Kristi Lynn Arnold Noem (born November 30, 1971) is the U.S. Representative for South Dakota's At-large congressional district, serving since January 2011. She is a member of the Republican Party and has been elected to the Republican Leadership for the 112th Congress as one of its two freshman representatives. She previously represented the 6th District in the South Dakota House of Representatives for four years, serving as an Assistant Majority Leader during her final year. She is a farmer, rancher and small business owner by profession.
Early life, education, and farming career
She was born to Ron and Corinne Bergan Arnold in Watertown, South Dakota and was raised with her three siblings on the family ranch and farm in rural Hamlin County. Growing up, she participated in rodeo queen events, learning horsemanship and interview skills.
She graduated from Hamlin High School in 1990, and won the South Dakota Snow Queen title, which required that she enroll in a state university and promote the state during her reign. She credited the experience with helping her polish her public speaking and promotional skills.
After high school, she enrolled at Northern State University. She married Bryon Noem at the age of 20, then left college at age 22 to help run her family's ranch after her father was killed in a farm machinery accident. A former Democrat, Noem named her eldest daughter Kennedy.
Upon her father's death, Noem has said she and her family members decided to take out a loan to pay taxes owning on the estate, noting that "for 10 years that loan really impacted our ability to make a profit". The property has also received $3,058,152 in USDA farm subsidies from 1995 through 2009.
Over the years, Noem added a hunting lodge and restaurant to the property, and all of her siblings have moved back to assist in expanding the businesses.
After her early marriage, Noem stopped attending college full-time but has, over the years, taken classes at Mount Marty College, The University of South Dakota, and South Dakota State University. She is taking an online course and receiving intern credits for her work in Congress, leading the Washington Post to dub her Capitol Hill's "Most Powerful Intern." She is on track to graduate in May 2012.
South Dakota House of Representatives
Noem entered political life by serving on local committees and boards. In 2006, she won a seat in the South Dakota House of Representatives representing the 6th District. In 2006, she won ranked first with 39% of the vote. In 2008, she won re-election to a second term, ranking first with 41% of the vote.
The 6th District, (comprising Beadle, Clark, Codington, Hamlin, and Kingsbury counties, but not including the city of Watertown).
She served for four years, from 2007 to 2010, and was an Assistant Majority Leader during her last year.
According to the Daily Caller, Noem was noted for being a tough and knowledgeable state legislator. She publicly accused a state senator of a conflict of interest during a legislative hearing thus killing his effort to stop the construction of an Indian casino. In 2009 and 2010 she sponsored bills to lower the age of compulsory education in South Dakota to 16, after it had been raised to 18 in 2008, arguing that requiring school attendance until age 18 has not been proven to improve graduation rates. Supporters of the higher age argue that it increases graduation rates and provides motivation for students who would otherwise drop out.
- State Affairs Committee
- Taxation Committee
U.S. House of Representatives
On June 8, 2010, Noem ran for South Dakota's at-large seat in the U.S.
House of Representatives. She won the Republican primary with a plurality of 42% of the vote against South Dakota Secretary of State Chris Nelson and State Representative Blake Curd. According to Sabato's Crystal Ball blog, Noem's "victory over two A-list opponents" was impressive. Her primary opponents endorsed her in the general election.
Noem's opponent, incumbent Democrat U.S. Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, emphasized her own record of independence from the Democratic caucus including her no votes on health care reform, the Wall Street bailouts, and the cap-and-trade energy bill. Washington Post story on the race described Noem as "a made-for-Fox News star" and compared her to former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.
In response, Noem repeatedly highlighted Herseth Sandlin's vote for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House. A
During the 2010 election cycle, Noem out-raised Herseth Sandlin $2.3 million to $2.1 million. Of those totals, Noem received 84 percent of her cash from individual contributors while Herseth Sandlin received 56% from political action committees. Mitt Romney's PAC made a donation to Noem's campaign, and Romney endorsed her.
Gallup polls in June 2010 showed Republican candidates ahead of their Democratic counterparts due to dissatisfaction with President Obama. Polls conducted by Rasmussen Reports consistently gave a Noem a slight edge over Herseth Sandlin following the June GOP primary, with Noem pulling ahead 47 percent to 44 percent in early October. Critics said the Rasmussen firm's surveying methods were erratic and tended to favor Republican candidates. Noem defeated Herseth Sandlin 48%-46%.
She is running for re-election to a second term. No Republican and two Democrats have filed so far.
Noem and fellow freshman congressman Tim Scott of South Carolina, were elected by acclamation of the 2011 House Republican 87-member freshman class to be liaisons to the House Republican leadership—making Noem the second woman member of House GOP leadership. According to The Hill Noem's role was to push the leadership to make significant cuts to federal government spending and to help Speaker John Boehner manage the expectations of the freshman class.
On March 2, 2011, Republican Congressman Pete Sessions of Texas named Noem one of the twelve regional directors for the National Republican Congressional Committee during the 2012 election campaign.
- Health care
Noem fulfilled a campaign promise by voting in January 2011 to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Though the repeal was not signed into law, she has stated that she will work with the House members to defund the health care reform, while retaining measures she supports such as the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, the provision allowing parents to keep their children on their health insurance plan into their 20s and the high-risk pools. New provisions that Noem wants to add to federal law include limits on medical malpractice lawsuits and allowing patients to buy health insurance plans from other states. She supports cuts to Medicaid funding proposed by Republican Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan that would reduce benefits for South Dakota Medicaid recipients by 55 percent.
- Spending and taxes
Noem calls the budget deficit one of the most important issues facing Congress, and is a cosponsor of H.J.Res. 2, which would require that total spending for any fiscal year not exceed total receipts. She cites the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Veterans Affairs, Medicaid, high-speed rail projects, cap-and-trade technical assistance, and subsidies for the Washington Metro rapid transit system as examples of a federal programs where she would like to see spending cuts.
She has indicated that she would vote to raise the federal spending limit.
Noem wants to eliminate the estate tax, lower the corporate tax rate, and simplify the tax code to make it less cumbersome. She has also stated that she would not raise taxes to balance the budget.
- Social issues
On the issue of abortion, Noem is pro-life. She has the support of Susan B. Anthony List. She stated after her election that she hopes to maintain a 100 percent pro-life voting record. During her career in South Dakota State Legislature, Noem opposed various attempts to end capital punishment in the state.
She disagrees with gun regulation.
- Energy and environment
Noem has stated that the U.S. must end its dependence on foreign oil. To achieve that goal, Noem says Congress should encourage conservation of existing resources. Noem believes the U.S. government should also offer incentives for new ideas. She also supports continuing ethanol subsidies that benefit her state. Noem opposes ending federal subsidies for oil companies.
Noem opposes a bill introduced by South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson that would designate over 48,000 acres (190 km2) of the Buffalo Gap National Grassland as protected wilderness. Noem supports the current designation of the land as a national grassland. She points out that the land is already managed as roadless areas similar to wilderness. Noem argues that raising the land's designation from protected grassland to wilderness will further limit leaseholders access to the land and further imperil grazing rights.
Noem supports off-shore oil drilling. Noem has co-sponsored three bills that she argues will reduce American dependence on foreign oil by ending the 2010 United States deepwater drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico and re-opening sales on oil leases in the Gulf and off the coast of Virginia.
- Foreign affairs
Noem supported the American military intervention in 2011 conflict in Libya, but questioned whether America intervened to protect civilians, or whether the U.S. military will try to remove Libya's leader, Muammar Gaddafi. In March 2011, Noem called on the President to provide more information about America's role in the conflict, characterizing his statements as vague and ambiguous.
Since her election, Noem has raised 56 percent of donations from individuals and 44 percent from political action committees.
On March 8, 2011, Noem announced the formation of a leadership political action committee called KRISTI PAC. Noem said she will use the PAC to pay expenses and support other Republican candidates. Former South Dakota Lieutenant Governor Steve Kirby is the treasurer of the PAC.
Noem was among the top freshman Republicans in PAC fundraising in the first quarter of 2011, raising $169,000 from PACs and hosting at least 10 Washington fundraisers.
She is a member of the conservative Republican Study Committee. She has said she has no plans to join the House Tea Party Caucus.
Noem lives with her husband and their three children on the Racota Valley Ranch near Castlewood. As of 2009, she had a 16.9 percent ownership stake in the ranch. Her recreational interests include hunting.
From 1989 to 2010, Noem received 27 traffic citations, including 20 for speeding, as well as several for stop sign and seat belt violations, and no driver's license. She also received failure to appear notices, and two arrest warrants were issued. Noem said, "I'm not proud of my driving record, but [I've] been working hard to be a better example to young kids and young drivers out there." She had paid her fines and penalties by August 2010.
February 8, 2012