Aberdeen American: “During House debate, Varilek ducks Noem’s question about Obama” By Bob Mercer, 10/13/12
The last question of their debate Friday might have delivered the defining moment for the two candidates seeking South Dakota’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Kristi Noem, the Republican incumbent Kristi Noem, asked Democratic challenger Matt Varilek to name three ways re-election of President Barack Obama would be good for South Dakota. Varilek refused to give even one.
Instead he tried to re-cast the challenge as a contest between Noem and himself. Varilek confirmed that as “a private citizen” he is voting for Obama but spent most of his two minutes of response re-attacking Noem on issues such as federal tax rates and budget cuts. “The bottom line is I will answer to the people of South Dakota first and foremost,” Varilek said. Obama lost the 2008 Democratic presidential primary in South Dakota to Hillary Clinton 45 percent to 55 percent. Obama also lost in the general election in South Dakota to Republican John McCain 45 percent to 53 percent. Noem and Varilek spoke together for about 75 minutes Friday in their only debate in western South Dakota of the 2012 campaign. The noon event at University Center was coordinated by the Rapid City Journal. Noem and Varilek were aggressive throughout the debate and repeatedly threw the words “false” and “falsehood” at each other but stopped short of labeling the other as a liar.
All but the final two questions were posed by moderator Ryan Clark, an assistant professor at Black Hills State University. Varilek spent much of his time painting the first-term congresswoman as someone who missed many meetings of the committees to which she is assigned. He said she contributed to the House’s failure to hold a vote on a new farm bill. “I’m going to make sure our voice is heard again,” Varilek said. Noem said she had a 99 percent record of voting in the committees and a 98 percent record of voting on the House floor. She said her committee attendance was “a false issue” and said the farm bill is “my number-one priority.” “I’m not going to sit through a meeting just to sit through a meeting,” Noem said. Noem used part of her time to portray Varilek as favoring a national energy tax. She referred to several reports that Varilek authored about carbon credits and climate change. Varilek tried to defend his writings by saying he was merely working as “a journalist” in producing those analyses. He said his role wasn’t any different than Rapid City Journal reporter Kevin Woster, who was standing in a doorway taking notes on the debate. Varilek’s official campaign biography on his website doesn’t make any mention of any work as a journalist, however, other than as a paper boy. The Varilek biography does list four years spent as a market analyst at an energy commodities trading company.