SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The 2022 election is on November 8 and we’re hearing from the South Dakota gubernatorial candidates in the final stretch of the campaign.
From the grocery sales tax to recreational marijuana, KELOLAND News asked questions you, the viewers, had for the candidates.
KELOLAND News reached out to all three candidates for governor to sit down for an interview, but incumbent Governor Kristi Noem declined. Instead, we have used an interview with the Republican candidate from September that answers questions we asked Democrat Jamie Smith and Libertarian Tracey Quint.
While Smith and Quint answered questions on the topics listed below during our conversation with them, we’re using previous coverage of Noem to include her viewpoints.
KELOLAND News spoke to the candidates in the order in which they’ll appear on the ballot.
All three candidates support repealing grocery tax in South Dakota.
Democrat Jamie Smith said he’s supported eliminating the tax for all six years that he’s been in the state legislature.
“We’ve been championing this food tax for years; we’ve been trying to get this regressive tax out of the system,” Smith said. “That being said we have a $115 million surplus, and it’s probably larger than that today when we speak, that we could have actually been doing something with this the whole time. That’s money that we have that could have taken this away.”
Smith said that if recreational marijuana passes with Initiated Measure 27, there will be an opportunity to reduce or eliminate taxes on food.
Libertarian Tracey Quint also pointed to the potential legalization of cannabis as a way to replace the revenue generated from the repeal of the grocery tax.
“We’re one of the only states that even has a grocery tax right now,” Quint said. “And we shouldn’t be putting that tax burden on the individual especially something as essential as food items.”
Governor Kristi Noem was a vocal opponent of repealing the grocery tax during her time in the state legislature, voting against repeals or reductions in 2010. As recently as 2022 when the issue of repealing the food sales tax was brought back to the Capitol, Noem did not voice support or opposition to the tax.
But she did say in response to a question on the proposed bill that:
“Well, it’s just, I think they’re setting us up for an income tax. I think that they know when they propose something like that it’s not sustainable as far as our current programs and they know that they’ll be putting South Dakota in the position to get in, have a significant income tax,” Noem said during the 2022 legislative session.
On September 28, Noem expressed her support for the food tax repeal, saying that it would save taxpayers money and be beneficial to the state’s economy. Noem’s team says she supported the tax this legislative session behind closed doors and would have signed the bill had it reached her desk.
All three candidates have stated that they would support recreational marijuana if Initiated Measure 27 is passed by voters.
Smith says that he will “carry out the will of the people” by allowing cannabis to be legalized. He also states on his website that legalization would create jobs and, “…increase our annual GDP by more than $14 million.”
Quint is in support of the legalization of cannabis.
“I also think that the income that we could possibly get from legalizing recreational marijuana could help to fund a lot of things in our state depending where we go with the health care legislation and stuff that’s coming up,” Quint said.
Following the passage of Amendment A in 2020, Noem, a vocal opponent of recreational marijuana, directed the South Dakota Highway Patrol to challenge the amendment in court. Later, the Supreme Court ruled that Amendment A violated the single-subject requirement, not allowing recreational cannabis to be legalized.
Noem told KELOLAND News in September that she will “absolutely” support the will of the voters this time around now that the measure is written correctly.
“I do, I absolutely do. In fact, medical marijuana stood up and running just like they voted on the ballot,” Noem said. “It’s my job to make sure everything that I do is constitutional. I took an oath to that.”
Her campaign website says “she is personally opposed to legalizing recreational marijuana.”
CRITICAL RACE THEORY
Critical Race Theory has been a hot topic not just in South Dakota, but across the country for the past year. KELOLAND News asked each candidate whether CRT was an issue in the state.
As a former teacher, Smith said Critical Race Theory is not a problem in South Dakota. Smith mentioned a study done by the Department of Education that yielded two results of alleged CRT in South Dakota. Both examples were advanced level courses not frequently offered to K-12 students in the state.
“What that is, that’s a stirring of the pot. They’re trying to get people stirred up, scared and angry,” Smith said.
Smith said that teachers are frustrated right now by the current administration.
“We trust our teachers to be the professionals that they are and as governor I’ll make sure that we follow through with trusting our educators in the state of South Dakota,” Smith said.
Critical Race Theory is not a problem in South Dakota, Quint said. She went on to say it’s a college-level course and that it’s not being taught to fourth graders in the state. “It’s just not happening.”
“We need to teach kids, age appropriately, the truth of what happened in history. They need to learn what happened and how it happened and if they don’t learn from the past, we’re gonna repeat it,” Quint said.
Quint also added that she would not legislate social studies standards as governor.
“It’s up to the educators, not me,” Quint said.
Noem has led the crusade to keep CRT out of South Dakota schools. This legislative session Noem signed a bill that would keep CRT out of university training and orientations. A similar bill to keep the theory out of K-12 curriculum failed and Noem later signed an executive order banning it.
When asked about the DOE’s findings, Noem said it’s more about being proactive.
“We don’t always have to wait until we have a crisis on our hands,” Noem said. “We found examples in South Dakota so we obviously saw it could happen.”
Noem said that all that she wants is students to learn true and honest history.
With the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade this summer, abortion is now banned in the state of South Dakota except to save the life of the mother.
Smith said South Dakota’s abortion ban has gone too far and is restricting access to health care in the state.
“There’s no exception for rape; there’s no exception for incest. Doctors aren’t allowed to do their job right now,” Smith said.
Quint believes that abortion is a personal and medical decision.
“I don’t think the legislators or the voters should have any say in whether or not a woman has a right to get an abortion,” Quint said. “I think it’s a medical decision that should be made between the doctor and the individual. I just don’t think that it’s a government issue, period.”
Noem celebrated the fall of Roe and supports South Dakota’s abortion ban. She told Face the Nation over the summer that “every life is precious.” As for whether she would support exceptions for rape or incest in the current ban, Noem said the following on Face the Nation over the summer.
“I just have never believed that having a tragedy or a tragic situation happen to someone is a reason to have another tragedy occur,” Noem said.
Noem launched Life.SD.gov to provide resources and information to pregnant South Dakotans in light of the abortion ban.
Jamie Smith is running for governor because he wants to give the people of South Dakota a different choice.
“South Dakotans deserve a governor that’s focused on them and that wants to work here in the state of South Dakota, working for average, ordinary, everyday people,” Smith said.
Smith cited his time in the House of Representatives saying he has the ability to work across the aisle and get things done. If elected, Smith said his number one priority would be to open up communication with the people of the state and allow everyone to be heard.
Smith would also like to focus on nursing homes and child care.
Smith’s been accused by the Noem campaign of being against the Second Amendment but Smith told KELOLAND News that is not true.
“I’m not going to take away anybody’s guns; I’m not gonna do it. I own guns myself,” Smith said.
Smith wants to work on gun education to make sure gun owners know how to use and store firearms safely.
“If a person’s not mentally stable and not safe to be around their firearms, they shouldn’t be,” Smith said. “We have a problem in our state with suicide and we don’t want people injuring themselves when they’re not mentally stable.”
Smith said he voted against a concealed carry permit leading to his F-rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA).
“I said that we could still have a concealed carry permit and South Dakotans, 90% of them agreed with me on that,” Smith said.
Smith wants to see Medicaid expand saying that when he first ran for the state legislature, he did so on the platform of supporting then-Governor Dennis Daugaard’s Medicaid expansion plan.
“We’ve left billions of dollars out of our local economy over the years by not expanding,” Smith said. “What’ll happen there is we’re gonna get a match from the federal government and so for about every dollar that we pay, we’re gonna get $10 back from the federal government.”.
Smith said that expanding Medicaid will expand South Dakota’s healthy workforce and help grow businesses and every day South Dakotans.
As a Moderate, Smith wants the people of South Dakota to know that he’s straight forward and willing to work together to solve problems in the state. He also wanted to clarify an attack ad used by the Noem campaign alleging that he’s for raising taxes.
“I am not going to raise your taxes, alright. I’m not going to do that. That’s a lie,” Smith said.
Tracey Quint moved to South Dakota in 2016 and didn’t feel represented by either major party but felt her values better aligned with the Libertarian Party.
Quint said that as someone who isn’t a lifelong politician but rather a “normal, hardworking South Dakotan” who works two jobs, she understands the struggle of every day South Dakotans.
“I just want to represent the people of South Dakota as best as I can,” Quint said.
Quint said that her main priority would be focusing on criminal justice reform and focusing on rehabilitation.
“I want to make sure that, you know, we’re not warehousing people in prisons. We’re not spending all that money to keep people in jail especially for victimless crimes,” Quint said.
On Medicaid expansion, Quint said that if it passes a lot will need to be looked at as it will be a big change.
“How are we going to handle that financially? How are we gonna make sure that we’re not crowding people out of services?” Quint said. “So, I think it’s going to be a discussion we’re going to have to have with other legislators and the health care leaders in South Dakota.”
Governor Kristi Noem declined our request to come to the KELOLAND studios for a conversation. Instead, we are using answers from an exclusive interview she granted KELOLAND News in September.
Noem wants to make sure her campaign is telling the story of South Dakota and what her administration has accomplished in the last four years.
Noem said that when she campaigned in 2018, she was focused on growing South Dakota’s economy and keeping people in the state.
“We didn’t think a pandemic would come and it would happen in that way, but we really are an example to the country. How we stayed open. We partnered with our businesses and boy, our economy is the best in the country right now,” Noem said.
Noem cited low unemployment as well as being something special South Dakota is doing right now.
In our interview, Noem also spoke of her friendship with former President Donald Trump who she said she still speaks to frequently.
Noem said that she has not asked Trump to help her campaign for her re-election bid. Noem said in a recent conversation with Trump, he said her polling numbers showed she was popular among South Dakotans but he was still more popular in the state.