Kristi Noem announces re-election campaign for governor

Noem says the state has the 'best economy in the nation' in a short video sent to media on Friday afternoon, announcing the 49-year-old Republican will run for reelection in 2022.

Gov. Kristi Noem speaks to the media with Custer State Park Manager Matt Snyder, left, during the 56th annual Custer State Park buffalo roundup on Friday morning, Sept. 24, 2021. (Matt Gade / Mitchell Republic)
Matt Gade

PIERRE, S.D. — South Dakota's first female governor will seek a second term next year, Gov. Kristi Noem's campaign announced in a video on Friday, Nov. 12.

Noem, who defined her appeal to conservatives nationwide by her laissez-faire approach to voluntary, rather than mandated public health protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic, said the "best days are still ahead" for the state she represented for eight years in Washington, D.C., before spending the last three as governor.

"We have the best economy in the nation, as well as the best people and quality of life," Noem said in a 45-second video posted just before 2 p.m. on Friday. "There is so much more we can do together."


On a campaign website, Noem's current lieutenant governor, former state lawmaker Larry Rhoden, is named as her running mate. Noem has yet to draw a Democratic opponent, as her 2018 challenger -- former state Sen. Billie Sutton -- has so far stayed quiet on whether he's interested in the job.

But whoever challenges Noem will face an uphill climb. In a much-watched SDSU poll from September, Noem scored 46 out of 100 on the "feelings thermometers" rating among all South Dakota voters. However, among Republican voters in The Mount Rushmore State, Noem scored 77 -- even higher than Donald Trump, who earned 72.

In the most recent legislative session, Noem presided over historic spending on infrastructure , aided by federal CARES Act funding, from improvements to a West River railroad and entertainment complex in Huron, to investment in low-income college education scholarships. Noem has also frequently appeared on national television and drawn attention to an ultimately failed bid to host fireworks at Mount Rushmore.

But the Hamlin County native also made missteps with her political base, taking heat in some Republican circles for issuing a style-and-form veto to a transgender sports bill in March, and her intervention in her daughter's journey to becoming a state-certified realty appraiser has also attracted claims of nepotism.

Still, with $10 million raised and another $6.5 million on hand, Noem -- who has never lost an election in South Dakota -- will be a tough challenge. South Dakota last elected a Democratic governor in 1974. And the state hasn't elected a Democrat to statewide office since then-U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson won a third term in 2008.

While Noem had been a top mention among potential candidates for the GOP ticket in 2024, her office has repeatedly denied she has any intention of running for president, with the governor herself dismissing any interest in the position this summer. The latest national poll of prospective Republican candidates from YouGov does not include the South Dakota Republican.

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