GOP Candidates court USD students’ votes

South Dakota gubernatorial candidate Dennis Daugaard was asking college students to vote, while U.S. House of Representatives candidate Kristi Noem asked students to be educated before they vote.

Both Republican candidates were at the University of South Dakota Tuesday in an event hosted by USD's College Republicans, speaking to a group of about 20 students about the importance of their vote.

"I have an important message – please vote; people have given their lives so we can vote," Daugaard said. "It's a privilege, but also our duty and responsibility."

"Your vote counts, and it can be the difference," he added.

Noem didn't just ask students to get out and vote in between now and Nov. 2. She also urged them to get involved in politics at an early age.

"I was just a little older than you when I started serving on local boards," she said. "Local boards could use your voice, and they need young people to serve because it can make all the difference in the world."

Noem is running against incumbent Stephanie Herseth Sandlin for South Dakota's lone House seat.

"It's a tight race, and you have a choice between two very different candidates," Noem said. "We differ on a lot of issues. You will hear a lot of things, so make sure you are educated before you vote."

Noem is the current assistant majority leader in the South Dakota House of Representatives. She said she is running for the U.S. House because she was tired of complaining about what is happening in Washington.

"I told my kids to don't complain about something, do something instead, and that's what I am doing," she said. "I want to make sure my kids have the same opportunities I did, and Americans want their freedom and liberties back."

The economy has been a focal point of both elections, and it was brought up again during each candidate's speech.

"The economy is the number one issue and it's still recovering," Daugaard said. "Unemployment is still coming down, and what we need is stability and certainty."

Daugaard said the state will once again have a budget deficit because of the recession, but the economy is starting to rebound.

"I've seen a lot of optimism and we are starting to see a few months of growth, but we have a ways to go," he said. "Some candidates talk about fiscal discipline, and you can look at my actions. I have had a lot of experience balancing the budget."

Daugaard said one of the major budgetary issues is the growing Medicaid cost the state is facing.

"The economy has caused people to lose their jobs, and that means they are on the state Medicaid," he said. "Medicaid is one-fourth of the budget, so when that jumps, the budgets jumps as well."

Noem's focus was on South Dakota's smaller businesses that have been dealt a tough blow by the economy.

"Seventy percent of the jobs created are by businesses that employ less than 20 people, so right now it's very difficult for them to expand and reinvest," she said. "My solution is not to raise taxes, but to give job security."

The early voting period is under way, and Daugaard urged students to vote now and not to wait until the Nov. 2 deadline.

In fact, Daugaard has already voted.

"I voted for myself, but my wife wouldn't tell me who she voted for," he chuckled. "I'm hoping she voted for me."

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