Every general election makes history, in some way. Here are a few historical notes on the 2016 election in South Dakota. (This post has been updated with the final canvassed election results):
Chris Nelson notches biggest win of all-time, with John Thune #6 all-time
Nelson’s 75.4% is the highest ever for a candidate in a statewide, partisan election in which both major parties fielded candidates. He exceeded the previous record of 75.1%, set by then-Congressman John Thune in his 1998 reelection. That entire list is posted here.
Nelson’s 268,948 votes was also the most all-time in a contested election. Only Senator Thune’s uncontested reelection in 2010 earned more votes – 277,903. In a contested election, the previous record was held by Democratic Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, who won 255,971 votes against challenger Chris Lien in 2008.
John Thune’s record was broken, but he can take consolation in the fact that he is the only person to appear on the Top Ten list more than once – and in fact, he holds 3 of the top 6 spots on the list.
Kristi Noem won the most votes in her career
In her 2016 reelection over challenger Paula Hawks, Congressman Noem won 237,163 votes and 64.1% of the vote. Her vote total is a career high, and her share of 64.1% is just short of the 66.5% she won in 2014 against Corinna Robinson.
Donald Trump wins South Dakota handily
The Trump/Pence ticket continued a streak of Republican presidential wins in South Dakota that now goes back more than 50 years – the last time South Dakota voted Democratic was in 1964, when it supported President Lyndon Johnson over Senator Barry Goldwater. A prior post looked at South Dakota’s history in presidential elections.
Polling and projections before the election understated Trump’s support in South Dakota, just as they did nationally. Polling indicated that Trump would win South Dakota with between 50% and 55%.
In fact, he won 61.5% of the vote. Although this lagged Thune, Noem and Nelson, this is the third best finish for a Republican presidential ticket in the state’s history – following only the 69.3% won by the Eisenhower/Nixon ticket in 1952, and the 63.0% won by the Reagan/Bush reelection in 1984.
State Legislature gets even more Republican
A prior post looked at the history of control of the South Dakota State Legislature. Several of the milestones mentioned in that post will be exceeded by the newly-elected legislature:
- The 2017-18 legislature will have 89 Republicans and 16 Democrats. This is now the most Republicans in the legislature since its current size of 105 was set in 1973; the 2015-16 legislature had held that modern record with 85 Republicans.
- 89 Republicans out of 105 seats makes out to 84.8% of the total – that is the most since the all-time record in 1953, when the legislature had 108 Republicans and 2 Democrats (98.2%).
- The earlier post had noted that the six-year average of legislative control during the Daugaard Administration was 78.1%, the most since the Farrar Administration (78.2%). The 2016 results increase the Daugaard Administration average to 79.8%, which is now the highest average since the Sigurd Anderson Administration, which included the aforementioned 1953 legislature that was 108-2 and had a two-term average of 92.3% Republican control.