LG-stakes 2022

With the primary elections behind us, attention now turns to the upcoming Republican and Democratic party conventions.

Governor Kristi Noem has already made clear that she will retain her running mate, Lt. Governor Larry Rhoden. By tradition, the State Republican Convention defers to the gubernatorial nominee’s selection, and that vote will held when the convention meets at the end of next week. (Update: Rhoden was nominated, overcoming a convention challenge from defeated gubernatorial challenger Steve Haugaard.)

Noem follows precedent by retaining Rhoden. Since the Governor and Lt. Governor began running as a team in 1974, no incumbent governor has ever “dumped” his or her running mate when running for a second term. The last time a governor changed running mates was in 1974, when Governor Kneip withstood a challenge from Lt. Governor Bill Dougherty (who had been elected separately in 1970 and 1972) and ran in 1974 with Harvey Wollman. (I recently wrote a blog post looking at the prior history of LG selection, from 1889 to current day).

So the suspense lies with Democratic nominee Jamie Smith. (Update: Smith has announced his selection of State Representative Jennifer Keintz.)

Four years ago, I wrote a blog post that analyzed in detail the history of running mate selection and the various factors that a gubernatorial nominee may consider. as with the Republicans, the Democratic state convention by tradition defers to the nominee’s pick

As I said in 2018, this is a history blog, not a politics blog, so I am not going to “name names.” Instead, this post will look at the history of lieutenant governor running mates in South Dakota since 1974, and ask what that history can tell us about Smith’s selection in 2022.

There have been 19 distinct gubernatorial tickets:  7 Republican tickets (including six that were nominated for second terms), and 12 Democratic tickets. (They are listed at the end of this post). What do these lists tell us?

Regional balance – Of the 19 tickets, 9 had two East River candidates (East-East). 8 were East-West. Only 2 were West-East – the 1990 Samuelson/Halleen Democratic ticket and the 2018 Sutton/Lavallee Democratic ticket. Not one has been West-West.

A tie to greater Sioux Falls is also important (defining “greater Sioux Falls” as Minnehaha and Lincoln counties). This region now has 28 percent of the state’s population. Of 19 tickets, 12 included at least one SF candidate. 6 had a SF gubernatorial candidate, 7 had a SF running mate, and 1 ticket – the 2010 Heidepriem/Arndt Democratic ticket – had both. There have been 7 tickets without a SF candidate.

Smith being a Sioux Falls native himself, the best guess is that Smith will likely look beyond the Sioux Falls area for a running mate.

Political experience – All 19 tickets have included at least one candidate with experience in the State Legislature, and on 10 of the tickets, both had legislative experience. Of the 14 running mates with legislative experience, 6 of them had served in legislative leadership positions. Service in the legislative leadership is common among running mates, but is not a prerequisite.

Jamie Smith has served three terms in the State House, including four years as minority leader, so he “checks this box” himself – legislative experience should not be considered a prerequisite.

Ag experience – Agriculture is South Dakota’s #1 industry, and the Noem/Rhoden ticket was the first joint ticket on which both running mates were farmers or ranchers. It was also only the third since 1974 to include a farmer or rancher at the top of the ticket – Noem followed Lars Herseth (Democrat 1986) and Bob Samuelson (Democrat 1990). Five farmers or ranchers have been nominated for lieutenant governor.

Smith is a Sioux Falls native with a background in education and in business (currently in real estate). He may look for a running mate with ag roots. However, the continued urbanization of the state, and the extent to which the Democratic Party has declined in rural areas, means other considerations may outweigh this one.

Age – Age is not usually a significant factor on gubernatorial tickets; the overwhelming majority of candidates have been in their 40s, 50s or early 60s.

Dick Kneip was the youngest governor when he was elected in 1970 at age 37. He was 41 when reelected in 1974, and his running mate, Harvey Wollman, was two years younger than Kneip, aged 39.

In 1978, Bill Janklow was elected governor at age 39. He selected a running mate, Lowell Hansen, who was also 39 – in fact, Janklow and Hansen were born exactly four weeks apart.

Jamie Smith is 51 years old, and so age is not a significant factor in his selection.

Other factors – Other attributes of running mates are less common in history, and therefore trends cannot really be perceived:

  • Elsie Meeks (Democrat LG 1998) is the only Native American to appear on a statewide gubernatorial ticket. No other member of a racial or ethnic minority has been nominated.
  • Meeks is also one of four women to be nominated for LG, along with Shirley Halleen (Democrat 1990), Carole Hillard (Republican 1994, 1998) and Susy Blake (Democrat 2014).
  • Since 1974, 17 of the 19 gubernatorial nominees had prior experience in elected office, either in the U.S. House or as lieutenant governor, attorney general, or in the State Legislature. The two exceptions, John E. Olson (Republican 1974) and Jim Beddow (Democrat 1994) both lost.
  • 5 nominees for lieutenant governor, all Democrats, have lacked experience in state elected office: Ted Thoms (Democrat 1986), Elsie Meeks (Democrat 1998), Eric Abrahamson (Democrat 2006), Ben Arndt (Democrat 2010), and Michelle Lavalee (Democrat 2018). At least two of them had served in local office – Thoms on the Minnehaha County Commission and Abrahamson on the Rapid City School Board. All five lost.
  • In both 2010 and 2018, the Democratic nominee selected a registered Republican as his running mate. In 2010, Scott Heidepriem, himself a former Republican, selected a registered Republican, businessman Ben Arndt, to be his running mate. In 2018, Billie Sutton selected marketing executive Michelle Lavalee. (Under state law, both had to re-register as a Democrat in order to accept the nomination.)

With the exception of John E. Olson and Carole Hillard, all of the aforementioned candidates in this section were on the Democratic ticket. This could be because the Democratic Party attempts more aggressively to appeal to women and minorities, or it could be because the Democratic nominees have typically been underdogs, and therefore more likely to choose an unconventional running mate. Like most of his Democratic forbearers, Smith is likewise a heavy underdog to Governor Noem, and so an unorthodox selection – one that perhaps ignores the conventional wisdom – could be a way in which he could seek to differentiate his campaign. Given that he is challenging the state’s first female governor, the selection of a woman by Smith seems like a strong possibility.


1974John E. Olson – Sioux Falls – A businessman who had served as state highway director in the Boe administration.Eddie Clay – Hot Springs – Assistant house majority leader and businessman.
1978, 1982Bill Janklow – Flandreau – Attorney general. (Incumbent ticket renominated in 1982).Lowell Hansen – Sioux Falls – Speaker of the house and a businessman.
1986, 1990George S. Mickelson – Brookings – Former speaker of the house and attorney. (Incumbent ticket renominated in 1990).Walter Dale Miller – New Underwood – House majority leader and former speaker, and a rancher.
1994, 1998Bill Janklow – Brandon – Former governor and attorney general. (Incumbent ticket renominated in 1998).Carole Hillard – Rapid City – State representative and volunteer; her family owned Rapid Chevrolet. First woman elected lieutenant governor.
2002, 2006Mike Rounds – Pierre – Former senate majority leader and businessman. (Incumbent ticket renominated in 2006).Dennis Daugaard – Dell Rapids – State senator and non-profit executive.
2010, 2014Dennis Daugaard – Dell Rapids – Lieutenant governor and non-profit executive. (Incumbent ticket renominated in 2014).Matt Michels – Yankton – Former house speaker and attorney.
2018, 2022Kristi Noem – Castlewood – Congresswoman and a farmer/rancher and businesswoman. First woman elected governor. (Incumbent ticket renominated in 2022).Larry Rhoden – Union Center – Former house majority leader and rancher.
1974Dick Kneip – Salem – Incumbent was a former senate minority leader and businessman.Harvey Wollman – Frankfort – Senate majority leader and a farmer.
1978Roger McKellips – Alcester – State senator and banker.Billie Sutton – Bonesteel – State senator and rancher. (This is the grandfather of the 2018 Democratic nominee for governor).
1982Mike O’Connor – Brandon – Former senate president pro tempore and businessman.Willis Danekas – Raymond – state representative and farmer.
1986Lars Herseth – Houghton – House minority leader and farmer.Ted Thoms – Sioux Falls – county commissioner and businessman.
1990Bob Samuelson – Faith – State senator and rancher.Shirley Halleen – Sioux Falls – former state representative and teacher. First woman to appear on a gubernatorial ticket.
1994Jim Beddow – Mitchell – President of Dakota Wesleyan University.Jim Abbott – Yankton – Former state representative and businessman.
1998Bernie 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.
2002Jim Abbott – Vermillion – President of the University of South Dakota, former state representative and businessman.Mike Wilson – Rapid City – former state representative and attorney.
2006Jack Billion – Sioux Falls – Former state representative and orthopedic surgeon.Eric Abrahamson – Rapid City – School board member and historian.
2010Scott 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 registration to accept the nomination.
2014Susan 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.
2018Billie Sutton – Burke – Senate minority leader and a rancher and banker.Michelle Lavalee – Sioux Falls – Marketing executive. A Republican when she was selected; she changed registration to accept the nomination.