Matt and Kristi get closer

Matt Varilek and Kristi Noem spent some more quality time together Friday.

The two candidates for South Dakota’s lone U.S. House seat held a debate in Rapid City. It was sponsored by the RC Journal, and drew interest from media across the state. It’s their second genuine debate, but third joint appearance.

The candidates also drew closer in a new poll by Nielson Brothers Polling, which reported that Varilek has slightly closed the gap in the race. Republicans repeatedly bash and scorn NBP numbers, claiming they’re skewed to aid Democrats. The Democrats, however, are unusually silent about the polls.

During Friday’s congressional debate, both candidates said the other was spreading misinformation about them. ┬áIt’s an occupational hazard in politics, as people who oppose you will say anything to get elected. Even the truth.

Rep. Noem, who stressed a need for bipartisanship during a stop in Mitchell Wednesday, also accused Varilek of being a Democrat who supports President Obama. That’s a harsh charge to many South Dakotans, especially in West River, where the Republicans have large majorities and the support of a lot of big-dollar backers.

Varilek tried to dodge the question, as he did at the State Fair and during interviews i have had with him. He supports Obama personally, he will admit, but said he would be an independent voice in Congress.

Varilek repeated his charge that Noem has been a no-show in too many meetings and has failed to do much good for SD in Congress. She has missed numerous committee meetings, but Noem claims she has a 99 percent voting record in committees and 98 percent on the House floor.

She said when she has missed a meeting, it was because she was otherwise engaged, plus she didn’t go to Washington to sit in on meetings. Still, she has responded to Varilek’s charge, which means it has had an impact.

Here’s a list of key votes Noem cast in Congress and the South Dakota House of Representatives. It’s a nice resource from votesmart.org.

Kristi and Matt — we call our public employees by their first names in this state, and they deign to allow it — will get together for nice, friendly chats twice more, on Oct. 18 on SDPTV, and on Nov. 2 on KELO.

The exchanges are sure to grow more heated as Nov. 6 draws nigh, and more charges, counter-charges, denials, and expressions of outrage are sure to follow. This race may well be close and getting closer.

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