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Democratic challenger criticizes Noem's decision to participate in only one debate

Jamie Smith speaks Wednesday night at McKennan Park in Sioux Falls.
Slater Dixon
Jamie Smith speaks Wednesday night at McKennan Park in Sioux Falls.

Governor Kristi Noem's Democratic opponent is criticizing her decision to participate in only one debate.

Noem's campaign announced Wednesday that she agreed to a September debate, which "will be the first and final debate that Governor Noem participates in this election cycle," the campaign said in a news release.

Office of Governor Kristi Noem
Office of Governor Kristi Noem
Gov. Kristi Noem.

“Voters deserve the opportunity to hear from the two of us on a wide variety of issues, especially those on which we do not see eye-to-eye," Noem said in the release.

Noem, a Republican, is seeking a second term.

Sioux Falls state Rep. Jamie Smith is the Democratic nominee.

"While I am pleasantly surprised Governor Noem could find time in her busy out-of-state travel schedule to be in South Dakota long enough to have a debate," Smith said in his own news release, "I am disappointed that South Dakotans will not have any further opportunities to hear from the two of us on the wide range of issues we face."

Smith said then-Gov. Dennis Daugaard, a Republican, participated in at least four debates with Democratic opponent Susan Wismer in 2014. Smith said Noem's decision is disappointing.

“I think that’s just sad for the people of South Dakota,” Smith said Wednesday night. “We would welcome more debates, of course, and would like to get our message out to more people and allow voters to make informed decisions.”

The campaign's one debate will be co-hosted by Dakota News Now and KOTA/KEVN on Sept. 30 in Rapid City. The Libertarian candidate, Tracey Quint, will also participate.

Noem declined a debate invitation from South Dakota Public Broadcasting. A spokesman for Noem's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday. Then, on Friday morning, the Noem campaign issued a news release saying it's declining the invitation "due to extreme leftist slant from National Public Radio (NPR) and SDPB."

SDPB management responded with a statement defending the organization's coverage as fair and reiterating that hosting statewide debates is part of the organization's public service mission.

Slater Dixon is a junior at Augustana University studying Government and Data Science. He was born in Sioux Falls and is based out of SDPB's Sioux Falls studio.