-doors. But she also said trade is important for South Dakota.

Fresh off a trip to Pine Ridge, Hawks also emphasized the importance of improving care within the Indian Health Service agency that provides health care to Native Americans. She said IHS has gone "chronically underfunded" and the care provided within the IHS hospital is below par.

"And if you think that doesn't affect you because you don't live on a reservation, I'll tell you that you're wrong because your taxpayer dollars go to pay for that care when they get shipped off to an emergency room somewhere else."

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Hawks said the fastest way to improve the IHS system is through Medicaid expansion, a plan that would expand health care access to approximately 50,000 more South Dakotans. Hawks recently called for Noem's help to get her fellow Republican legislators to support Medicaid expansion in the state.

And at least one of the folks in attendance Tuesday called Noem out for what he believed to be a lack of action to reform the IHS.

"I don't think Kristi is really on top of this whole Indian Health issue," said Ron Fuchs, of Mitchell.

Despite the comments, Noem has proposed legislation to address funding, accountability and employee recruitment within the Great Plains region of the IHS.

At the end of the 40 minute town hall meeting in Mitchell, Hawks thanked the group for the questions and said it will help her prepare for what she hopes will be multiple debates with Noem.

Related Topics: KRISTI NOEMELECTION 2016
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