As she nears the end of her first re-election campaign, Republican Rep. Kristi Noem of South Dakota is focusing on juggling her official duties in Congress while keeping up on the campaign trail.
Noem, who defeated incumbent Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, D-S.D., in 2010, spent her first two-year term working on the Agriculture, Education and the Workforce and Natural Resources Committees.
This time around, Noem is the incumbent in a race in which she has more than tripled her opponent’s fundraising efforts, raising more than $2.5 million as of Oct. 1, according to the Federal Election Commission. Her Democratic opponent Matt Varilek has raised about $750,000.
Noem said even though she’s the incumbent this time, she hasn’t changed her campaign strategy.
“The goal is to just get out and talk to as many people as we can and tell them how we’ve changed South Dakota in the last two years,” Noem said.
As the election season has worn on, Noem and Varilek have met several times for debates, including Oct. 18 for the South Dakota Public Broadcasting debate in Vermillion. Noem said her strategy for the debates was to talk about the facts.
“My opponent’s claims about my voting record aren’t true,” Noem said. “I have made a lot of votes, and I’m willing to talk about the facts. I just want to make sure I get to tell South Dakota what I’ve worked on, which has been the budget and Medicare, and what we plan on doing with our next two years.”
Noem said if re-elected, she wants to be part of a shift in Congress that focuses more on the United States’ deficit.
“We need to, as a country, start living within our means,” Noem said.
She also said Congress needs to do something to help businesses be more profitable.
“Regulations (to businesses) are detrimental to our economy and need to be put under the system of checks and balances,” Noem said.
The College Republicans have been actively helping with Noem’s campaign, senior Collin Michels, co-president of College Republicans said.
“We’ve walked in parades, volunteered in her office in Sioux Falls and helped with letter-writing campaigns,” Michels said.
Senior Shiloh Day, co-president of College Republicans, said she initially supported Noem two years ago because of her party affiliation.
“I’ve realized that she aligns with me on most of the issues,” Day said. “She’s more relatable and is a genuine person. It’s important you support the candidate who represents you best.”
Michels said college students should support Noem because she represents South Dakota values.
“She understands what college students are going through,” Michels said. “She’s met with the College Republicans numerous times. She’s in touch with college students in general.”
Day said no matter which candidate students are voting for, it’s an exciting time to be on campus.
“All of this is so interesting,” Day said. “It’s exciting we get to have things like a debate between the candidates on campus. It gives students different opportunities to get involved.”