The Republican governor, a potential contender for the White House in 2024, has given numerous television interviews to national media. But at her home state Capitol, where she is proposing a historic tax repeal, new rules on farmland purchases by foreign entities and a series of bills aimed at helping new parents, she did not take questions from reporters in person.
Noem’s withdrawal from a forum that allowed her to face public scrutiny — and justify her proposals — comes after a campaign season in which candidates across the country missed debates. This practice deprives the public of the opportunity to hear politicians answer questions they may not want to answer. Many officials, like Noam, have turned to making their cases public on social media, where they can control their messages.
Noem’s spokesman, Ian Fury, declined to say whether she would hold any press conferences this year, but said an announcement would be made in advance. He did not respond to a request for comment on why she did not host any events this year.
The governor’s weekly news conferences have been held during the state’s 40-day legislative session for decades, said Kevin Woster, a reporter who has covered South Dakota since the late 1970s. Some former governors, such as the bombastic Bill Yanklow, seemed to relish the opportunity to debate the day’s legislative debate with the media, he said.
“The governor and her office are in the middle of the (legislative session) and should be talking about it,” Voster said, adding, “It’s a denial of what the public certainly deserves.”
Traditionally, South Dakota’s Democratic and Republican legislative leaders hold a half-hour news conference on the last day of the week when the legislature is in session. They usually discuss their priorities — sometimes with a few quips at each other — before answering questions from reporters. Then, it’s the governor’s turn.
While both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have continued the practice this year, Noam has not. She also didn’t attend this week’s meeting with the state’s top newspaper editors — an annual gathering she’s attended in past years. The editors, who drove hours from across the mostly rural state, did win over audiences with Republican and Democratic legislative leaders.
Michael Card, a retired Republican political strategist and political science professor, said skipping direct interactions with the media is a missed opportunity for the governor to explain her agenda and creates an information vacuum that leaves room for speculation.
“It’s not a good thing for our democracy,” he said.