Michelle Lavallee is Sutton’s running mate

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Michelle Lavallee

Today, Billie Sutton announced that he will ask the State Democratic Convention to nominate Michelle Lavallee, of Sioux Falls, for lieutenant governor. Lavallee, a Tulare native, is long-time Republican who recently co-chaired Paul Ten Haken’s successful campaign for mayor of Sioux Falls. As of Thursday, she had re-registered as a Democrat, which is legally required in order for her to accept the party’s nomination.

Lavallee is a marketing consultant whose past employment includes roles at the University of South Dakota, Avera McKennan Hospital, Raven Industries, and Northwestern Corporation. She is graduate of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in 1994 and MBA in 2001.

Lavallee will be the 4th woman to join a Democratic ticket for lieutenant governor, following Shirley Halleen of Sioux Falls in 1986, Elsie Meeks of Interior in 1998, and Susy Blake of Sioux Falls in 2014. If the Sutton/Lavallee ticket is elected, Lavallee would be the second female lieutenant governor, following Carole Hillard of Rapid City, and the first Democratic woman to hold that office.

She would be the 7th lieutenant governor from Sioux Falls, following Hans Ustrud (1933-35), Sioux Grigsby (1945-49), Nils Boe (1963-65), Bill Dougherty (1971-75), Lowell Hansen (1979-87), and Steve Kirby (1993-95).

It is the second time that the Democrats will have attempted a “bipartisan” ticket. In 2010, Scott Heidepriem, the Senate Democratic leader who himself had at one time been a Republican, selected Sioux Falls businessman Ben Arndt as his running mate. Like Lavallee, Arndt had to change parties in order to be nominated by the Democrats.

The selection of Lavallee is entirely consistent with this blog’s predictions, based on historical patterns. This blog predicted that:

  • Sutton was almost certain to select a running mate from East River, likely but not certainly from Minnehaha or Lincoln county.
    • Correct – Lavallee is a Tulare native who lives in Sioux Falls.
  • Sutton needn’t select a running mate with legislative experience, but easily could.
    • Correct – Lavallee has no experience in the legislature or other elected office.
  • Professional background is not a primary consideration, given Sutton’s background in ag and banking.
    • Lavallee’s background is in marketing.
  • Age is a factor, but could go for balance with an older running mate, or “double-down” with youth.
    • Lavallee is certainly older than Sutton but her age was likely not a primary consideration.
  • As an underdog to the Republican ticket, Sutton was most likely to make an “unconventional” choice – a Republican party-switcher, a non-politician, or a Native American or member of another racial or ethnic minority.
    • As a female Republican with no experience in elected office, Lavallee certainly qualifies as an unconventional choice.

In South Dakota, candidates for Governor and LG have run together on a ticket since 1974. Here are the Democratic tickets since that time:

1974 Dick Kneip – Salem – Incumbent was a former senate minority leader and businessman. Harvey Wollman – Frankfort – Senate majority leader and a farmer.
1978 Roger McKellips – Alcester – State senator and banker. Billie Sutton – Bonesteel – State senator and rancher. (This is the grandfather of the 2018 Democratic nominee for governor).
1982 Mike O’Connor – Brandon – Former senate president pro tempore and businessman. Willis Danekas – Raymond – state represenative and farmer.
1986 Lars Herseth – Houghton – House minority leader and farmer. Ted Thoms – Sioux Falls – county commissioner and businessman.
1990 Bob Samuelson – Faith – State senator and rancher. Shirley Halleen – Sioux Falls – former state representative and teacher. First woman to appear on a gubernatorial ticket.
1994 Jim Beddow – Mitchell – President of Dakota Wesleyan University. Jim Abbott – Yankton – Former state representative and businessman.
1998 Bernie Hunhoff – Yankton – Senate minority leader and owner of South Dakota Magazine. Elsie Meeks – Interior – businesswoman and economic development official. First Native American to appear on a gubernatorial ticket.
2002 Jim Abbott – Vermillion – President of the University of South Dakota, former state representative and businessman. Mike Wilson – Rapid City – former state representative and attorney.
2006 Jack Billion – Sioux Falls – Former state representative and orthopedic surgeon. Eric Abrahamson – Rapid City – School board member and historian.
2010 Scott Heidepriem – Sioux Falls – Senate minority leader and attorney; he had represented Miller in the state legislature as a Republican. Ben Arndt – Sioux Falls – Businessman. A Republican when he was selected; he changed registrations to accept the nomination.
2014 Susan Wismer – Britton – State representative and accountant. First woman nominated for governor by a major party. Susy Blake – Sioux Falls – Former state representative and retired nurse.
2018 Billie Sutton – Burke – Senate minority leader, investment advisor and rancher. Michelle Lavallee – Sioux Falls – marketing consultant.