South Dakota governor attends roundtable at Reagan Ranch Center
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem spoke to a conservative audience at the Reagan Ranch Center on Tuesday as part of a roundtable event aired by Newsmax.
The governor discussed her political background, her upbringing and her perspective on issues like the COVID-19 pandemic, Afghanistan and the Biden administration on Tuesday with Newsmax primetime host Rob Schmitt. Their conversation aired on “Rob Schmitt Tonight” at 5 p.m. PT Tuesday.
At the start of Tuesday’s roundtable, Ms. Noem began by telling the audience about her background in politics and her upbringing on a ranch in South Dakota.
She shared that she first got into politics after her father passed away when she was just 22 years old. After he died, her family received a massive bill from the IRS for death taxes that threatened to bankrupt their long-standing family business.
Seeing the impact the taxation was having on her family, Ms. Noem began to take action by attending meetings and lobbying for tax reform. This ultimately propelled her into politics, where she was elected to the South Dakota House of Representatives in 2006, served four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and has served as governor of South Dakota since 2019.
The governor encouraged members of the audience on Tuesday to run for political positions — even on the local level — and get involved in areas where they desire to see change.
“What we need in this country is more people to say ‘yes,’” Ms. Noem said. “I’m not a believer that I’m the one who has to be there serving a different position to make the right decisions. I think that a lot of people right now, they’re questioning what’s going on in the government, and they need to look inside and say, ‘Do I need to run for something? Do I need to run for a school board or do I need to run for city council?’ Because we need people to show up that really do love this country and want to make sure it’s still there for our kids.”
During Tuesday’s roundtable, the governor fielded a variety of questions from both Mr. Schmitt and the audience, offering her perspective on COVID-19, the Afghanistan withdrawal and immigration.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, South Dakota was one of just a few states that did not enforce a mask mandate, social distancing requirement or lockdown period, even in the early stages of the pandemic.
Ms. Noem defended this decision during Tuesday’s talk, saying she spent time talking with attorneys that specialized in Constitutional law to understand the authority she had as governor and also consulted with health officials. After these conversations, she ultimately decided to leave it up to the people of South Dakota to make their own health choices.
“I’ve just been a big believer consistently that when you have a leader that oversteps their authority, especially in a time of crisis, that’s when you break this country,” Ms. Noem said Tuesday. “I didn’t want to be that leader, so I stood up in front of my people … and I told them,
‘Listen, I’m going to give you all the information that I have, I’m going to give you the science of the virus that I know, the data, the support, the help that we can (give) as a state government, but then I’m going to trust you. I’m going to let you use personal responsibility to make the best decisions for your family, but let you put food on the table and keep your business going and take care of your employees as well.”
The governor also discussed immigration and the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan on Tuesday, sharing with the audience that South Dakota is one of four states that is not accepting Afghan refugees through the nation’s resettlement program. She claimed that the Biden administration is not “vetting these individuals like the Trump administration,” and said this is part of the reason why the state will not accept the refugees.
“We don’t know who these people are,” Ms. Noem said. “We don’t know if they love America. Nobody should come into this country unless they love America, unless they want to be here, be a citizen, and embrace the ideals that made this country great.”
The governor went on to discuss how she directed her state’s National Guard to respond to the current immigration crisis at the nation’s southern border. She called the situation at the southern border a “war zone,” adding that what is currently happening is potentially “devastating to our future.”
Ms. Noem said to solve the immigration crisis, the U.S. should “address the immigration system and make it more possible for people to come here legally.”
“We’re very proud of the people who come here and go through the process of doing it legally,” she said. “But we also need to make sure that while they’re coming to the border, before they ever take the trip, before they ever put their children in jeopardy by putting them through that challenging trip that they take to the border, to let them know you can’t come here unless you follow the legal process.”
The governor also commented briefly on small businesses leaving California for other states, answering a question from a local business owner about what California policymakers can do to take a pro-small business stance.
In response to the question, Ms. Noem said the approach she has taken as a Republican governor is to allow businesses the freedom to be creative in investing and growing businesses. She said small business is the “backbone of this country,” and said the best thing for the government to do to encourage small business growth is to “get out of the way.”
Before the close of Tuesday’s roundtable, Mr. Schmitt asked the governor if she has considered a presidential bid in 2024, to which she responded that she is focused on winning re-election in her state during next year’s gubernatorial race.
“I ran for governor because I love our state and want to be there,” Ms. Noem said.
Following Tuesday’s roundtable, Andrew Coffin, the director of the Reagan Ranch Center, told the News-Press that it was an honor to host someone who “so many people in our country admire.”
“(People) appreciate how free a state and open the state South Dakota is, and just (Ms. Noem’s) ability to stand for a principle and explain why she’s doing what she’s doing, I think that’s incredibly important as a leader,” Mr. Coffin said. “It’s the type of leader we want to put in front of our audiences.”
Editor’s note: Tuesday’s event at the Reagan Ranch Center was part of the “Wendy P. McCaw Roundtable Series.” Ms. McCaw is a co-publisher of the News-Press.