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Schoenbeck: Noem Drives People Away, Has No Bright Political Future

Stu Whitney writes a remarkable article on the staff turnover and turmoil that are part and parcel of Kristi Noem’s gubernatoriate, the most image-conscious, attention-hungry, and (in part, thus!) ineffective administrations in South Dakota history. You can slog through the mealy-mouthed excuse-making of Noam toadies, but for the clearest picture of what’s going wrong on the Second Floor, turn to the straight-talking Senate boss, Lee Schoenbeck, who says he just works past Noem instead of getting sucked into her drama:

Lee Schoenbeck, a power broker in the South Dakota Legislature as President Pro Tempore of the Senate, had a telling response when asked about the record pace of staff turnover in Gov. Kristi Noem’s administration, including a prolonged search for a sixth chief of staff less than five years after entering office.

“I don’t communicate with them, so it doesn’t concern me,” Schoenbeck, a Watertown Republican entering his final legislative session in 2024, told News Watch. “The governor made some statements last year that she attributed to me that I thought were not accurate, so I find it more comfortable just to not talk to her” [Stu Whitney, “Noem’s ‘Demanding’ Style Sparks Staff Turnover, Turmoil: ‘It’s a Tough Gig’,” South Dakota News Watch, 2023.07.23].

Schoenbeck doesn’t care if Noem pays attention to him, but he says she ought to address the regular turnover of top staffers imported from out of state:

“It’s not a concern of mine, but it sure should be a concern to the governor,” Schoenbeck said.

“To have a lack of staffers that know South Dakota and understand the issues – that ought to concern her a lot. It’s a tough gig being Kristi Noem’s chief staff. I don’t think it’s a job that has a long shelf life. (Miller) is an easy-going guy and probably had the right personality to handle that for as long as he did” [Whitney, 2023.07.23].

Schoenbeck also offers the very logical conclusion that folks like recently departed chief of staff Mark Miller from Florida and deputy chief of staff Rachel Oglesby from Maryland came here thinking Noem had a national aspiration wagon to which they could hitch their own ambitions but then discovered through working with Noem that no such opportunities for advancement would accrue:

Schoenbeck, a civil lawyer whose legislative experience dates to 1995, said he doesn’t think Miller and Oglesby were scapegoated for Noem’s recent legislative stumbles. He instead mentioned Noem’s national ambitions impacting the issues she prioritizes and the people she hires.

“I always assumed that they came here because they saw some national opportunity, and that star has clearly faded,” Schoenbeck said. “So they moved on to other opportunities” [Whitney, 2023.07.23].

Those departures of sensible technocrats may stem in part from Noem’s pandering to the national Breitbart right, which makes her sound nonsensical and, in Schoenbeck’s eyes, non-South Dakotan:

“Her veto of the Uniform Commercial Code was barely comprehensible to anyone who understands English. And that kind of stuff plays to a very narrow segment of a strange part of the dark world. But it’s not South Dakota. It’s not my state” [link added; Whitney, 2023.07.23].

If you want the truth about Kristi Noem, don’t take the word of Florida toadie who took a paycheck from Noem for three years. Listen instead to a committed South Dakota Republican who has legislated under four Governors. Schoenbeck’s view of Noem’s arrogance and incompetence supports my contention that she’s the worst Governor South Dakota has had in my lifetime.


  1. larry kurtz 2023-07-25

    $20 says this is as much a religious divide as political. If dominionism isn’t being driven by the Roman church how can old school catholics like Lee Schoenbeck support it?

    Mrs. Noem is a scary Protestant preaching the prosperity gospel in a state reliant on the federal government since its creation and it’s going to be that way until Sol goes nova.

  2. larry kurtz 2023-07-25

    Counselor Schoenbeck knows about the black hole the Office of Risk Management created to suck the light out of the Ravnsborg debacle and protect Mrs. Noem’s political assets. He must be incredulous that she’s a popular politician since he’s seen the expenses she’s racked up to fluff her résumé, Botox her bottom and augment her money-makers.

    That Lee Schoenbeck is the only Republican in my home state who’s embarrassed by his governor would come as a shock to this interested party.

  3. Bonnie B Fairbank 2023-07-25

    Oof! Schoenbeck eviscerates Kristi Lynn so neatly and succinctly that, if Her Twitness actually (could) read Stu Whitney’s article, she’d think he admired her and she’d be flattered.

    Also: “gubernatoriate” is TWOTD.

  4. Arlo Blundt 2023-07-25

    It’s pretty rare for a Republican leader to distance themselves and the legislative branch from a Republican Governor. I can remember Speaker Barnett kicking Governor Janklow off the House floor when Janklow invaded Barnett’s preserve to twist arms for one of his pet projects. After a public blow up, and harsh words, Barnett refused most comment to the press about the incident. Senator Schoenbeck continues to belittle and impugn the Governor’s nonsensical leadership of various legislative initiatives. The Uniform Commercial Code fiasco was the last straw for him, apparently.

  5. P. Aitch 2023-07-25

    Watertown elites have been talking this way about Castlewood toadies for a hundred years. Nothing to see here. Keep strollin’.

  6. 96Tears 2023-07-25

    I’ll bet that Senator Schoenbeck wishes he had last summer back for a do-over. He did the right thing by leading the charge to impeach Jason Ravnsborg. He had to go. I think he had plenty of material to also impeach deadbeat Governor Kristi Noem:

    – Interference with the House impeachment process and harassment of its members to speed up Ravnsborg’s impeachment. Ohio phone bank, dark money, campaign billboards, etc.

    – The $200,000 payoff to silence Sharon Bren by refusing to knuckle under to extreme pressure by Noem to allow Noem’s daughter to become an illegally certified appraiser. And lying about it.

    – Abuse of the state airplane for personal and presidential political campaigning. And lying about it.

    – Failure to report expenditures such as using state highway patrol personnel as personal bodyguards on her national campaign stops.

    That’s just for starters from what we’ve seen in the press. Maybe he wouldn’t have had the votes to convict in the Senate, but it sure would have backed Noem into the cage and off of the national stage where she has no business. Yet, here we are. Noem remains unshackled, wasting more state resources and money on a quixotic national campaign that may only result in a political appointment in a federal office or an obscure diplomatic post overseas – only if Trump wins.

    The best time to have impeached Noem was last summer, despite her status as a candidate running for re-election. The second best time, Senator Schoenbeck, is now. Let’s stop the embarrassment. Our state needs a break and we deserve a leader who focuses on what’s best for South Dakota’s future. Noem’s lazy, pointless anti-woke babbling is a continuing setback if you want our state to come together. Like we used to.

  7. John 2023-07-25

    Noem is toast. So are the past generation of politicians using the obsolete raygun ways to solve the new problems.
    The younger generation see right through the hypocrisy and hubris of the old politicians, a corrupt congress, and a supreme court on the take. They are not extremely proud to be American. One cannot blame them.

    American nationalism is on the run. Running a campaign on nationalism is a losing track. WWII nationalism was excusable. Cold War nationalism was barely tolerable. The US hasn’t won a war since WWII, with the exception of the limited strategic goal in the First Gulf War. That’s almost a 70+ year losing record . . . frittering away the nation’s moral authority on wars that either didn’t or hardly mattered to the grand sphere of national defense.
    Folks Identify the top national problem is ‘the lack of consideration of others’.

    Peter Turchin, End Times, and George Friendman, The Storm Before the Calm show that the 2020’s will be turbulent, and that we likely haven’t seen nothing yet.

  8. leslie 2023-07-25

    Why would paramilitary dog-whistler Noem want and get a flamethrower for Christmas, 2022?

    Novels originating from real-life unsolved KKK race murders in the early 60s (when JFK, then later RFK and MLK were assassinated) conclude:

    “The Silver Dollar Group were connected to the [Mississippi/Louisiana] crimes. These were hateful, venomous men. Many dared to call themselves Christian warriors tasked with fighting communism and a federal government that made laws giving blacks equal rights.

    Today I suspect these ilk call themselves “patriots”.

    Before this remarkable Republican dog-whistling racism became “normal” (in Charlottesville, Idaho Three Percenters* etc. chant —You shall not replace us, Jews will not replace us—) exposing this hatred daily in our politics spurned from the right’s desperate last-gasp hold onto conservative power in a democratic nation, Greg Iles said:

    “I’ve always thought it was an absurd irony that white supremacists who always screamed about racial purity saw nothing wrong with having sex and children with black women. They just didn’t want the same thing happening in the other direction.

    White Americans are still reluctant to face the shattering effects of slavery on both black Americans and the country as a whole in the same way that we suppress the true horror of what we inflicted on the American Indian.”

    Unite the Right

    *Three Percenters Barry Croft and Adam Fox took part in a plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer,[57] one being the second-in-command of the Wisconsin branch.[58][59]Colorado congresswoman Lauren Boebert has close ties to the group.[60] Charlottesville marches included members of the alt-right,[12] neo-Confederates,[13] neo-fascists,[14] white nationalists,[15] neo-Nazis,[16] Klansmen,[17] and far-right militias.[18] wiki

    Some of these hate groups were on scene at Cannonball ND. Noem is complicit.

  9. Vi Kingman 2023-07-25

    Noem is what the Republican has become. She, like most Republicans, have no desire to bring people together. For some reason they think being A-holes will make themselves more popular. Maybe with their trailer trash voting block it works, but for most people I don’t think it does work.

  10. Nix 2023-07-26

    I was in a bar in Hayward, WI and when I mentioned where I was from, a guy said
    “Boy, I sure wish your Governor would run for President “
    When I asked him what he liked about her , he
    was as blank as the Fox channel that he watches.
    I think that he just wanted to grab her pussy.

  11. Mark B 2023-07-26

    96, spot on. Nix, have had the same experience multiple times in rural MN and WI.

    It has to end. Nice to hear Schoenbeck comfirm her national wagon has no wheels.

    ‘Fox News Contributor’ will be her only viable future, and she knows it.

    The tv studio in basement of Capitol will be her monument to the least effective governor ever.

    I do wonder how Jackley will ‘adjust the seat and mirrors’ when he takes the wheel…we all know he will..

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