Friday, September 28, 2018

South Dakota Governor- Race of the Day

39 Days Until Election Day

South Dakota Governor

Status: Republican Open
2016 Presidential Result: Red State (Midwest)

Outlook: Leans Republican

Not many in the political world outside of South Dakota are likely giving though to this race. After all, a Democrat has not won the office of Governor since 1974. All of the Republican victories since then have never really been in doubt at this stage of the campaign. This year though, there may be some evidence, mostly anecdotal, that Democrats are closer than they have been in decades as term-limited GOP Governor Dennis Daugaard winds up two terms, still with strong job approval numbers.

Some would have expected the state's Republican Lt. Governor to be a likely candidate to win the top job, but he passed on the chance, as did some others who were prominent in the party, leaving two candidates to compete in the June primary. One candidate held office in the state capital of Pierre, while the other spent much time in Washington D.C. Republicans expected a tough, close primary battle between Attorney General Marty Jackley and Congresswoman Kristi Noem. Both candidates were about the same age at around 47 but had different backgrounds. Jackley had been a lawyer who served as the U.S. Attorney in South Dakota before being elected Attorney General in 2010. Noem had grown up on a farm, and in fact left college at age 22 to help run it after her father was killed in a farm accident. As she raised a family, she entered politics locally and then moved up to the state legislature. The same year Jackley was elected Attorney General in 2010 saw her defeat two better known Republicans in the primary for the statewide Congressional seat and then she narrowly defeated the Democrat incumbent. That Congresswoman was seen as a young, attractive rising female star on Capitol Hill, and when Noem defeated her, Republicans said the same about the new Congresswoman.

Republicans were quick to recruit Noem to join the House Republican Leadership team, and she seemed to have many possibilities for further advancement. In the meantime, as a freshman Member of Congress, she completed her college degree in Political Science, well over a decade after leaving school.

Noem seemed more interested in running for higher statewide office than hoping to patiently advance among House Republicans. Both Senate seats in her state were held by Republicans, so she set her sights on the Governorship in 2018, even though holding that particular office would mean a lot less potential for national media coverage. She was considered at least a slight favorite in the primary over Jackley and reportedly tried to get Donald Trump to endorse her in the primary, which did not happen. While a couple of polls showed a very tight race, she did manage to win the two person primary by 12 points. If elected, she will be South Dakota's first female Governor.

Only one Democrat decided to run for Governor. This did not include the former Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin (who's grandfather once held the office) who lost her seat to Noem in 2010. The party's nod would go to 34 year old State Senate Minority Leader Billie Sutton. He grew up on a ranch and became involved in the rodeo. While participating in that venture, he suffered a serious injury at age 23 that left him paralyzed from the waist down.

Shortly before or after the primaries, the candidates selected running-mates, which were confirmed by state party conventions. Sutton chose businesswoman Michelle Lavalee, who described herself as a disaffected Republican who had recently switched parties. Noem chose someone with more political experience in State House Majority Whip Larry Rhoden. Previously, he had been Majority Leader of that body, before a stint in the State Senate. A staunch conservative, Rhoden also a 2014 U.S. Senate primary. Interestingly enough, before the selection, Noem had downplayed the role of Lt. Governor, insinuating that the current one may have too much influence.

One matter in this contest, which may turn out to be important, is that a very conservative female former Republican State Representative, who has sought statewide office before, claims to the be the nominee of the Constitution Party for Governor, but another candidate also claims that title, and the matter is being fought over in court. It may be that neither candidate will make it to the November ballot, which will be good news for Noem if the race is close.

Conventional wisdom is that the GOP ticket should win this year, but Sutton's biography, and moderate to conservative position on social issues such as abortion and guns seem to have him in better standing than many Democrats in the state have faced before. Just this week, a poll from his campaign placed him three points ahead of his Republican opponent, a continued improvement from his campaign's previous polling.

It remains to be seen how accurate that is though, but it should be a sign to the Noem campaign to not take anything for granted. While her party has a long winning streak for Governor, all sorts of states sometimes turn to a party that is not the majority party in the state to find their Governors. Noem still has to be considered the favorite, without any additional information suggesting an up in the air race, but not by any sort of sure-fire situation.

Gubernatorial Races predicted thus far:

15 D  (2 Safe, 3 Likely,  7 Leans, 3 Tossup) 
16 R   (2 Safe, 6 Likely, 6 Leans, 2 Tossup)

Total with predictions thus far:

22 D (7 holdovers, 2 Safe, 3 Likely, 7 Leans, 3 Tossup)
23 R (7 holdovers, 2 Safe, 6 Likely, 6 Leans, 2 Tossup)


At 3:14 PM, Blogger Steve Boudreaux said...

GOP Hold.


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