Another Matt Michels? Nope, that’s not what Kristi Noem is looking for as she sorts through possible running mates in her campaign for governor.
Nothing against current Lt. Gov. Matt Michels, but Noem says her lieutenant governor — should she win the general election in the fall — won’t have nearly as much to do in that role as Michels does for Gov. Dennis Daugaard.
“I would do it a little differently maybe than Daugaard and Michels have done it,” Noem says. “I don’t see the lieutenant governor filling as big a role as Michels did. I’m just a believer that there are certain decisions the governor has to make, and so maybe it would be more of a traditional role than what we saw in the last administration.”
Fresh off her June 5 win over state Attorney General Marty Jackley in bristly Republican gubernatorial primary, Noem says she’ll be busy considering possible running mates this week, and has been getting plenty of interest in that slot.
“Everybody’s asking,” she said. “We’re vetting several people right now. So we’ll probably have to make a decision within the next week, before we get to the convention.”
Noem said demographics, geography and work experience will all be part of the discussion. But she has a focus beyond that.
“You’ve got everybody who tells you who you should pick,” she said. “But for me it’s obviously somebody who could do the job in case something happened to me, and then I really want somebody who gets that the job’s not about them; it has to be about serving people. And that’s a little bit of a challenge, to find somebody with that mindset. So, we’re working through it to see who it could be.”
It probably won’t be Marty Jackley, Noem’s opponent in the GOP primary.
“No, probably not,” she sad.
Would there be a place for him in a Noem administration?
“Well, I don’t know if he would want one,” she said. You know, we talked on the phone and stuff, but I don’t know how that would work. We certainly haven’t looked at all the spots in the administration.”
And how about the general-election race against Democratic state Sen. Billie Sutton? She said it will be easier to make contrasts in political and governmental philosophies in the general than it was in the primary, when she and Jackley agreed on a number of fundamental conservative principles.
“It will be more opportunities for contrasts between our viewpoints and what the role of government is in people’s lives,” she said. “You know, that’s just a little bit easier in the fact that a lot of the questions would be what roles will the government have in people’s lives. Billie’s would be that it would take on a much bigger role than what mine would be.”
Unlike the race against Jackley, the state attorney general, Sutton has a voting record that can be discussed, Noem said.
“We both have voting histories now, so that’s a little bit different, because you can really see the contrasts,” she said. “When you have somebody who has a record and actually had to make a decision and vote on something, you know, that has some background perspective.”
I caught Noem for the brief interview Saturday morning at the 100th state convention of the American Legion in Spearfish. There she got high praise for her support for the American Legion, for veterans in general and for the effort to maintain a Veterans Administration health center in Hot Springs.
She even got a bouquet of flowers from Don Ackerman, a Vietnam veteran and leader in the effort to save the Hot Springs VA. Noem told the American Legion gathering that she was still dedicated to that work, too.
“And also what we can do to expand the entire town into becoming a veterans town,” Noem said to the crowd.
After the morning stop at the convention, Noem was heading back to the family farm place near Castlewood for non-political business.
“I’m going to go home and pull some weeds and fix some fence and go to church in the morning,” she said.
And, she’s going to start working on a family rummage sale.
“I know that sounds really strange but suddenly everything in our house is driving me crazy. So, you know, I haven’t had a rummage sale for eight or nine years, And I’m looking at all the stuff and going, ‘why do we have this stuff?’” she said. “So the kids and I are going to spend Sunday afternoon getting ready for the next weekend, so they can have a rummage sale and de-clutter. It sounds exciting doesn’t it? Aren’t we just like the typical family?”
Noem said she won’t just take a couple of days off to do nothing.
“We probably should. But I’m not real good at that even when I’m home,” she said. “And you know the stuff at home gets behind. So you get home and you start looking at things — the landscaping, and the horses need to their shots and to get wormed and have their feet done.”
But work at home is different than work in Congress or on the campaign trail, she said, “so it’s still relaxing.”
And when the campaign picks up, there won’t be much time for that.
Or for another rummage sale.