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US House Candidates Debate In Mitchell

Kealey Bultena

During their first debate, candidates for South Dakota’s only seat in the US House of Representatives clash over the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline and the Affordable Care Act. They answer audience questions for an hour Tuesday at Dakota Fest in Mitchell.

The Keystone XL project plans include a pipeline in Western South Dakota to carry crude oil from Canada down the United States. A question about the pipeline splits Democrat Corinna Robinson and Republican Congresswoman Kristi Noem, who says she supports the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, because it’s good for South Dakota’s economy.

"During construction, about 42,000 jobs will be created. About a thousand of those will be in South Dakota. And not necessarily all of them will stay here permanently, but, during construction, that will happen," Noem says. "There will be jobs created in South Dakota; there will be pumping stations and other maintenance that will need to be done. It will mean about $9 million dollars of property taxes income into the state of South Dakota."

Noem says the pipeline also helps keep the US from depending on oil from the Middle East.

But challenger Corinna Robinson says she opposes the pipeline. She says it isn’t in South Dakota’s best interest for the long term.

"We can promote more solar energy, more wind energy. We can irrigate the land. I know – it’s not easy. It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to take a lot of time and a lot of money," Robinson says. "That pipeline expansion is not going to bring hundreds and thousands of jobs to South Dakota for the long term."

Robinson says she questions the quality of the material planned to channel oil through South Dakota. She says the state can’t risk jeopardizing land and water quality for the pipeline.

The two women vying for the US House are also divided on the Affordable Care Act. Noem says she supports repealing the health care overhaul.

"I don’t think it was the way to reform our health care system in this country, and I am a sponsor of a bill that would put in the reforms that I believe would really work in this country," Noem says. "But I will tell you, in the meantime, I’ve been working to make it better, to take out the most detrimental impacts that it would have on the people of South Dakota so that it’s workable."

Noem says some parts of the act are important – such as providing coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions.

Democratic candidate Corinna Robinson says the Affordable Care Act is good, because people without insurance often avoid preventative health care.

"When we have people on a death bed finally getting themselves to an emergency room, it’s too late, so the Senate and the House passed the Affordable Care Act," Robinson says. "We should stop any discussion about repealing it. I mean, there’s not another plan or a program out there. That’d be wasting a whole lot of time."

Robinson says South Dakotans could benefit more if state leaders support the act's implementation.

Listen to Noem's and Robinson's views on health care reform.


Kealey Bultena grew up in South Dakota, where her grandparents took advantage of the state’s agriculture at nap time, tricking her into car rides to “go see cows.” Rarely did she stay awake long enough to see the livestock, but now she writes stories about the animals – and the legislature and education and much more. Kealey worked in television for four years while attending the University of South Dakota. She started interning with South Dakota Public Broadcasting in September 2010 and accepted a position with television in 2011. Now Kealey is the radio news producer stationed in Sioux Falls. As a multi-media journalist, Kealey prides herself on the diversity of the stories she tells and the impact her work has on people across the state. Kealey is always searching for new ideas. Let her know of a great story! Find her on Facebook and twitter (@KealeySDPB).