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South Dakota governor's race heats up in competing TV ads

Two new advertisements in the span of a week and a ratcheting up of attacks focused on record mean it just might be election season.

The Jamie Smith and Kristi Noem campaigns released competing ads this past week.
Composite image / Forum News Service
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — As the countdown to Election Day nears the three-month mark, Republican Gov. Kristi Noem and her opponent, Rep. Jamie Smith, D-Sioux Falls, are trading blows in new television advertisements, giving voters a preview of the messaging each campaign will lean on to gain an upper hand.

Smith goes after Noem's record in first TV ad

In its introductory television advertisement , a 30-second spot released July 27, the Smith campaign took aim at his opponent’s record. Featuring two men seated at a bar, the conversation included barbs at Noem’s frequent travel outside of South Dakota, her use of the “state jet” and her decision to hire her daughter in 2018.

“We went with this route because this is what we're hearing across the state regardless of party,” Alex Matson, the communications director for the Smith campaign, told Forum News Service on July 27. “We've had Republicans come up to Jamie and say, ‘I don't agree with where you stand on most issues, but I'm going to vote for you, because at least I know where you stand. And at least I know that you will be in the state.’”

Ian Fury, the communications director for the Noem campaign, pointed Forum News Service to an article in the conservative blog Dakota War College taking issue with the Smith campaign’s use of the word "jet" to describe the 2015 King Air 350 Turboprop purchased by the state for $4.7 million in 2021.

Noem's daughter, Kennedy, and her son-in-law, Kyle Peters, both worked stints in the governor's office, although neither are still employed.


The Smith campaign says further ad buys will depend on the success of fundraising.

On Aug. 2, the Noem campaign released JamieandJoe.com , a self-explanatory page making numerous ties between Smith and President Joe Biden. The strategy to tie Smith and other state Democrats to their national counterparts figures to play heavily in the Noem campaign’s messaging.

Noem touts 'best economy in America' in new ad

On Aug. 1, the Noem campaign released its second advertisement of the cycle, featuring Noem’s mother.

Corinne Arnold said the campaign had to “get the message about in a big way” about Noem’s successes in her first term as governor. Arnold said that includes South Dakota having the nation’s best economy and the lowest unemployment rate. Recently released data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics has the state’s unemployment rate at 2.3%, ranking sixth-lowest in the nation. The rate has held relatively constant for the past four months.

"We just want to continue highlighting the success the state's economy has seen under her leadership," Fury said.

As a whole, claims of South Dakota sporting the nation’s best economy partially stem from an 8.5% growth in personal income over the first quarter of 2022, as well as a 12% growth in sales tax receipts over the past fiscal year. However, real GDP shrank 3.5% over that same period. While real output was negative in nearly every state in the first quarter, South Dakota’s contraction was outdone by just eight states.

In a presentation to the Joint Committee on Appropriations, the Bureau of Finance and Management predicted a slowing of growth in the coming year. The predictions from the Bureau of Finance and Management were less optimistic, estimating sales tax growth at 2.2% and overall revenue growth at 0.4%.

The state has a mixed record in rankings that attempt to paint a full picture of economic health. In the US News and World Report ranking , the state placed 30th in the nation’s best economies. The “Rich States, Poor States: ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index ,” which weighs taxation policy quite heavily, has the state in 12th place.


It was the first time Noem’s mother has been featured in a television ad. Aldys Arnold, Noem's grandmother, starred in a 2012 campaign ad for Noem's re-election bid for Congress.

After heading to Rapid City for the debate, Gov. Kristi Noem left the state for a campaign event with gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake in Arizona. The move drew criticism from some who pointed to Noem's implication in September that recovery from back surgery would curtail her ability to travel for several months.

Jason Harward is a Report for America corps reporter who writes about state politics in South Dakota. Contact him at 605-301-0496 or jharward@forumcomm.com.

Jason Harward covers South Dakota news for Forum News Service. Email him at jharward@forumcomm.com.
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