What’s harder: running South Dakota, or running for reëlection in South Dakota as a Republican against a Democrat?
The answer for Kristi Noem should be running South Dakota. Beating Democratic candidate Jamie Smith and Libertarian candidate Tracey Quint should be a trivial matter of showing up for a few parades, batting her Snow Queen eyelashes, joining the chants of “Let’s Go Brandon,” and—done! elected 60–40.
It’s governing that busts Kristi’s chops. Despite her party’s domination of state government, Noem seems to have an extraordinarily hard time passing legislation, crafting effective policy, winning even trivial court cases, and avoiding corruption. Focusing for more than a decade on winning elections has left her without the skills to govern effectively.
But instead of improving her governing skills and surrounding herself with competent policy advisors, Noem is expanding her campaign staff to help her put more lipstick on the pig of her record. She’s pulling two state employees out of the Second Floor and putting them to work on her campaign:
Two members of Governor Kristi Noem’s administration are taking a leave of absence — to work on her re-election campaign. Communications director Ian Fury and director of operations Ben Koisti will be moving to paid positions on Noem’s campaign beginning on June 24.
…Fury indicated that he and Koisti will be with the campaign through November and plan to return to the administration after the election. Fury clarified that he and Koisti’s leave from state government will be unpaid.
Filling in for Fury in the interim will be DPS spokesperson Tony Mangan [Jacob Newton, “Noem Staff Moving from Admin to Campaign,” KELO-TV, 2022.06.17].
Fury says Mangan will continue to do his DPS duties as well, suggesting that whatever work Fury’s been doing for $127,500 a year is really just part-time. As for Koisti’s work scheduling Noem’s husband Bryon, well, we’ve seen how vitally important that work has been for the Republic.
But what real value is there for these flunkies to add to Noem’s reëlection campaign? Pre-primary, Noem had 70 times as much cash on hand as Smith ($7.8M vs. $110K); in the three weeks leading up to the primary, Noem outraised Smith 10 to 1.
But I suppose Kristi has to spend all that money on something, and she can’t be seen writing checks to Corey Lewandowski. The Noem campaign may be down one man: it’s been nearly two months since the rumored firing of Noem’s out-of-state campaign manager Joe Desilets. Desilets still labels himself as Noem’s campaign leader on his online profiles, but he hasn’t appeared as the media contact on a Noem campaign press release since April 11.
Meanwhile, the guy Noem hired last year from Texas to direct her gubernatorial communications is leaving state government as well, permanently. Noem spent $30K on a Republican consultant from Kansas just to find Jordan Overturf, who bragged on his Instagram that he “left Texas for a state with more rodeos, more cowboys, and more freedom.” Overturf, whose duties appeared to dwindle from lying on mic to adjusting the flag, evidently found all this freedom overwhelming:
In other news, Jordan Overturf will return to Texas to take on a “new opportunity,” and live closer to family. His last day with the Governor’s Office will be Tuesday, July 5 and Fury wrote, “We will miss him and wish him the best!” [Kesia Cameron, “Staffing Shifts in the Capitol Building, Noem’s Campaign Underway,” KSFY, 2022.06.17]
Reducing her own executive staff by three FTEs makes clear that Noem has bloated the Executive Branch with people who aren’t there to do real policy or public service but just to prop up her image. Moving two of those posers to her campaign at least honestly states Noem’s selfish priorities. But it also emphasizes what a sloppy gravy train her perpetual million-dollar cross-country campaign must be. If Noem needs to cannibalize her official staff and bulk up her campaign to battle Jamie Smith, the Democratic candidate may be making more progress among voters than conventional wisdom would suggest.