Kristi Noem

Governor of South Dakota since 2019

Kristi Lynn Noem (/nm/; née Arnold; born November 30, 1971) is an American politician. Noem is the 33rd and current Governor of South Dakota since 2019. She was the U.S. Representative for South Dakota's at-large congressional district from 2011 to 2019. Before, she was a member of the South Dakota House of Representatives for the 6th district from 2007 to 2011. Noem is a member of the Republican Party.

Kristi Noem
Official portrait, 2023
33rd Governor of South Dakota
Assumed office
January 5, 2019
LieutenantLarry Rhoden
Preceded byDennis Daugaard
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Dakota's at-large district
In office
January 3, 2011 – January 3, 2019
Preceded byStephanie Herseth Sandlin
Succeeded byDusty Johnson
Member of the South Dakota House of Representatives
from the 6th district
In office
January 9, 2007 – January 11, 2011
Preceded byArt Fryslie
Succeeded byBurt Tulson
Personal details
Born
Kristi Lynn Arnold

(1971-11-30) November 30, 1971 (age 52)
Watertown, South Dakota, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)
Bryon Noem (m. 1992)
Children3
EducationSouth Dakota State University (BA)

Noem was elected governor in the 2018 election, beating Billie Sutton.[1] During her time as governor, she became known for her refusal to issue a face mask mandate in South Dakota during the COVID-19 pandemic and for her strict response to protests surrounding the Keystone Pipeline. In 2022, Noem was re-elected by a landslide.

In August 2013, conservative Newsmax magazine named Noem among the "25 most influential women in the GOP".[2] She was seen as a possible vice presidential pick for former President Donald Trump's re-election campaign in the 2024 election.[3][4]

Living in rural South Dakota, Noem is also a farmer and a rancher.[5] Noem released her first autobiography, Not My First Rodeo: Lessons from the Heartland in 2022.[6] In her second autobiography, No Going Back, set to be released in 2024, Noem talked about a time in which she shot and killed her young dog that because of how he behaved.[7][8] This caused criticisms from Democrats and Republicans. Noem said that she was a "responsible owner" who made a tough decision.[5][8]

Early life change

Noem was born in Watertown, South Dakota,[9] and was raised with her siblings on their family ranch and farm in Hamlin County.[10] Noem graduated from Hamlin High School in 1990, and was crowned South Dakota Snow Queen that year.[11]

Noem's father was killed in a farm machinery accident in 1994.[10][12] Noem went to Northern State University from 1990 to 1994, but did not graduate.[12] Her daughter was born in 1994. Noem left college early to run the family farm. She later took classes at the Watertown campus of Mount Marty College and at South Dakota State University, and online classes from the University of South Dakota.[13] She completed her BA in political science at SDSU in 2012 while serving in Congress.[14][10]

State legislature change

In 2006, Noem won a seat as a Republican in the South Dakota House of Representatives, representing the 6th district. In 2006, she won with 39% of the vote.[15] In 2008, she was reelected with 41% of the vote.[16]

From 2007 to 2010; she was an assistant majority leader during her second term. During her time as a state representative, Noem was the prime sponsor of 11 bills that became law.[17][18][19]

U.S. House of Representatives change

 
Noem's official congressional portrait, 2013

In 2010, Noem ran for South Dakota's at-large seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.[20] She won the Republican primary with 42 percent of the vote.[21] Noem ran against Democratic U.S. Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, eventually beating her with 48 percent to 46 percent.[22] She would go on to be re-elected three more times in 2012, 2014 and 2016.[23][24][25]

In March 2011, Republican Representative Pete Sessions of Texas named Noem one of the 12 regional directors for the National Republican Congressional Committee during the 2012 election campaign.[10][26] After being elected to Congress, Noem continued her education through online courses. The Washington Post called her Capitol Hill's "most powerful intern" for receiving college intern credits from her position as a member of Congress.[27] She earned a B.A. in political science from South Dakota State University in 2012.[28]

Noem supported looking for other renewable energy options while ending the United States's use of foreign oil.[29][30][31]

Noem supported the Keystone XL Pipeline[32] and supports offshore oil drilling. In 2011, she sponsored a bill to block Environmental Protection Agency funding for tighter air pollution standards.[33] Noem was against a bill by Democratic South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson that would designate over 48,000 acres (190 km2) of the Buffalo Gap National Grassland as protected wilderness.[34]

In March 2011, Noem was against President Barack Obama's plan for the NATO-led military intervention in the 2011 Libyan civil war.[35][36]

Noem is against the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and has voted to remove it.[37] She supported cuts to Medicaid.[38]

Governor of South Dakota change

On November 14, 2016, Noem announced that she would run for governor of South Dakota in 2018 rather than seek reelection to Congress.[39] She beat South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley in the June 5 Republican primary, 56 to 44 percent.[40] She would go on to beat Democratic nominee Billie Sutton in the general election, 51.0 to 47.6 percent.[41] Noem was sworn in as governor of South Dakota on January 5, 2019, becoming the first woman to hold that office.[42] She was re-elected in 2022, winning 62% of the vote.[43]

 
Noem in October 2019

Gun rights change

In 2019, Noem signed a bill into law ending South Dakota's permit requirement to carry a concealed handgun.[44][45][46] In 2022, she wanted to build a gun range in Meade County with government funds, but the state legislature rejected it.[47][48][49]

At a 2023 NRA event in Indiana, Noem said that her two-year-old granddaughter had a shotgun, a rifle, and a "little pony named Sparkles".[50]

Abortion laws change

During her time as governor, she was known for her anti-abortion views.[51] She signed several bills making it harder to get an abortion in South Dakota.[52][53] Noem in 2019 signed several bills making it harder to get an abortion, saying that the bills would "crack down on abortion providers in South Dakota".[54]

After the overturning of Roe v. Wade, South Dakota became one of the first states to ban abortions.[55] In an interview on CNN, Noem defended South Dakota's abortion ban, which only allows exceptions in cases in which the mother's life is in danger and that she would not support changing the law to allow exceptions for victims of rape.[55] In January 2024, she called 2024 the "Freedom for Life Year", supporting anti-abortion laws.[56] In April 2024, Noem announced that she had changed her support for a federal ban on abortion, saying she believed that abortion law should be determined at the state level.[57]

 
Noem in December 2019

Protest laws change

Noem was also strict with protests surrounding the Keystone Pipeline project.[58] She passed several anti-protest laws and increased policing near the pipeline.[59] She supported another law, which was passed, to raise money for creating legal punishments for supporting and directing participation in rioting.[60] Many organization, such as Sierra Club, challenged the laws in suits, arguing that the laws were against First Amendment rights as it allowed the state to sue protesters.[60] In 2020, after a federal court took down sections of the legislation as unconstitutional, however Noem brought additional legislation to remove sections of the previous bill and clarify the definition of "incitement to riot".[61]

COVID-19 response change

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Noem at first supported quarantine plans, however when President Donald Trump became more against government's urging lockdowns, she became more critical of lockdowns and quarantine plans.[62] Noem wanted a bill to pass the state house to give power to county and health officials to decide when businesses and schools should close.[62] However, the bill did not pass.[62] She used COVID relief funds from the government to promote the state's tourism, despite it still being unsafe to travel.[63] She did not pass face mask mandates.[64][65] She was one of few governors who had not pass statewide stay-at-home orders or face-mask mandates.[66][67]

 
Noem with Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence in February 2020

The Republican National Committee supported her response to the pandemic and invited her to speak during the 2020 Republican National Convention.[68] The convention speech made her very popular in the party and made her well known across the country.[69]

In July 2021, Noem criticized other Republican governors for passing mandatory measures against COVID-19 and trying to "rewrite history" about it.[70] She argued that South Dakota had successfully fought off the pandemic, however the state had the 10th-highest death rate and third-highest case rate at that time.[70]

LGBT+ rights change

Noem is against same-sex marriage. In 2015 she said she disagreed with Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court's ruling that same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional.[71]

On March 8, 2021, Noem announced on Twitter that she would sign into law H.B. 1217, the Fairness in Women's Sports Act|Women's Fairness in Sports Bill,[72] which bans transgender athletes from playing on or against women's school and college sports teams.[73] On March 19, Noem made it harder for the bill to be changed through a veto.[74] She defended her position on Fox News during an interview with Tucker Carlson.[75] On March 29, the South Dakota House rejected Noem's veto, 67–2.[76] The bill was returned to Noem for reconsideration, and she vetoed it again.[77] The House could not override her veto, by a vote of 45-24 (47 votes were needed to override).[78] Many conservative commentators criticized Noem for vetoing the bill.[79][80]

Drug policies change

 
Noem in September 2020

On November 18, 2019, Noem released a meth awareness campaign named "Meth. We're on It". The campaign was not popular and Noem was criticized for spending $449,000 of public money while hiring an out-of-state advertising agency from Minnesota to lead the project.[81] She defended the campaign as successful in raising awareness.[82]

In 2020, Noem was against two ballot measures to legalize cannabis for medical use and recreational use in South Dakota.[83] She said that "The fact is, I've never met someone who got smarter from smoking pot. It's not good for our kids. And it's not going to improve our communities."[84] After both measures passed, she and two police officers filed a lawsuit seeking a court decision against the measure legalizing recreational use.[85][86] On February 8, 2021, circuit court judge Christina Klinger said that the amendment as unconstitutional.[87] After the ruling, she also wanted to stop the use of legal medical marijuana for a year.[88] However, she failed and medical marijuana became legal on July 1, 2021.[89]

Immigration change

In June 2021, Noem announced that she was sending members of the state's national guard to Texas's border with Mexico with the support of Republican donors.[90] On September 22, 2021, the Center for Public Integrity sued the South Dakota National Guard and the U.S. Department of Defense.[91] The 2022 National Defense Authorization Act banned National Guard members from crossing state borders to perform duties paid for by private donors.[92]

Fireworks at Mount Rushmore lawsuit change

In 2021, Noem sued United States Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, because she wanted to have fireworks at Mount Rushmore for Independence Day.[93] Firework shows stopped at the site in 2009 by the National Park Service because of the fire risks.[93][94] Noem hired the private Washington D.C. law firm Consovoy McCarthy to bring the case, with South Dakota state taxpayer money paying for the suit.[95] The U.S. District Court dismissed the suit, after the court found that four of the five reasons given by the NPS and Secretary Haaland were valid.[96] On July 13, Noem filed an appeal.[97]

 
Noem in December 2020

On March 14, 2022, the National Park Service again denied Noem's application for a permit to have fireworks at Mount Rushmore for the 4th of July, because of Native American groups were against it and the possibility of wildfires.[98]

Prank call change

In 2023, a reporter from Dakota News Now used Noem's personal phone number in a prank call to the former chair of the South Dakota Republican Party. The reporter was fired and Noem asked the U.S. attorney general to investigate the leak of her personal information.[99]

Native American tribes change

In early 2024, several Native American tribes banned Noem from entering on their land after she accused some tribal leaders of benefiting from having cartels within their borders and some tribes of ignoring their children.[100]

National politics change

2020 presidential election change

Noem claimed that the 2020 presidential election, in which Joe Biden beat Donald Trump, had large levels of voter fraud, even though there was no evidence supports this claim.[101] On December 8, 2020, Noem had acknowledge a Biden administration, but continued to say that the election was not "free and fair."[102][103][104]

 
Noem and U.S. Senator John Thune in 2019. Noem was supported by former President Trump to run against Thune in the 2022 Senate election, but she decided against it.[105]

After the United States Capitol was attacked by a pro-Trump mob on January 6, 2021, Noem spoke out against the violence, saying, "We are all entitled to peacefully protest. Violence is not a part of that."[106][107] One day after calling for peace after the attack, Noem called the two newly elected Democratic senators from Georgia, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, "communists".[108]

Former President Donald Trump wanted Noem to run against U.S. Senator John Thune for the Republican nomination in the 2022 Senate election because Thune did not support Trump's claims that the 2020 election was stolen.[105] Noem said she did not want to run for the United States Senate in January 2021.[105]

2024 presidential election change

At first, Noem was seen as a possible presidential candidate for the 2024 election,[109] but endorsed former President Donald Trump's 2024 campaign in September 2023.[110] In early 2024, Noem was mentioned as a possible running mate for Trump's re-election campaign.[3][4]

By April 2024, insiders said that her chances of being picked as Trump's running mate had decreased because of her stance on abortion and after she revealed in her autobiography No Going Back that she shot and killed her pet dog.[111][112][113]

Personal life change

She married Bryon Noem in 1992, in Watertown, South Dakota.[114] They have three children. Noem is a Protestant.[115] In 2011, when Noem moved to Washington to take her congressional office, her family continued to live on a ranch near Castlewood, South Dakota.[114]

 
Noem's family during her congressional swearing-in ceremony at the United States Capitol, January 2011

Noem published her autobiography, Not My First Rodeo: Lessons from the Heartland on June 28, 2022.[116]

On September 15, 2023, the New York Post and the Daily Mail separately published articles saying that Noem had had an ongoing affair with Corey Lewandowski, since at least 2019.[117][118][119][120] Five days later, Noem's spokesperson denied the story.[121]

Dog shooting controversy change

In April 2024, The Guardian reported parts from Noem's second autobiography No Going Back, scheduled to be published in May 2024, in which Noem talked about personally using a gun to kill a dog and a goat that her family owned on the same day.[7][122] When Noem brought Cricket, a female wirehaired pointer dog around fourteen months old, to hunt pheasants, Cricket went "out of her mind with excitement, chasing all those birds".[7][123][124] After the hunt, Cricket escaped Noem's vehicle, killed several of another family's chickens and bit Noem.[7] Afterwards, she said that she "hated that dog" and that Cricket was dangerous to humans, which made her to deciding to kill Cricket.[7][125][126][127]

After Noem shot the dog, Noem decided to kill a male goat that was "disgusting, nasty and mean", who "loved to chase" Noem's children and knock them down.[7][128][129] Noem responded to The Guardian's report by saying that "tough decisions like this happen all the time on a farm. Sadly, we just had to put down three horses a few weeks ago that had been in our family for 25 years."[7][130] The story led to bipartisan criticism of Noem, including doubts on her chances to be Donald Trump's vice presidential pick.[131][132]

References change

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