Noem is SD’s first female governor


Kristi Lynn Noem has been elected the 33rd Governor of South Dakota. The Hamlin County Republican and her running mate, Larry Rhoden of Meade County, defeated Democrats Billie Sutton and Michelle Lavallee. Noem and Rhoden will be sworn in on January 5, 2019.

Kristi Noem

  • Noem is the first woman to serve as Governor of South Dakota. Her husband, Bryon, will be state’s first “first gentleman.” Her election comes 100 years and 1 day after South Dakotans voted to give women the right to vote. Read more about milestones set by women in South Dakota politics at this post.
  • Noem was the first woman to be the Republican nominee for governor of South Dakota, the 4th woman to seek the Republican nomination for governor, and the second to win a major party’s nomination. Read more about the history of women running for Governor of South Dakota at this post.
  • Noem is the first South Dakotan to have served in either house of Congress and to subsequently serve as governor. She is the third candidate for governor to have served in Congress, following Freeman T. Knowles, who served one term in the U.S. House as a Populist from 1897-99 and later ran for governor as a Socialist in 1904 and 1906; and Clint Roberts, who served one term in the U.S. House from 1981-83 and ran for the Republican nomination for governor in 1986, narrowly losing to George S. Mickelson. No current or former U.S. Senator has ever run for Governor of South Dakota.
  • Noem is the second native of Hamlin County to be governor, following Warren E. Green, who served from 1931-33. Both Green’s farm and Noem’s family farming operation are near Hazel. Hamlin County is the 4th county to produce more than one governor, joining Minnehaha (Foss, Boe, Janklow and Daugaard), Spink (Norbeck and Wollman), and Day (Sheldon and Anderson).
  • Noem is the first governor to have been born in Codington County – she was born in Watertown – and is the 15th to be born in South Dakota. She is the first governor to have been born in the month of November, which had been the only month in which no governor has been born.
  • Noem is the second “Jackrabbit” governor, joining Mike Rounds as a graduate of South Dakota State University. Noem attended Northern State University prior to her father’s death in a farming accident. No NSU graduate has ever served as governor, but Noem joins Ralph Herseth as the second governor to have attended Northern. Read about governors’ alma maters at this post.
  • Noem is a member of a non-denominational evangelical church. Read about governors’ religious affiliations at this post.
  • Noem will be 47 years and 36 days old when she is sworn in, nearly the same age was Arthur C. Mellette, South Dakota’s first male governor. Read about the oldest and youngest governors at this post.
  • Noem is the 23rd governor to have served in a territorial or state legislature, and the 9th to have served in the SD State House of Representatives.
  • Noem’s election continues 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. It is the 11th straight election victory by the Republican candidate for governor – the only longer streak is 13 straight elections from 1900 to 1924 (during the two-year term era).

Election milestones

  • Noem’s victory was the narrowest in recent SD history for a candidate for governor.  The final statewide canvas shows that Noem/Rhoden won 172,912 votes, or 51.0%, to Sutton/Lavallee’s 161,454 votes (47.6%) and 4,848 votes (1.4%) for Evans/Shelatz.  Noem’s margin of 3.4% is the closest since Nils Boe defeated John Lindley in 1964. 51.0% is the lowest vote share by a winning candidate since Archie Gubbrud defeated Ralph Herseth in 1960. This blog looked at  SD’s closest elections for governor at this post. Noem’s 172,912 is the least votes cast for a winning candidate for governor since Bill Janklow in 1998.
  • The SD Republican Party continued a winning streak in statewide races that began in 2010, which now extends to 34 election victories over five elections.  This is still only the fifth longest such streak in SD History.
  • This blog had pointed to Turner County as a likely bellwether for the gubernatorial race, based on its close tracking of statewide results in the past four elections for governor. Likewise, Dr. Jon Lauck, a longtime observer and advisor to U.S. Senator John Thune, had pointed to McCook County as a bellwether. Both proved correct, as Turner County voted for Noem with 58.8% and McCook County voted for Noem with 55.1%. The counties that were closest to the statewide result, however, were Stanley (Noem 51.2%, Sutton 47.3%), Gregory (Noem 51.4%, Sutton 47.8%), Aurora (Noem 50.3%, Sutton 47.4%), Bennett (Noem 50.2%, Sutton 47.5%), Brule (Noem 51.8%, Sutton 46.5%), and Jerauld (Noem 51.8%, Sutton 46.9%). Gregory County is particularly intriguing, as it is Sutton’s home county. Apparently the county’s normal Republican inclination was offset by a hometown advantage for Sutton, leading to an outcome that closely mirrored the statewide result.

2018 Noem Sutton

Larry Rhoden

  • Rhoden_2017Rhoden is South Dakota’s 39th lieutenant governor.
  • He is the second LG from Meade County, following Walter Dale Miller.
  • He is the 12th  LG from West River, following Clark Forney (Oelrichs, 1925-27), H. E. Covey (Tripp County, 1927-29), Clarence E. Coyne (Fort Pierre, 1929), O. K. Whitney (Philip, 1931-33), A. C. Miller (Kennebec, 1941-45), Rex Terry (Fort Pierre, 1949-55), Joe Bottum (Rapid City 1961-62), Lem Overpeck (Belle Fourche, 1965-69), Jim Abdnor (Kennebec, 1961-71), Walter Dale Miller (Meade County, 1987-93), and Carole Hillard (Rapid City, 1995-2003).