The growing war of words between Republican South Dakota Congresswoman Kristi Noem and Democratic challenger Matt Varilek has flared up again...with Varilek on the offensive....saying Noem is not meeting the minimum requirements for the job. As you might imagine, Noem isn't taking any of this lying down.
Matt Varilek is again going after Kristi Noem, on the issue of attendance, saying she frequently misses House Ag Committee meetings at a time when farming is one of South Dakota's biggest industries. But he asserts, even when she does attend the meetings, she is not effective because she doesn't speak up. "The few times she did attend, she didn't ask a single question of a witness and didn't make a single statement on behalf of south Dakota's agricultural interests. Not one."
Via telephone from Washington, Noem tells me she doesn't fully understand Varilek's talk....about whether she talks or not. "I tell you Brian, I didn't go to Washington to talk. I went to Washington to get stuff done for the people of South Dakota."
Varilek believes by not being more vocal, Noem is placing South Dakota farmers at the mercy of other Washington lawmakers, who will fight for their own states interests and says he wants to ask Noem about her three predecessors. "How is it that when Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, Bill Janklow and John Thune were freshmen in the House Ag Committee, all of them took active roles-- asking questions and making statements on behalf of South Dakota ag interests and you did not?"
I put that question to Noem over the phone and she says her fingerprints will be all over the new federal farm bill...that a lack of speaking up in a committee meeting doesn't mean she isn't working on farm issues South Dakotans care about. She tells me sometimes it comes down to a matter of schedules...something she says Matt Varilek knows about in his role as a former congressional staffer. "I serve on three committees and nine sub-committees, much more than the average member out here. I try to be in two laces at one time but I just haven't figured out a way to get that done."
Noem says she wants Varilek to talk about solutions to the big problems facing the U-S: the budget, medicare, jobs. Varilek says he wants to work on those issues too....because in his mind, Noem is not living up to the promise she made to South Dakotans when she took office 17 months ago. "With only one voice in the U-S House, this is also a critical time when great responsibility rests on the shoulders of our one voice in the U-S House, Kristi Noem."
Noem says this issue is Matt Varilek's favorite topic to talk about. Varilek says he is talking about it because being visible and vocal is part of the job.
2012 KSFY News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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