Campaigning on Crutches

Governor Kristi Noem announced this morning that, following a back injury a few weeks ago, she underwent back surgery at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota and is recovering.

The surgery, which the governor said will limit her ability to stand or travel for the next couple of months, comes amidst her campaign for reelection as governor.

The situation is not unprecedented in South Dakota. It recalls Archie Gubbrud’s 1960 candidacy for governor. Unlike Noem, Gubbrud was not an incumbent; he was the Republican House Speaker and a farmer from rural Lincoln County, challenging Democratic Governor Ralph Herseth, a farmer from Brown County.

Gubbrud suffered an accident while campaigning in July 1960. As the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader explained:

Gubbrud was subsequently found to have broken his pelvic bone; after his release from the hospital, he spent much of the campaign on crutches. The injury didn’t hold Gubbrud back, though, as he won a narrow upset over Herseth in the fall campaign, 50.7% to 49.3%.

Health was also a factor in Governor Bill Janklow’s reelection in 1998. That year, as Janklow considered whether to seek a fourth term as governor, his health became a key factor that delayed his decision until the last minute:

Janklow ultimately announced on March 24 that he would run again, and his health faded as an issue and didn’t inhibit his fall campaign. He was reelected 64.0% to 32.9% for Democratic challenger Bernie Hunhoff.

Gubbrud and Janklow both overcame health challenges to win their gubernatorial bids – perhaps a good omen for Governor Kristi Noem.