Noem wins big as Republicans dominate in SD

Governor Kristi Noem addresses supporters at Tuesday’s SDGOP Victory Party, as First Gentleman Bryon Noem looks on

The storyline from Election Day 2022 is a familiar one in South Dakota – a big win for Republicans up and down the ballot.

In the highest profile race of the evening, Kristi Noem won a second term as Governor of South Dakota. Noem is the 33rd Governor and the first woman to hold that office, and her victory makes it 12 straight for Republicans, who have held the Governor’s Office since Bill Janklow was elected in 1978.

Noem and her running mate, Lt. Governor Larry Rhoden, defeated Democratic challengers Jamie Smith, the house minority leader, and State Representative Jennifer Keintz. Smith is the twelfth straight Democratic nominee for governor to fall short.

Noem became the 1st woman elected governor in 2018; her reelection would be the 2nd gubernatorial victory by a woman. She is the 7th woman to run for Governor of South Dakota, and the first to do so twice. Noem is the most successful woman in the history of South Dakota politics, and follows a long line of female trailblazers in the state.

In winning reelection, Noem has won the most votes by a candidate for governor in South Dakota history. Although the exact total won’t be finalized until the election canvas, her approximately 217,000 votes will exceed the previous high, Mike Rounds’ 206,990 votes won in his 2006 reelection. Noem already won a record-setting victory in the 2022 Republican gubernatorial primary, winning the most votes, and by the largest margin, in a gubernatorial primary in state history.

Noem’s victory is similar in scale to the reelection wins of Bill Janklow in 1998, who won 64%, and Mike Rounds in 2006, who won 61.7%. Her 27% margin is also similar to Rounds, who was reelected by 25.6%. Her vote margin of approximately 94,000 is the fourth largest, following reelections of Dennis Daugaard in 2014, Sigurd Anderson in 1952, and Bill Janklow in 1982. (See rankings of the biggest wins for SD Governor here.)

As noted above, Noem’s victory is the 12th straight Republican win in the governor’s race. That’s second only to a string of 13 Republican wins from 1900 to 1924, during the two-year-term era. Republicans have controlled the Governor’s Office for 44 years, already the longest period of control in state history, and currently the longest streak in the nation.

In addition to Governor Noem, the Republican ticket was led by U.S. Senator John Thune and Congressman Dusty Johnson. Senator Thune made history as only the second South Dakotan to win four terms in the U.S. Senate, achieving a milestone that was previously only reached by Karl Mundt. Congressman Johnson cruised to a third term against a Libertarian opponent, as Democrats once again failed to field a challenger against him.

Down ticket, Republican candidates won every statewide race, extending a winning streak that began in 2010. That streak is now the fourth-longest in state history, and is likely to continue due to Republicans continued gains in voter registration.