SD GOV 2018: Billie Sutton milestones

The race is on to succeed Dennis Daugaard as the 33rd Governor of South Dakota. The gubernatorial primary is just over a year away, on June 5, 2018.

The leading Republican contenders are Congresswoman Kristi Noem and Attorney General Marty Jackley.  Two other Republican candidates are former legislator Lora Hubbel and Sioux Falls attorney Terry LaFleurHouse Speaker Mark Mickelson and Lt. Governor Matt Michels have both announced that they will not run for governor. 

The only announced Democratic candidate is Senate Minority Leader Billie SuttonAnother potential candidate, Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether, has not announced his intentions.

In successive posts, this blog will look at milestones, and prospective milestones, set by Jackley, Noem and Sutton.


Billie Sutton

  • Sutton headshotSutton would be the youngest governor in state history, taking office at age 34. This would break the current record set by Richard F. Kneip, who was 37 when he took office.
  • Sutton would be the 1st Democratic governor since Richard F. Kneip, who was elected in 1970, 1972 and 1974, and the 1st Democrat to serve as governor since Harvey Wollman. He would be the 5th Democratic governor, following W. J. Bulow, Tom Berry, Ralph Herseth, Kneip and Wollman.
  • Sutton would end the streak of Republican control of the South Dakota governor’s office that began in 1979. This period of control – 40 years as of the end of the Daugaard administration – is the longest in South Dakota history, and the longest current streak in the nation.
  • Sutton’s grandfather, also Billie H. Sutton, was a state senator from Gregory County, and ran for lieutenant governor in 1978 on the Democratic ticket with Roger McKellips of Alcester.  The McKellips/Sutton ticket lost to Bill Janklow and Lowell Hansen, in the 1st of what is now 10 straight Republican gubernatorial victories.  Sutton’s grandmother, Ruth, was the Democratic nominee for State Auditor in 1986.
  • Sutton would be the 1st graduate of the University of Wyoming to serve as Governor of South Dakota.
  • Sutton was born in Gregory County and still lives there; he would be the 1st governor from that county. Only one other Gregory County resident has even run for governor – in 1946, Edward Prchal, a Burke attorney and former state senator, unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination.
  • Sutton would be the 5th West River governor, following Tom Berry, Leslie Jensen, M. Q. Sharpe, and Walter Dale Miller. He would be the 1st West River native to be elected governor since M. Q. Sharpe, who was elected in 1942 and reelected in 1944. He would be the 1st West River Democrat elected governor since Tom Berry, who was elected in 1932 and 1934.
  • Sutton was paralyzed from the waist down as a consequence of a 2007 rodeo accident. This condition would be unique among South Dakota governors.
  • Sutton would be the 23rd governor to have served in a territorial or state legislature, and the 14th to have served in the South Dakota State Senate. He would be the 7th governor to have served as his party’s floor leader, following Ralph Herseth, Archie Gubbrud, Richard F. Kneip, Harvey Wollman, Walter Dale Miller and Mike Rounds, and would follow Herseth, Kneip and Wollman as the 4rd senate minority leader to serve as governor.
  • If the general election pits Democrat Sutton against Republican Marty Jackley, it will be only the second time that the general election for governor features two West River nominees. The only other time was 1936, when Republican Hot Springs businessman Leslie Jensen successfully challenged Democratic Gov. Tom Berry, a White River rancher who was running for an unprecedented third term.
  • Sutton is the 9th West River Democrat to run for governor, following:
    • Rapid City Mayor Chauncey Wood, who lost the general election to Robert Vessey in 1910;
    • State Representative Orville Rinehart of Rapid City, who lost the general election to Peter Norbeck in 1916;
    • Tom Berry of Mellette County, who defeated Governor Warren Green in 1932, was reelected in 1934, and lost reelected to Leslie Jensen in 1936;
    • The aforementioned Edward Prchal of Burke, who ran in the 1946 primary and lost to Richard Haeder of Wolsey;
    • Jennie O’Hern of Wakpala, the first Democratic woman to run for governor, who also ran in the 1946 primary;
    • Harold Volz of Winner, who lost the general election to George T. Mickelson in 1948;
    • Bob Samuelson of Faith, who lost the general election to George S. Mickelson in 1990;
    • Joe Lowe of Rapid City, who ran in the 2014 primary and lost to Susan Wismer of Britton.
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