SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A retired Army officer who served in Iraq is preparing to launch a congressional bid against incumbent Rep. Kristi Noem.
Corinna Robinson plans to make a formal announcement in the next few weeks about her intention to seek the Democratic nomination for U.S. House. Robinson served in the Army 25 years and recently resigned as director of the anti-terrorism and force protection directorate at the Pentagon Force Protection Agency so that she could run for Congress in her native South Dakota.
“It was a huge decision,” she said. “That was a great-paying job with a lot of responsibility.”
But Robinson said she was prompted to run in part because of a dysfunctional Congress that has resulted in furloughs, a partial government shutdown, fears that the nation would default on its debts and threats to veteran benefits and services.
“It’s very discouraging,” she said. “It just seems like the parties can’t work together.”
Robinson said she wants to go to Congress in order to work through the nation’s problems and find solutions with other members. In an interview, she referred to Noem once, criticizing her for voting with House Republicans to set up a showdown with the president and Senate Democrats that led to a partial shutdown of the government. She also said that many members of Congress are more interested in their political careers than in finding solutions.
“They’re so worried about getting re-elected,” she said.
Jordan Stoick, the chief of staff for Noem, declined to comment Wednesday.
Robinson, 48, grew up in Rapid City and joined the Army when she was 17. She spent 11 years in the enlisted ranks before earning a commission through officer candidate school. She retired a major, spending most of her career in the military police, which included a tour in Iraq. As a civilian, she served an additional tour in Iraq as a director of legislative affairs, coordinating travel among congressional members.
Bob Burns, a professor emeritus of political science at South Dakota State University, said national polling indicates Republican House members are getting the most blame for the government shutdown and a flirtation with defaulting on the national debt. That could help a candidate such as Robinson.
But Burns also predicted that Robinson would have to weather “carpetbagger” allegations.
“Those two may balance each other off somewhat,” Burns said. “But I do believe individual members, and Republican members of the House in particular, do have some liability going into the 2014 election.”
When she officially enters the race, Robinson will be only the second Democrat running for statewide office. The other is Rick Weiland, who is running to replace the retiring Sen. Tim Johnson.
Zach Crago, the party’s executive director, said he expects other Democrats to enter races. The government shutdown, he said, influenced Robinson to get into the race and might be a catalyst for other Democratic candidates.
“I think that just put her over the top,” Crago said.