OPINION — Where in the world is Kristi Noem?

Have you seen this governor?

On social media, images of Noem on the side of milk cartons are popping up. It’s a takeoff on the efforts used to locate missing kids.

That’s not a laughing matter — and neither is the fact that the governor of South Dakota refuses to let people know where she is while COVID-19 cases run wild in the state.

“At least 9 new coronavirus deaths and 1,270 new cases were reported in South Dakota on Oct. 28,” The New York Times reported. “Over the past week, there have been an average of 994 cases per day, an increase of 61 percent from the average two weeks earlier.”

“As of Thursday morning, there have been at least 42,000 cases and 384 deaths in South Dakota since the beginning of the pandemic, according to a New York Times database.”

I hope someone is keeping our governor informed on this. Seems kinda important. But, she has been busy lately.

Noem has spent a great deal of time this year campaigning for President Donald Trump. She has been popping up in multiple states, making a pitch for Trump.

When reporters ask where she is, her staff says they can’t release that. Security reasons.

Is our governor in Pierre? None of our business.

Is she working for the people of South Dakota or campaigning for Trump? Never you mind.

Is she aware of how bad things are in our state, as we top the list for COVID-19 infections? Who knows?

Noem was in Omaha Tuesday, Oct. 27, as Trump spoke to a large crowd and then left them standing in the severe cold, without enough buses to get them back to their cars. Police were called in to rescue people and some Trump fans ended up in the hospital.

Noem was surely warm and comfortable.

On Wednesday, Oct. 28, she was in Maine and New Hampshire. During the campaign stop in Maine, a man who opposes Trump was cited for waving a fixed-blade knife and baton at three men who approached him. No one was injured.

It turns out one of the men who came at Peter Beitzell, 58, of Bangor, was a South Dakota Highway Patrol trooper. Noem’s spokesman, Ian Fury, said Noem is always accompanied by highway patrol officers to provide security.

“The Governor’s security is always state business,” Fury said on Twitter.

Fury, who came to South Dakota last year after working for other Republican politicians, spends an inordinate amount of time on Twitter bashing South Dakota reporters and arguing with citizens. You’d think he would have more pressing duties, but ...

Security for Gov. Noem seems prudent, given the high emotions lately. But when she is campaigning for Trump, not working for the people and state of South Dakota, who pays the salary and expenses of those troopers?

Us? South Dakota taxpayers? Or the Trump campaign?

We don’t know, since Noem’s team won’t reveal that, either. Security reasons.

She did take $4.5 million from a $1.25 billion federal stimulus payment this summer to pay for trooper salaries.

We do wonder if Trump would pay for the security, anyway. He has stiffed cities across the country, refusing to pay for security and other costs. The total owed tops $1 million.

Trump held a September 2018 rally in Sioux Falls for Noem as she ran for governor — it cost the city more than $20,000. She invited him to Mount Rushmore for a July 3 rally and fireworks show. That Independence Day bash cost South Dakota taxpayers $1.5 million, it was revealed.

Noem has promised it would be paid for by private donors. Turns out, nope.

We at least know where she was Oct. 29-30: Noem was the keynote speaker at the “Winter White House” at Trump’s Mar-A-Lago Club.

The festivities started at 6:30 p.m., and guests were asked to wear cocktail attire. COVID cases in South Dakota likely weren’t a popular topic over drinks and canapés.

On her campaign website, Kristi for Governor, Noem pledged to be a champion of transparency.

“Voters have repeatedly supported government integrity measures at the ballot box. I hear you. As governor, I will build on the recent momentum, working to throw open the doors, not only of the state capital, but also encouraging county commission offices and school boards to give you unprecedented access to the government decision-making process at all levels,” she wrote.

“For nearly a century, South Dakota was known as ‘The Sunshine State,’ a name sewn into our flag until 1992. I want to embrace the spirit of that motto once again, shedding new light on the inner-workings of state and local government through my Sunshine Initiative.”

That sounded good in 2018. It rings hollow in 2020.

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