Congresswoman and gubernatorial candidate Kristi Noem visited campus Friday morning to kick off her campaign for governor.
Students and community members were invited to ask the candidate questions about what’s going on in Washington, in South Dakota and with her campaign plans. Noem wanted the event to be a “candid conversation,” she said.
Some of the topics she touched on were the state Legislature, welfare programs and education spending before taking audience questions.
“We need to spend less education dollars in administration,” Noem said. “It’s not getting to the classroom and it needs to get to the classroom.”
Noem said after serving in the Legislature, she knows it’s important to know how South Dakota state legislators feel.
“Their constituents live next door to them, they go to church with them, they want to be successful for the people that are in their communities,” Noem said. “A governor needs to understand that and figure out ways to help them be successful.”
Noem also touched on the welfare programs in the state and said the programs “help people when they hit a hard time,” but the programs also help perpetuate poverty and keep people reliant on those programs.
“If you talk to anybody in this state that knows somebody who’s on welfare, who’s on housing assistance, who’s on childcare assistance, they’ll say their parents were probably on the programs too and their grandparents maybe were on the programs,” she said. “We can reform those programs to get people off of poverty programs and get them into a job where they can provide for their families.”
Noem said she wants to make news for good things happening in the state, not for scandals or lawsuits.
“A lot of times when you turn on the news, you hear about some good things about South Dakota but we’re also making the news for scandals and mismanagement and for million dollar lawsuits and we need to change that,” she said. “We should be making news for the good things that’s happening.”
Shukri Jama, a political science major who attended the event, said she’s independently affiliated and that she doesn’t agree with many of Noem’s positions.
“I just want to see what she’s going to talk about her platform. I’ve met her before, she’s really nice, but I don’t agree with her positions,” she said. “I’m hoping to hear her positions on guns on campuses especially students having guns or teachers, I want to know her positions on guns.”
After receiving attention for her decision to invite the NRA to host their national convention in South Dakota, many audience members wanted to confront her for that invitation.
An audience member asked Noem if she’d be willing to return any funds she’d received from the NRA. Noem said she’s a lifetime member of the NRA and she will not be returning money from the NRA unless there’s something that changes specifically on what their actions are.
“I don’t know why I would return funds to the NRA because the NRA certainly isn’t endorsing what’s happened,” she said. “The NRA’s goal is to protect our Second Amendment rights, and that’s my goal too. When I stand up in front of Congress and take my oath, I pledge that I will uphold the Constitution of the United States and that means protect the Second Amendment too. I take it very seriously.”
Will Himmler, a criminal justice major, attended the event. He asked Noem if she could recall the names of the victims of the recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and then he named them off one by one.
“Thank you for doing that,” she said. “What suggestion do you have?”
Himmler said guns should be licensed to owners the way people license cars.
“Responsible gun owners have no reason to fear things like background checks, required safety training, mandatory waiting periods from purchase to when you actually receive the weapon, requiring people to show proof that they’ve purchased safety equipment,” he said.