Who is Kristi Noem, really?

But even as she began to position herself as a national contender in the first months of 2021, Noem’s status as a rising Republican star has been dampened by a number of controversies back home. Most notably, her surprise “style-and-form” veto of House Bill 1217 — a law that would have banned biological males from competing in women’s sports — did serious damage to the young governor’s star power. The move effectively gutted the legislation and hurt her self-styled image as a staunch conservative fighter; Noem was accused of caving to the demands of the NCAA, Amazon, and the number of other powerful left-leaning corporations that had opposed the legislation. For many of those on the right who had viewed her as an island of sanity and courage, the decision was a betrayal.

But some critics in South Dakota now say this was part of an extended pattern for Noem, who has repeatedly sided with big business against social conservatives in the state legislature.

While Noem has gone to great lengths to market herself as an uncompromising champion of conservative values, Republican lawmakers, activists, and others working in the state tell National Review that they have grown increasingly concerned about the governor’s close relationship to business interests with a long record of advocacy for far-left social policy. These concerns go beyond the controversy over HB 1217.