SIOUX FALLS, SD -
It's been two weeks since Matt Varilek won the South Dakota Democratic Primary. And now, he's ramping up his criticism of incumbent representative Kristi Noem.
Varilek's news conference Tuesday afternoon was pretty low key. But the accusations he lobbied against Noem hit hard. In regards to her participation on the House Agriculture Committee, Varilek claims other freshman members have made their voices heard more often.
"Our research shows that all other 15 freshmen have participated in ways that Kristi has not," Varilek said.
But Noem sees it differently, arguing it's not about how much you speak, but how much you act.
"I didn't go to Washington to talk," Noem said. "I went to get stuff done for the people of South Dakota. I'm not sitting and waiting to make my next speech."
Varilek also claims Noem's participation as a freshman member on the committee was less than the three previous South Dakota House Representatives in their first terms: Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin, Bill Janklow and John Thune.
"Traditionally, whether you're Republican or Democrat, South Dakota's lone member on the Ag Committee has played a very active role," Varilek said. "And we need that kind of active role once again."
"I haven't taken the time to go back and look at the previous members that have served in the South Dakota seat to see how much they've spoken in committee," Noem said. "But Matt Varilek's solution is for another member of Congress to talk more? I mean, trust me, there's plenty of talk going on."
With a farm bill currently being debated in Congress, the one thing both sides seem to agree on is how critical it is for the state.
"At a time when we're writing a new farm bill, it's not exaggeration to say part of our economic future hinges on how Congress does this work," Varilek said
"My fingerprints are all over this Farm Bill and they'll continue to be because that's how we're going to get the best bill that's good for South Dakota," Noem said.
But the participation and attendance questions will continue to linger for Noem.
"Too often, our lone seat at the table sits empty or sits silently," Varilek said.
Yet Noem says Varilek's comparisons, both past and present, are avoiding other issues.
"I believe Matt Varilek will continue to play these political games," Noem said. "But frankly, South Dakota deserves to hear the truth."
And it'll be up to the voters to decide what the truth is this November.
Varilek added that it's still hard to get a full picture on Noem's involvement in committees because there are no official attendance records. Varilek said he would overturn that rule. Noem says she voted for attendance records when she was first elected and would do so again.
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