Conservative political star Trey Gowdy and South Dakota’s Kristi Noem traded compliments Monday in Rapid City, as the two attended meetings with local law enforcement officials and an evening political fundraiser.

Gowdy, of South Carolina, and Noem are both Republicans who have been serving in the U.S. House of Representatives since each was first elected in 2010.

Noem is running for governor in 2018 rather than for re-election to the House. Gowdy was scheduled to be her featured guest Monday evening during a fundraiser at the Vertex Sky Bar atop the Hotel Alex Johnson in downtown Rapid City. Invitations to the event listed suggested contributions of $500 per person and $1,000 per couple to Noem’s gubernatorial campaign.

Prior to the evening fundraiser, Noem and Gowdy participated in a closed roundtable discussion with local and area law enforcement officials and privately toured the Western South Dakota Juvenile Services Center in Rapid City.

During a news conference at the juvenile center, Gowdy said he had not previously visited South Dakota, and he alluded to difficulties he encountered while traveling to the state by air.

“The rule I have when I travel is, 'Do I like the person who invited me to come to his or her district?' And, 'Do I respect the person who invited me to his or her district?'" Gowdy said. “And when the answer to both of those is 'yes,' I’m even willing to go through Chicago to get to their district.”

Gowdy’s national profile rose in 2014 when he became chairman of a House select committee to investigate the 2012 attacks by Islamic militants on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya. The attacks resulted in the deaths of four Americans — including a U.S. ambassador — and occurred while Hillary Clinton, a Democrat, was the U.S. secretary of state.

The committee’s final report, which was critical of the Clinton-led State Department’s failure to adequately protect diplomats in Libya, was issued in June 2016 during the presidential campaign that ultimately pitted Clinton against the eventual winner, Donald Trump, a Republican.

Noem called Gowdy “a very powerful and influential person in Washington, D.C.”

“One of the reasons we invited Trey to come here today is because I do think very highly of him,” Noem said. “When he speaks about something in Congress, people sit up and listen. He has a lot of credibility.”

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Gowdy is a former U.S. federal prosecutor. In Noem’s campaign for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, her main rival — judging by campaign finance reports — is South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley.

Gowdy said he learned from South Dakota law enforcement officials during conversations with them Monday and was impressed by their innovative spirit, as evidenced by programs such as the 24/7 Sobriety Project, which uses monitoring and testing to keep some repeat substance abusers in their communities and out of jails and prison.

Gowdy said he has been impressed by Noem, too, during their time together in the House.

“She has not changed one iota in the almost seven years that we have been in Congress,” Gowdy said. “And that is about the highest compliment that I can pay anyone, that Washington has not changed her one bit.”

Contact Seth Tupper at seth.tupper@rapidcityjournal.com

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Enterprise Reporter

Enterprise reporter for the Rapid City Journal.