The South Dakota State Fair is a big tradition with its SD Farmers Union sponsored debate dating back to the 1950s. Its events featured candidates like Tom Daschle, Jim Abdnor and former governor Bill Janklow.
When this year's candidates, Matt Varilek and Rep. Kristi Noem, were asked to debate at the state fair, Noem said no.
The state fair debate is one of the fair's biggest draws, Noem's decline was something Union President Doug Sombke didn't see coming.
"It was quite a shock to be quite honest with you. We've never had anyone decline an invitation to one of our debates," Doug Sombke said.
For thousands of the union's members, he said it's important both candidates be there to address topics farmers want to know about, like deficit problems, the drought and the farm bill.
We sat down with Noem to ask her why she won't be going.
"We're looking to make sure we're doing them with fair and non-biased, non-partisan organizations. We want to make sure the people have the opportunity to see the candidates and see the debates and talk about our contrasting points of view," Rep. Noem said.
"We're not partisan by any means. We have as many, if not more republicans on our membership as we do democrats. For us to say we're partisan, that goes against anything that is true," Sombke said.
They're not speculating why she's not going. They are, however, carrying on as planned but says her invitation is still open.
"The more debates you can have for voters to understand your position, the better you will be, we would think," Sombke said.
Other debates they plan to attend are Mitchell's DakotaFest on Wednesday August 22nd and one in mid-October sponsored by South Dakota Public Broadcasting.
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