Closest gubernatorial primaries

Photo Aug 08, 5 06 25 PMWith the 2018 Republican primary for governor one week away, the Argus Leader and Keloland-TV report a dead heat between Congresswoman Kristi Noem and Attorney General Marty Jackley.  The media outlets’ poll reports a statistical tie: Noem 45%, Jackley 44%.  With only 1% separating the candidates, here is a look at the closest gubernatorial primaries in South Dakota history:

Year Party Margin Winner % Runner-up %
1908 GOP 1.9% Robert S. Vessey 50.9% John L. Browne 49.1%
1978 Dem 2.1% Roger McKellips 49.1% Harvey Wollman 47.0%
1950 GOP 2.3% Sigurd Anderson 35.3% Joe Foss 33.0%
1986 GOP 3.2% George S. Mickelson 35.3% Clint Roberts 32.1%
1986 Dem 4.2% R. Lars Herseth 42.8% Richard F. Kneip 38.7%
1916 Dem 6.7% Orville E. Rinehart 53.3% Edmund D. Morcom 46.7%
1954 Dem 6.9% Ed C. Martin 53.4% Ernest F. McKellips 46.6%
1964 GOP 6.9% Nils Boe 53.5% Sigurd Anderson 46.5%
1910 GOP 7.2% Robert S. Vessey 38.7% George W. Egan 31.5%
1946 Dem 7.8% Richard Haeder 41.1% Edward Prchal 33.3%

Note: In 1930, Secretary of State Gladys Pyle finished first in the 1930 Republican gubernatorial primary with 28.3% of the vote, a margin of 1.4% over former governor Carl Gunderson. That would have been the top entry on this list. However, because no candidate received 35%, there was no “winner,” and the nomination was decided at the State Republican Convention. After several deadlocked ballots, delegates selected Warren E. Green, who had finished in 5th place in the primary with 7.4% of the vote.

Likewise, in 1942, State Taxation Director Joe Bottum finished first in the Republican primary with 28.8%, a margin of 3.2% over former Attorney General M. Q. Sharpe. As in 1930, no candidate received 35% and the State Republican Convention selected the nominee. Sharpe prevailed over Bottum and two other candidates. (Thanks to Dr. Eric Ostermeier of the excellent Smart Politics for suggesting that I mention these instances.)