Kristi Noem
credit: Shutterstock

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem continues ramping up her conservative political presence, this time by sucking up to the National Rifle Association.

On Friday, Noem was in Indianapolis at the NRA convention and gave a speech at the organization’s leadership forum. Her remarks, which she previewed to a New Hampshire radio show, would focus on the history of the Second Amendment.

“I don’t know of any other grandma that’s going to be standing there giving a speech to the NRA. I don’t know of any other mom standing there talking about these things,” Noem told Good Morning NH. “I’m a different kind of messenger for the NRA, but I am the NRA.”

Here’s a snippet of her eye-rolling speech:

On Thursday, Noem also received the 2023 NRA Distinguished Hunters Leadership Award for her pro-hunting (and pro-gun) legislation in South Dakota.

Noem also signed an executive order during her NRA speech to “further protect the Second Amendment rights of South Dakotans,” per spokesperson Ian Fury. The exact details are unclear, but knowing Noem’s political history, it’s sure to keep pulling South Dakota to the right — and potentially put Noem in the national spotlight.

Noem’s pandering to the NRA comes as Americans’ dissatisfaction with gun laws has hit a new high.

Though we don’t yet know who all will be running in the 2024 election, political parties are already weighing their options, and Noem is shaping up to be a contender for the GOP. She was previously rumored to be on Donald Trump’s shortlist for running mates (the one term, twice impeached former president has already announced his 2024 run for re-election), but the latest poll numbers out of South Dakota show that she may be setting her sights higher than the vice presidency.

A new survey from South Dakota State University asked registered South Dakota voters for their feelings on five prominent candidates for the Republican nomination: Noem, Trump, Florida Gov. Ron “Don’t Say Gay” DeSantis, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, and Texas senator Ted Cruz. The candidates were rated on a “feelings thermometer” from 0 to 100. Noem led the pack with a score of 77, followed by DeSantis with 66, Trump and Cruz with 57 each, and Haley with 54.

Noem coming out on top makes sense in South Dakota considering her home-field advantage. But it also shows that she has the power to win out over GOP favorites like DeSantis and Trump, at least at a small scale. If she can build her national name recognition, Noem could prove a serious challenger in 2024.

That would be bad news for LGBTQ+ folks across the country. Noem is notoriously anti-trans: last week, she promised to fight President Biden’s plan to forbid schools from completely banning trans athletes. And last month, Noem signed a bill to outlaw gender-affirming care for transgender kids and teens in South Dakota and force doctors currently administering gender-affirming care to minors to stop by December 31, effectively forcing those patients to detransition.

Despite her blatant transphobia, Noem refuses to face the tangible impact her discrimination has on LGBTQ+ people in her state. At a press conference last February, a reporter confronted Noem with the statistic that nearly 90% of LGBTQ+ folks in South Dakota experience depression, the highest rate in the country.

“Why do you think that is?” the reporter asked.

“I don’t know,” Noem replied. “That makes me sad and we should figure it out.” Clearly, Noem has no empathy for the plight of her LGBTQ+ constituents — and that apathy could be even more disastrous if she makes a play for the presidency.

Don't forget to share:

Help make sure LGBTQ+ stories are being told...

We can't rely on mainstream media to tell our stories. That's why we don't lock Queerty articles behind a paywall. Will you support our mission with a contribution today?

Cancel anytime · Proudly LGBTQ+ owned and operated