Kristi Noem is the 33rd Governor of South Dakota. She was elected to her position in 2018. However, she had been involved in South Dakota politics for some time by that point. In recent times, interested individuals might have seen Noem’s name in the news because of her handling of either the COVID-19 crisis or the protests prompted by police brutality.
1. Born and Raised in South Dakota
Noem was born in the city of Watertown in South Dakota’s Codington County. It isn’t particularly well-known. However, it is home to the Bramble Park Zoo as well as the Redlin Art Center, which houses a considerable collection of the wildlife artist Terry Redlin’s works. Having said that, Noem and her siblings were raised in South Dakota’s Hamlin County because that is where their family had their farm and ranch.
2. Dropped Out of College
At the age of 22, Noem dropped out of college because her father was killed in an accident while working on the farm. In short, there was a clog of some kind in a grain bin, which caused her father to get sucked in when he went too far in while unclogging it. Unfortunately, such accidents happen on a regular basis and are expected to continue happening on a regular basis. The U.S. Department of Labor proposed sweeping new regulations on the matter in 2011, but it backed down because its proposal was seen as having overreached, thus resulting in widespread opposition.
3. Continued Her Education
Although Noem headed home to run her family farm and ranch, she continued her education. This can be seen in how she took classes from both Mount Marty College and South Dakota State University as well as online classes from the University of South Dakota. In fact, Noem continued taking online classes as well as receiving credits for her work when she was in the U.S. Congress, which prompted the Washington Post to call her “Capitol Hill’s most powerful intern.” Regardless, her efforts paid off, as shown by how she has a Bachelor of Arts in political science from South Dakota State University.
4. Sponsored Bills to Lower the Age of Compulsory Education
Before Noem was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, she was elected to the South Dakota House of Representatives. During that time, she sponsored bills to lower the age of compulsory education in the state to 16 in 2009 and 2010, which would’ve reversed recent legislation that had raised it to 18 in 2008. In Noem’s opinion, the higher age of compulsory education hadn’t been proven to help with graduation rates. Meanwhile, her opponents argued that the higher age of compulsory education helped with graduation rates as well as provided more motivation to students who would’ve dropped out otherwise.
5. Opposes Same Sex Marriage
On the whole, Noem is a social conservative. For an example, she supported an amendment to prevent same sex marriage in 2010. On a related note, she has also voiced her support for protecting anti-same-sex marriage opinions as free speech.
6. Opposes the Right to Choose
Speaking of which, Noem opposes women’s right to choose when it comes to abortion as well. For example, she has opposed federal funding for abortion. Likewise, she has opposed family assistance planning that happens to include abortion. Besides this, Noem has opposed human embryonic stem cell research as well, which is still a matter of considerable controversy in the United States. Something that can be seen in how different states can have very different laws on the matter.
7. Believes in Ending U.S. Dependence on Foreign Oil
Noem is very much pro-oil, which seems to be connected with her belief in ending U.S. dependence on foreign oil to some extent. In any case, it should come as no surprise to learn that her political beliefs in this regard have influenced her political positions. One example would be Noem’s support for the Keystone Pipeline System, which connects the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin in Alberta, Canada with oil refineries as well as other oil infrastructure in the United States. Other examples range from her support for barring the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases to her support for offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico as well as other locations.
8. Supported Trump’s Travel Ban
In 2017, the Trump administration issued a travel ban that banned travel to the United States by nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days, which was on top of suspending the U.S. refugee program for 120 days. Noem voiced her support for a temporary ban on refugees from what she called “terrorist-held” areas. However, it is unclear whether she supported other parts of the travel ban, which was known to have caused the detention of legal U.S. residents when they reentered the United States.
9. Acknowledged that the Trade Wars Have Hurt Her State’s Economy
Last year, Noem acknowledged that Trump’s trade wars had caused serious harm to South Dakota’s economy. In short, when the United States launched the initial salvos, both China and the European Union were quick to retaliate by launching their own counter-measures. However, they didn’t do so in an indiscriminate manner but instead targeted the states that were most supportive of the Trump administration. As a result, South Dakota was hit particularly hard, not least because it is so reliant on its agricultural sector. Time will tell what will happen in the end, but even if trade relationships return to normal, there is no guarantee that the previous situation will return because change comes with an inherent cost of its own.
10. Demanded that Two Sioux Tribes Remove COVID-19 Checkpoints
In May of 2020, Noem’s name showed up in the news because she issued a demand to both the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe to remove checkpoints meant to minimize the spread of the novel coronavirus on tribal lands. Both tribes refused, which was motivated by their opinion that Noem was more concerned about saving face than following the best recommendations from scientific experts. For context, it should be mentioned that South Dakota was one of the few states to never issue a shelter-in-place order.