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Former House Speaker challenges Noem for governor nomination

Governor Kristi Noem, Representative Steven Haugaard
Governor Kristi Noem, Representative Steven Haugaard

Gov. Kristi Noem faces a primary challenge from former House Speaker Steve Haugaard.

However, Noem has outraised and outspent her opponent.

Haugaard, a lawyer, is term limited from the state House of Representatives.

The Sioux Falls Republican says Gov. Noem has provided 'band-aid solutions' and 'knee jerk reactions' to the state’s problems.

Haugaard says government must be transparent.

“The governor campaigned on the idea of transparency. And here we are with a government accountability board issue in regard to her lack of transparency in regard to just the simple use of the airplane,” Haugaard says. “Those types of things instill an idea that there’s something happening here. We don’t know what it is, so we’re going to suspect the worst.”

A recent poll out of South Dakota State University shows Noem is in a strong position to win the primary election. Sixty-one percent of likely Republican primary voters say they would vote for Noem. Seventeen percent say they’ll vote for Haugaard.

Haugaard has criticized the governor for not responding to debate requests from several state media outlets. Noem’s campaign did not respond to requests for an interview on the SDPB program 'In The Moment,' nor for this story.

Jon Schaff, a political scientist with Northern State University, says Noem has little to gain from engaging with Haugaard. That’s unlike four years ago when she faced former Attorney General Marty Jackley.

“We’ve got an incumbent governor who is extremely popular within her own party,” Schaff says. “But also, the way she’s governed and the way she comports herself has created a portion of that party that is frustrated with her. Steve Haugaard is the voice of that frustration.”

Early voting is underway. The primary election is this coming Tuesday, June 7th.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.