PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who’s considered a rising star in the Republican Party, formally launched her reelection campaign Friday.
Her campaign said in a statement that she has raised over $10 million since she was elected three years ago. She has more than $6.5 million in cash on hand, the campaign said. She had already said she would seek a second term.
“We have been through challenging times but have also accomplished great things together,” Noem said in the statement. “We’ve embraced fiscal responsibility, protected the freedoms of our people, fought federal government intrusions and invested in the next generation through education, healthcare, expanding broadband, and providing new career opportunities so our children can stay in South Dakota.”
Noem adamantly opposed government-imposed restrictions to respond to the pandemic though she would not forbid private businesses to mandate vaccinations for their own employees.
She closely tied herself to former President Donald Trump. When she staged a fireworks display over Mount Rushmore to celebrate Independence Day last year, she gave Trump an opportunity to personally star in a patriotic display attended by thousands of people.
Noem has also had to contend with questions about a meeting last year that included her daughter, Kassidy Peters, and state employees who were overseeing Peters’ application for a real estate appraiser license. The episode raised concerns from ethics experts about whether Noem had improperly exerted influence.
Noem has said she never requested special treatment for her daughter, dismissing an initial report by The Associated Press on the meeting as a political attack, and cast the episode as part of an attempt to improve the processes for such certifications.
The governor didn’t mention any of the criticism in her announcement, keeping the tone upbeat.
“Together we’re setting an example for the nation,” Noem said in a short campaign video posted Friday. “And we’ll ensure that the next generation of South Dakotans can grow up happy and free.”
After serving in the state legislature, Noem swept into the U.S. House with the tea party wave in 2010 and served eight years. She won the governor’s office with 51 percent of the vote in 2018.