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COVID in South Dakota: Noem’s lack of leadership

Updated: Apr 22

I recently was interviewed by the Washington Times early on Friday, Oct. 2. Since they are a right leaning publication, I didn’t expect my view on the topic, Noem as a rising star in the GOP, would really come out accurately. Before the interview, I sat down and wrote out my thoughts. These are the things I presented to the reporter.

Noem’s Presidential aspirations

Q: Why do I think Governor Noem is ready to move on from South Dakota and this current position and seek higher office?

A: Corey Lewandowski is advising our governor. When reports started coming in that he was in our state, people right away assumed something was up. We don’t often get elitist Washington types hanging around in South Dakota. There is a reason Mr. Lewandowski is here.

Governor Noem installed a $130,000 studio in the basement of the state Capitol to be available for reporters, not local reporters, national reporters like Fox News. Our local reporters complain how she won’t take their interviews. This move isn’t about South Dakota.

(At the time of the interview) Noem and had already made 10 campaign stops stumping for Trump. South Dakota is currently seeing record COVID positives, hospitalizations and deaths. While we are struggling with our neighbors in the hospital, loved ones sick, and an economy struggling, she isn’t in South Dakota. I would think the fact that her state is in crisis would keep her here making sure her constituents are taken care of but that isn’t the case.

She has inserted herself into every commercial campaign she can from Meth, to tourism, to COVID, to the census count. She seems to be more concerned about the limelight than actual issues facing South Dakota.

South Dakota’s COVID crisis

Q: How has she handled the COVID crisis in South Dakota?

A: South Dakota had months to prepare for this as we watched it take hold on the coasts. The fact that there was no plan shows a clear lack of leadership. That lack of leadership continues as our governor refuses to wear a mask and continues to promote events in South Dakota, like the Sturgis Rally and an outdoorsman conference coming up Oct. 23 and 24.

Our Governor and obviously the President, won’t wear masks and have continued to downplay the pandemic. That isn’t helping any of us. She has continued to mold herself in his likeness.

Restaurant and Retail seems to have taken the hardest hit in South Dakota.

Farmers are still struggling due to the President’s trade war and it was compounded by the issues we had with our local meat packing plants becoming COVID hot spots. Many are only making it due to the social program created by the ag department. Noem’s own family members received dollars from that program.

Tourism took a hit this year of course. But that could have been reduced if we would have taken on COVID in the beginning with masks, with more testing and tracing. Instead our governor has spent $5 million in CARES funds on a South Dakota tourism spot on Fox News. The first issue is COVID money should be helping all of the South Dakotans on the frontline, those suffering from their businesses being impacted, and those who have lost jobs due to COVID. Secondly, this a large ad buy, keep in mind $4.8 million is our usual annual tourism budget. It makes no sense to make this kind of buy going into tourism’s shoulder season. You normally would strategize and buy TV going into the peak tourism season. By the time this TV spot came out, many tourism attractions were getting close to closing for the season. There was no strategy behind this, but it will get her more national TV time.

by Nikki Gronli, Vice Chairwoman SDDP and Chairwoman MCDP

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