Rapid City Journal
SIOUX FALLS | Shortly after U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem rolled to the Republican nomination for South Dakota governor, she urged the party to unite behind her “bold vision” in a speech that made no mention of her chance to become the state’s first female governor.
The victory Tuesday night followed a campaign against Attorney General Marty Jackley in which Noem declined to play up her gender, instead focusing on her farming and ranching background and negotiating the GOP’s federal tax cuts with President Donald Trump. And there’s no indication Noem will change course in a campaign where she already is the front-runner.
Noem said she’s focused on what she wants to get done, not about the historic step for South Dakota women her victory would represent.
“It seems to me that people supported me last night based on my background, my experience and my vision for the state,” Noem said Wednesday. “Sure, it would be incredibly special to be the first female governor, but I also think that people are supporting me because of the person that I am and what I bring to the table.”
Marguerite McPhillips, president of the South Dakota Federation of Republican Women, said she’s “very delighted” to be able to vote for a woman in the fall but doesn’t expect Noem to start making a big deal of it now.
“I think she’ll win on other issues. I don’t think it’ll be because she would be the first woman governor,” said McPhillips, who declined to say whom she supported in the primary. “Kristi has some great ideas, and she’s strong, and so it’ll be a good governorship, and I’m looking forward to it.”
In the primary, some of Noem’s advertising dovetailed with the #MeToo movement, with spots criticizing Jackley for denying a grievance from a former state agent who won a discrimination and retaliation lawsuit last year after a colleague harassed her. The ads took aim at Jackley’s tough-on-crime credentials as the state’s chief law enforcement officer.
South Dakota State University political science professor Lisa Hager said it’s likely Noem didn’t focus on the issue in part because women tend to fare better in politics emphasizing their experience.
“Rather than … focusing on ‘Hey, I can be the first woman to hold this position,’ it was better for Kristi to really hammer on why she’s qualified to hold that position to hopefully try to get away from any sort of stereotypes anyone might have,” Hager said.
The Republican Governors Association highlighted Noem’s victory in a Wednesday tweet about Republicans nominating “three dynamic female candidates for governor” in Alabama, Iowa and South Dakota. The Center for American Women and Politics says a record number of major party women filed to run for governor in the U.S. this year.