KELOLAND News is helping you get to know the candidates on November’s ballot better.
Republican Kristi Noem, Democrat Billie Sutton and Libertarian Kurt Evans are running to become South Dakota’s next governor. For more information about all three candidates, KELOLAND News sent out a survey with a variety of questions. Each candidate got the same questions and we’ve provided their unedited responses below.
Kurt Evans has not yet responded; we’ll update this story when he submits answers.
Name: Kristi Noem
Family: Husband: Bryon; 3 Kids: Kassidy, Kennedy, Booker
Occupation: Farmer / Rancher / Small business owner
What were the best and worst parts of your first job? Best part: Working with my dad on the farm. He was always someone I aspired to be, working day-in and day-out to build a better life for his kids. Worst part: Cleaning out the feedlots. That’s never a fun job.
Why are you running for office? I have some big ideas for our state. Our education system can serve kids better. We need to deal with the mental health crisis and get a handle on our drug addiction issue. We need to be getting people into good jobs and off of government assistance. We need to focus on workforce development and make sure families have affordable housing and quality healthcare. And we don’t need tax hikes to solve these problems. We don’t need more government at the state or federal level. What we need is genuine accountability. We need innovative thinking and experienced leadership. That’s why I’m in this race.
What issue do you consider your top priority? We need to declare a war on drugs in this state. In my plan to improve public safety, I’ve laid out a number of ideas on this front. I want to close the gateways, implement research-based drug prevention programs, support specialty courts, expand residential and family-based treatment options, and end the cycle of crime. You can learn more at kristiforgovernor.com/theplan.
What is an issue that is important that doesn’t get the attention you think it deserves? Our next governor will be able to appoint two South Dakota Supreme Court justices, as well as a handful of judges. Those appointments are critically important, but it hasn’t received a lot of discussion. We’ve seen what the Democratic Party has attempted to do with the judicial system. We need a governor who will stand up for our South Dakota values.
Who is a person from the opposite political party who you respect? JFK said it best when he said “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
What is one fact about yourself you think would be a surprise to voters? My sister, Cindy, and I made it to the final auditions for the Amazing Race!
What is your favorite place in South Dakota? Hands down. Custer State Park.
Name: Billie Sutton
Family: I’ve been married to my best friend and the love of my life, Kelsea, for six years. Together, we have a two-year old son, Liam.
Occupation: I am an investment executive at our local bank in Burke where I help farmers, ranchers, businesses and area families plan for their futures.
What were the best and worst parts of your first job? I’ve always loved working with animals, so of course my first job off the ranch as a kid was at the Burke salebarn. The best part was working with cattle and my friends, and the worst part was the cold weather in the winter.
Why are you running for office? I’m running for governor to put my values of hard work, honesty, and integrity to work for the people of our great state. I believe we can do better than the status quo and politics as usual. I believe in growing the state’s economy, supporting agriculture, strengthening our rural communities, investing in education, and cleaning up the corruption in Pierre so our state government is as honest as the hardworking people of our state. I’m running for governor for all those who believe as I do that the system is broken and together we can rise to the occasion, meet our challenges, and build a stronger South Dakota.
What issue do you consider your top priority? I consider cleaning up state government and restoring integrity my top priority, because we can’t make our state better without the trust of our people. We first need to regain South Dakotans’ trust in state government and restore its integrity. That’s why I made transparency in government a central priority in my time in the legislature and why it’s at the core of this campaign. South Dakota needs a leader in the governor’s office willing to fight for the type of open, honest, and accessible government South Dakotans deserve. I’ve fought to end corruption, ensure appropriate oversight, limit money in politics, and keep our records and disclosures open and honest. I have a record of championing trust and transparency and that will follow me into the governor’s office.
What is an issue that is important that doesn’t get the attention you think it deserves? Education is a critically important investment in our people and our economy that does not get prioritized in the state like it should. We spend a lot of time talking about it, but not enough time doing anything to make sure our people have opportunities to make better lives for their families. If elected governor, my administration will prioritize action in early childhood, K-12, higher education, and lifelong learning in the state. It’s a tremendous tool that pays dividends to our people and our state economy.
Who is a person from the opposite political party who you respect? I respect a lot of my colleagues across the aisle, but I especially respected the late Senator Craig Tieszen, who we lost to a tragic accident last year. While serving in the legislature, Senator Tieszen was honest, fair, bipartisan, and possessed great integrity. He died a hero. I respect him greatly, his service to our state, and admire his meaningful legacy.
What is one fact about yourself you think would be a surprise to voters? Since I’m so often associated with my rodeo past, I think South Dakotans would be surprised to know that I also love skiing. I tried adaptive skiing (recumbent skiing for people who use a wheelchair or have difficulty walking) for the first time a few years ago and I loved it. I’ve participated in the Cowboy Downhill, an annual competition of “ski rodeo” in Steamboat Springs, several times. It’s been a blast.
What is your favorite place in South Dakota? My favorite place in South Dakota is Burke. It’s where I grew up and where I learned my core values of community, faith, hard work, and perseverance. Burke and the surrounding area were the communities that supported me after my rodeo accident when my life changed completely. It’s where I became the person I am today and it will always be home.