SD GOV 2018: Billie Sutton milestones

The race is on to succeed Dennis Daugaard as the 33rd Governor of South Dakota. The gubernatorial primary is just over a year away, on June 5, 2018.

The leading Republican contenders are Congresswoman Kristi Noem and Attorney General Marty Jackley.  Two other Republican candidates are former legislator Lora Hubbel and Sioux Falls attorney Terry LaFleurHouse Speaker Mark Mickelson and Lt. Governor Matt Michels have both announced that they will not run for governor. 

The only announced Democratic candidate is Senate Minority Leader Billie SuttonAnother potential candidate, Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether, has not announced his intentions.

In successive posts, this blog will look at milestones, and prospective milestones, set by Jackley, Noem and Sutton.


Billie Sutton

  • Sutton headshotSutton would be the youngest governor in state history, taking office at age 34. This would break the current record set by Richard F. Kneip, who was 37 when he took office.
  • Sutton would be the 1st Democratic governor since Richard F. Kneip, who was elected in 1970, 1972 and 1974, and the 1st Democrat to serve as governor since Harvey Wollman. He would be the 5th Democratic governor, following W. J. Bulow, Tom Berry, Ralph Herseth, Kneip and Wollman.
  • Sutton would end 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.
  • Sutton’s grandfather, also Billie H. Sutton, was a state senator from Gregory County, and ran for lieutenant governor in 1978 on the Democratic ticket with Roger McKellips of Alcester.  The McKellips/Sutton ticket lost to Bill Janklow and Lowell Hansen, in the 1st of what is now 10 straight Republican gubernatorial victories.  Sutton’s grandmother, Ruth, was the Democratic nominee for State Auditor in 1986.
  • Sutton would be the 1st graduate of the University of Wyoming to serve as Governor of South Dakota.
  • Sutton was born in Gregory County and still lives there; he would be the 1st governor from that county. Only one other Gregory County resident has even run for governor – in 1946, Edward Prchal, a Burke attorney and former state senator, unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination.
  • Sutton would be the 5th West River governor, following Tom Berry, Leslie Jensen, M. Q. Sharpe, and Walter Dale Miller. He would be the 1st West River native to be elected governor since M. Q. Sharpe, who was elected in 1942 and reelected in 1944. He would be the 1st West River Democrat elected governor since Tom Berry, who was elected in 1932 and 1934.
  • Sutton was paralyzed from the waist down as a consequence of a 2007 rodeo accident. This condition would be unique among South Dakota governors.
  • Sutton would be the 23rd governor to have served in a territorial or state legislature, and the 14th to have served in the South Dakota State Senate. He would be the 5th governor to have served as his party’s floor leader, following Richard F. Kneip, Harvey Wollman, Walter Dale Miller and Mike Rounds, and would follow Kneip and Wollman as the 3rd senate minority leader to serve as governor.
  • If the general election pits Democrat Sutton against Republican Marty Jackley, it will be only the second time that the general election for governor features two West River nominees. The only other time was 1936, when Republican Hot Springs businessman Leslie Jensen successfully challenged Democratic Gov. Tom Berry, a White River rancher who was running for an unprecedented third term.
  • Sutton is the 9th West River Democrat to run for governor, following:
    • Rapid City Mayor Chauncey Wood, who lost the general election to Robert Vessey in 1910;
    • State Representative Orville Rinehart of Rapid City, who lost the general election to Peter Norbeck in 1916;
    • Tom Berry of Mellette County, who defeated Governor Warren Green in 1932, was reelected in 1934, and lost reelected to Leslie Jensen in 1936;
    • The aforementioned Edward Prchal of Burke, who ran in the 1946 primary and lost to Richard Haeder of Wolsey;
    • Jennie O’Hern of Wakpala, the first Democratic woman to run for governor, who also ran in the 1946 primary;
    • Harold Volz of Winner, who lost the general election to George T. Mickelson in 1948;
    • Bob Samuelson of Faith, who lost the general election to George S. Mickelson in 1990;
    • Joe Lowe of Rapid City, who ran in the 2014 primary and lost to Susan Wismer of Britton.

SD GOV 2018: Kristi Noem milestones

The race is on to succeed Dennis Daugaard as the 33rd Governor of South Dakota. The gubernatorial primary is just over a year away, on June 5, 2018.

The leading Republican contenders are Congresswoman Kristi Noem and Attorney General Marty Jackley.  Two other Republican candidates are former legislator Lora Hubbel and Sioux Falls attorney Terry LaFleurHouse Speaker Mark Mickelson and Lt. Governor Matt Michels have both announced that they will not run for governor. 

The only announced Democratic candidate is Senate Minority Leader Billie SuttonAnother potential candidate, Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether, has not announced his intentions.

In successive posts, this blog will look at milestones, and prospective milestones, set by Jackley, Noem and Sutton.


Kristi Noem

  • kristi_noem_portraitNoem would be the 1st woman to serve as Governor of South Dakota. Her husband, Bryon, would the state’s 1st “first gentleman.”
  • Noem would be the 1st woman to be the Republican nominee for governor of South Dakota. She is the 4th woman to seek the Republican nomination for governor, and would be the 2nd to win a major party’s nomination if she prevails in the primary. Read more about the history of women running for Governor of South Dakota at this post.
  • Noem would be the 1st South Dakotan to serve in either house of Congress and to subsequently serve as governor. She is the 3rd 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 would be the 2nd 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. In addition to Noem and Green, the only other Hamlin County resident to run for governor is H. H. Curtis, who was the Prohibition Party nominee in 1902.
  • Noem would be the 1st governor to be born in Codington County – she was born in Watertown – and the 15th to be born in South Dakota.
  • Noem would be the 2nd “Jackrabbit” governor, joining Mike Rounds as a graduate of South Dakota State University.
  • Noem would be 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.
  • If she prevails, Noem’s election would continue 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 would be 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).

SD GOV 2018: Marty Jackley milestones

The race is on to succeed Dennis Daugaard as the 33rd Governor of South Dakota. The gubernatorial primary is just over a year away, on June 5, 2018.

The leading Republican contenders are Congresswoman Kristi Noem and Attorney General Marty Jackley.  Two other Republican candidates are former legislator Lora Hubbel and Sioux Falls attorney Terry LaFleurHouse Speaker Mark Mickelson and Lt. Governor Matt Michels have both announced that they will not run for governor. 

The only announced Democratic candidate is Senate Minority Leader Billie SuttonAnother potential candidate, Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether, has not announced his intentions.

In successive posts, this blog will look at milestones, and prospective milestones, set by Jackley, Noem and Sutton.


Marty Jackley

  • Jackley headshotAlthough currently a resident of Pierre, where he serves as attorney general, Jackley is a native of Sturgis. He would be the 1st governor from Sturgis, and the 2nd from Meade County, following Walter Dale Miller.
  • Jackley would be the 5th West River governor, following Tom Berry (Mellette County), Leslie Jensen (Hot Springs), M. Q. Sharpe (Kennebec), and Walter Dale Miller (Meade County). Jackley would be the 1st West River native to be elected governor since M. Q. Sharpe, who was elected in 1942 and reelected in 1944.
  • Jackley is the 5th native of Meade County to run for governor, following Carv Thompson, a Faith pharmacist who lost to Kneip in 1972; Bob Samuelson, a Faith rancher who was the Democratic challenger to George S. Mickelson in 1990; Gov. Walter Dale Miller, who succeeded to office and lost the 1994 Republican primary to Bill Janklow; and Libertarian Tom Gerber (Sturgis), who was his party’s nominee in 2006.
  • Jackley would be the 1st “Hardrocker” governor – he is a graduate of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. He would also be the 1st governor to hold an engineering degree.  Jackley would be the 11th to be a graduate of USD, where he got his law degree, and the 8th to be a graduate of the USD School of Law. He would be the 2nd governor to hold degrees from two different universities, following Dennis Daugaard (USD & Northwestern), and the first to hold two degree from two in-state institutions.
  • Jackley would be the 3rd Roman Catholic governor, following Richard F. Kneip and Mike Rounds.
  • Jackley would be 1st former U.S. Attorney to serve as governor, and the 7th attorney general, following Coe Crawford, M. Q. Sharpe, George T. Mickelson, Sigurd Anderson, Frank Farrar and Bill Janklow. He would be the 10th governor to lack experience in a territorial or state legislature.
  • Jackley would be the 16th attorney to serve as governor.
  • If he prevails, Jackley’s election would continue 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 would be 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).
  • If the general election pits Democrat Sutton against Republican Marty Jackley, it will be only the second time that the general election for governor features two West River nominees. The only other time was 1936, when Republican Hot Springs businessman Leslie Jensen successfully challenged Democratic Gov. Tom Berry, a White River rancher who was running for an unprecedented third term.

The Three Speakers Mickelson

The 92nd Session of the South Dakota State Legislature convened on January 10, 2017.  In the State House of Representatives, one of the first orders of business was to officially elect Rep. G. Mark Mickelson, of Sioux Falls, as speaker of the house.

Mickelson is the third generation to serve as house speaker, following grandfather George T. Mickelson and father George S. Mickelson.  No other father-son duo in South Dakota has served as speaker.

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George T. Mickelson on the Trail of Governors

George Theodore Mickelson was born in Selby in 1903, the son of a Norwegian immigrant farmer.  He earned his law degree from USD and returned to Selby, where he was first elected to the State House in 1936.  Mickelson was elected speaker pro tempore in his second term, and became house speaker for his third term, the 1941 session.  In 1942, he was elected attorney general.

After two terms, Mickelson ran for governor in 1946.  In the Republican primary, He defeated incumbent Gov. M. Q. Sharpe, who was seeking a third term, and then easily won the general election.  Mickelson implemented the state’s right-to-work law and served as governor during a time of post-war prosperity, with a focus on highway construction, development of water projects, expansion of the state universities, and the strengthening of state finances.

Following his time as governor, Mickelson served as federal district judge in Sioux Falls, until his death in 1965.  As a federal judge, made landmark rulings that protected the property rights of Native Americans.

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George S. Mickelson on the Trail of Governors

George Speaker Mickelson was born in Mobridge in 1941.  He was born in January, while his father was serving in Pierre as speaker of the house.  For that reason, although his parents had intended to name him “George Theodore,” the elder Mickelson’s house colleagues convinced him to name his son “George Speaker.”  It was an apt middle name.

Like his father, the younger Mickelson earned his law degree from USD, and then he settled in Brookings.  He was elected to the State House in 1974, 38 years after his father was first elected.  Also like his father, he became speaker pro tempore in his second term and house speaker in his third term, serving as speaker in the 1979 and 1980 sessions.

George S. Mickelson was elected governor in 1986, making the Mickelson’s the state’s only father-son duo to serve as governor.  He focused on economic development, implemented gaming as a result of a citizen vote, and declared a “Year of Reconciliation” with the state’s tribes in 1990.  Mickelson died in a plane crash in 1993, the first South Dakota governor to die in office.

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Speaker G. Mark Mickelson

George Mark Mickelson was born in 1966, the year after his grandfather passed away.  He attended USD for an undergraduate degree in accounting, and then earned his law degree from Harvard Law School.  Mickelson returned to South Dakota and entered business in Sioux Falls.  He was first elected to the State House in 2012, again 38 years after his father was first elected.  Like his father and grandfather, he became speaker pro tempore in his second term, and house speaker in his third term, beginning with the 2017 session.

Mickelson had begun to explore a 2018 gubernatorial candidacy, but announced in late 2016 that he would not run for governor.

Lt. Gov. Matt Michels reaches milestone

Governor Dennis Daugaard opened his 2017 State of the State Address by recognizing a milestone reached by Lt. Governor Matt Michels:

Today is the beginning of Lt. Governor Matt Michels’ seventh regular session as president of the senate, and prior to that, he presided for four sessions as speaker of the house. Those 11 sessions make Matt Michels the longest-serving presiding officer in the history of the South Dakota State Legislature. Let’s recognize and thank him for that service.

Presumably, Michels will continue to serve for the remainder of his term, achieving an 8th legislative session as president of the senate, making it 12 sessions presiding over a legislative chamber. (In South Dakota, as in many other states, the lieutenant governor serves as president of the senate.)

michels-2014-official-portrait
Lt. Governor Matt Michels

It is a confluence of several factors that have allowed Michels to reach this milestone:

Michels has served as both speaker of the house and as president of the senate

Michels is one of only five people to have presided over both legislative chambers.  The others are A. C. Miller, Nils Boe, and Lowell C. Hanson II, and Walter Dale Miller.

The move to annual legislative sessions

Prior to 1963, the State Legislature only met every other year.  This means that a Speaker serving a two-year term presided over only one session.  Beginning in 1963, the State Legislature moved to annual sessions, which means a speaker typically presides over two sessions.

Michels served two terms as speaker of the house

By tradition, after each election, the State House elects a new speaker for a two-year term.  Only six speakers have been elected to a second two year term:  Albert Somers (1899-1902), John L. Browne (1903-06), Morris Chaney (1907-10), A. C. Miller (1937-40), Nils Boe (1955-58) and Matt Michels (2003-06).

In Michels’ case, he was elected to a second term as speaker because outgoing Speaker Pro Tempore Christopher Madsen, who traditionally would have succeeded Michels, did not return to the State House.  With no heir apparent in place, Michels’ peers elected him to serve again.

Michels is the only speaker to serve two terms as speaker since the change to annual sessions in 1963, and is therefore the only speaker to serve for more than four sessions.

The move to four-year terms for constitutional officers, including the lieutenant governor

Prior to 1974, the governor, lieutenant governor, and other constitutional officers served two-year terms.  Beginning in 1974, these officials are all elected to four-year terms.  This change, combined with annual legislative sessions, means that a lieutenant governor now presides over four Senate sessions in one term.

Michels has served two terms as lieutenant governor

Assuming he completes his second term, Michels will be the fourth lieutenant governor to complete two four-year terms, and therefore preside over eight sessions as lieutenant governor.  The others are Lowell C. Hansen II (1979-87), Carole Hillard (1995-2003), and Dennis Daugaard (2003-11).

The ‘stache

Really that’s the only reason.  It couldn’t have happened without the ‘stache.

Below is a list of every presiding officer, with the number of regular legislative sessions served a President of the Senate and as Speaker of the House:

PRESIDING OFFICER SENATE PRESIDENT HOUSE SPEAKER TOTAL
Michels, Matthew 8 4 12
Hansen, Lowell C. II 8 2 10
Miller, Walter Dale 7 2 9
Hillard, Carole 8 8
Daugaard, Dennis 8 8
Miller, A. C. 2 2 4
Boe, Nils 2 2 4
Overpeck, Lem 4 4
Dougherty, William 4 4
Wollman, Harvey 4 4
Terry, Rex 3 3
Herreid, Charles N. 2 2
Snow, George W. 2 2
Shober, Howard C. 2 2
McMaster, William H. 2 2
Gunderson, Carl 2 2
McMurchie, Donald 2 2
Grigsby, Sioux 2 2
Houck, L. R. “Roy” 2 2
Abdnor, E. James 2 2
Somers, Albert 2 2
Browne, John L. 2 2
Chaney, Morris 2 2
Brown, Paul E. 2 2
Droz, Charles 2 2
Jelbert, James 2 2
Gunderson, Dexter 2 2
Oscheim, Donald 2 2
Lebrun, Gene 2 2
Barnett, Joseph 2 2
Mickelson, George S. 2 2
Lammers, Jerome 2 2
Ham, Donald 2 2
Anderson, Debra 2 2
Wood, R. J. “Bud” 2 2
Hood, James 2 2
Cutler, Steve 2 2
Krautschun, Harvey 2 2
Hagg, Rexford 2 2
Hunt, Roger 2 2
Eccarius, Scott 2 2
Deadrick, Thomas 2 2
Rave, Tim 2 2
Rausch, Val 2 2
Gosch, Brian 2 2
Wink, Dean 2 2
Mickelson, G. Mark 2 2
Fletcher, James H. 1 1
Hoffman, George H. 1 1
Hindman, Daniel T. 1 1
Kean, John T. 1 1
McDougall, John E. 1 1
Byrne, Frank M. 1 1
Abel, Edward L. 1 1
Norbeck, Peter 1 1
Forney, A. Clark 1 1
Covey, Hyatt E. 1 1
Coyne, Clarence E. 1 1
Whitney, Odell K. 1 1
Ustrud, Hans 1 1
Peterson, Robert 1 1
Lindley, John F. 1 1
Bottum, Joseph H. 1 1
Kirby, Steven T. 1 1
Young, Sutton E. 1 1
Seward, Charles X. 1 1
Lawson, James M. 1 1
Howard, Charles T. 1 1
Colvin, John 1 1
Morris, Charles J. 1 1
Tscharner, Peter J. 1 1
Christopherson, C. A. 1 1
Roberts, A. C. 1 1
Benson, Lewis 1 1
Berdahl, Christian 1 1
Frescoln, Emmet O. 1 1
McDonald, Charles S. 1 1
Williamson, Ray F. 1 1
Loucks, Daniel K. 1 1
McVeigh, B. W. 1 1
Abild, George 1 1
Eggert, W. J. 1 1
Mickelson, George T. 1 1
Hove, O. H. 1 1
Halls, Anton 1 1
Mills, George W. 1 1
Munck, Arthur E. 1 1
Stokes, Hugh 1 1
Gates, Hobart H. 1 1
Gubbrud, Archie 1 1
Burgess, Carl 1 1

Presidential Cabinet members from SD

With the “Trump transition” in full swing, the political news is filled with cabinet appointments and speculation about unfilled positions.  Speculation has included several midwesterners for presidential appointments, but to date, no South Dakotans have received significant attention as potential members of the Trump Administration.

602px-clinton_p-_anderson_13th_secretary_of_agriculture_june_1945_-_may_1948-_-_flickr_-_usdagov
Clinton P. Anderson, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, 1945-48.

In U.S. History, only one South Dakotan has served in a president’s cabinet.  Clinton P. Anderson served as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture from 1945 to 1948, during the administration of President Harry S. Truman.

Anderson was born in Centerville, SD in 1895.  He left the state to attend the University of Michigan, briefly returned and worked at the Mitchell Daily Republic, and then relocated to New Mexico to receive treatment for tuberculosis.  He remained in New Mexico for the rest of his life.  Anderson was a congressman at the time that Truman appointed him as Ag Secretary, and following that service, his fellow New Mexicans returned him to Congress as a U.S. Senator.

Although Clinton Anderson spent his early years in South Dakota, he made his home in New Mexico and spent his public career representing that state.  Therefore, he is typically counted as a New Mexican, not a South Dakotan (just as Doland-native Hubert H. Humphrey is typically considered a vice president and senator from Minnesota, not South Dakota.)

20081211_td_rollout-1136

South Dakota came close to having a favorite son in the cabinet in 2008.  Tom Daschle, the former Senate Democratic Leader who spent 26 years representing South Dakota in Congress, was selected by President-elect Barack Obama to be his nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services.  Given Obama’s plans to reform the health care sector (what ultimately led to the Affordable Care Act, or “ObamaCare”), this was a significant appointment.

Unfortunately, Daschle withdrew his nomination in early 2009, after questions emerged about his failure to pay income taxes on chauffeur service he had received as compensation from an investment firm.  The appointment instead went to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas.  One can only imagine how the history of the drafting, passage, and implementation of the Affordable Care Act would have been different, had Daschle rather than Sebelius led HHS during this crucial period.

Thus ends the short history of South Dakotans in the president’s cabinet.

Several other South Dakotans have received high-level presidential appointments.  This in not an exhaustive list, but to mention a few:

  • Former Governor George T. Mickelson was appointed by President Eisenhower to be federal district judge in South Dakota.
  • Eisenhower also appointed Former Governor Sigurd Anderson to be a member of the Federal Trade Commission.
  • Former Governor Nils Boe was appointed by President Nixon as White House Director of Inter-Governmental Affairs, and then as a federal judge on the U.S. Customs Court.
  • Governor Richard F. Kneip resigned to accept an appointment from President Carter as U.S. Ambassador to Singapore.
  • State Senator Mary McClure, the state senate’s president pro tempore, was appointed by President George H. W. Bush as White House Director of Inter-Governmental Affairs, the same position Governor Boe had held.

Kristi Noem: Six women who blazed the trail

kristi_noem_portraitCongresswoman Kristi Noem announced Monday evening that she will seek the Republican nomination for Governor of South Dakota in 2018.  Noem, who was handily elected to her fourth term in the U.S. House last week, enters a Republican field that will almost certainly include Attorney General Marty Jackley.  State Rep. Mark Mickelson, the son and grandson of former governors who was widely seen as a likely candidate, made a surprise announcement last week that he will not run.

If elected, Noem would be South Dakota’s 33rd governor, but the first woman to hold that office – certainly a historic milestone if achieved.  Six other women, however, have blazed the trail by running, albeit unsuccessfully, for Governor of South Dakota:

1922:  Alice Lorraine Daly, Nonpartisan League

The Nonpartisan League was a short-lived socialist-leaning party that was influential in South Dakota in the late 1910s and early 1920s.  The League came into the state from North Dakota, where it met with such success that it ultimately merged with the state’s Democratic Party, which to this day is still officially the “North Dakota Democratic-Nonpartisan League Party.”  The League met only limited success in South Dakota, however, due to Peter Norbeck’s efforts to co-opt the most popular aspects of its agenda.

During this time, the Democrats and the NPL were near parity, with both well behind the Republicans.  In 1918, NPL-backed candidate Mark P. Bates ran for governor and finished in second place, with 26% of the vote, losing to Peter Norbeck but finishing ahead of Democrat James E. Bird.  Two years later, Bates again finished in second place, behind William McMaster but ahead of Democrat W. W. Howes.

Alice Lorraine Daly was the NPL candidate for governor in 1922, and although she was not nominated by one of the two major parties, hers was a serious candidacy.  That year, Governor McMaster was easily reelected with 45% of the vote, with the Democrats and NPL splitting the remaining vote almost easily.  Democrat Louis Napoleon Crill won 28.7% and Daly won 26.2%.

(You can learn more about the NPL in Insurgent Democracy:  The Nonpartisan League in North American Politics by Michael J. Lansing.)

1930:  Gladys Pyle, Republican

gladys-pyleGladys Pyle is a significant figure in South Dakota history.  Her father John served as attorney general from 1899 until his death in 1902, and her mother, Mamie was a leader of women’s suffrage in the state.

Gladys Pyle set several important milestones for women in South Dakota politics.  In 1922, she became the first woman to serve in the South Dakota State Legislature, winning her first of two terms representing her hometown of Huron in the State House.  In 1926, she was elected secretary of state, the first woman to hold statewide office in South Dakota.

In 1930, following two terms as secretary of state, Pyle announced her candidacy for the Republican nomination for governor.  Incredibly for the era, Pyle finished in first place in a field of five candidates, winning 28.3% of the vote.  Unfortunately, state law at that time stated that, if no candidate won 35% of the vote, the Republican State Convention could choose a nominee from among the candidates.  At the state convention, Pyle could not achieve a majority, as the other candidates refused to withdraw in her favor.  After eleven deadlocked ballots, other candidates withdrew in favor of little-known Warren E. Green, who had finished dead-last in the primary with only 7.4% and had never led in the convention balloting.  Green went on to be elected in the general election.  (Like Kristi Noem, Green was a Hamlin County farmer and former state legislator.)

Had Pyle been elected, she would have been the first woman in the United States to be elected governor without being the wife or widow of a previous governor. That milestone was not achieved for another 44 years, when Ella Grasso was elected Governor of Connecticut in 1974.

Following her defeat, Pyle returned to her insurance business in Huron.  In 1938, she was elected to serve the final months of U.S. Senator Peter Norbeck’s term; he had died in late 1936.  Due to a flaw in South Dakota election laws, the parties were each required to nominate two different candidates – one to hold the new six-year term beginning in 1939, and the other to serve the two months between the 1938 general election and the seating of the new Congress.  Pyle was the Republican nominee for the interim seat, and her election made her the first woman to represent South Dakota in Congress.  The Senate did not meet during her brief tenure.

Pyle returned to Huron after her brief service in the U.S. Senate, dying in 1989 at the age of 99.  Her Huron home, in which she lived for her entire life, is open for tours.  A book also recounts her life:  The Incredible Gladys Pyle by Jeannette Kinyon and Jean Walz.

1946:  Jennie M. O’Hern, Democratic

Jennie M. O’Hern was the first woman to seek the Democratic nomination for Governor of South Dakota.  She was an active Democrat, with stints on the Democratic National Committee and as a Democratic presidential elector, and worked as a railroad telegrapher in Wakpala.  In 1946, O’Hern sought the Democratic nomination, finishing in third with 25.6% in a primary that was won by Richard Haeder.  Haeder lost the general election by a two-to-one margin to Republican George T. Mickelson, the attorney general and a former speaker of the house.

1986:  Alice Kundert, Republican

alice-kundertIt was forty years until another woman ran for governor.  Alice Kundert was a native of Mound City who had served as state auditor from 1969 to 1979 and as secretary of state from 1979 to 1987.  In 1986, she entered a competitive field for the Republican nomination for governor that also included Lt. Governor Lowell Hansen, former Congressman Clint Roberts, and former House Speaker George S. Mickelson, who was the son of former Governor George T. Mickelson.

It was a competitive primary, but Kundert ultimately finished in fourth place with 13.8%.  Mickelson won the primary narrowly over Roberts, and exceeded the 35% required to avoid a runoff by only 0.3%.

Following her defeat, Kundert traveled the state to speak at schools about South Dakota history, in conjunction with the state’s centennial.  She also served two terms in the State House, from 1991-95.

2014:  Susan Wismer, Democratic

wismerSusan Wismer was the first woman to be nominated by a major party for Governor of South Dakota.  Her grandfather, Art Jones, and her uncle, Curtis Jones, both represented Marshall County in the state legislature, and Wismer followed in their footsteps when she was elected to her first of three State House terms in 2008.

In 2014, Wismer sought the Democratic nomination, winning with 56% and achieving the historical milestone as the first woman to win a gubernatorial primary.  Wismer made additional history later that month, when she named former legislator Susy Blake of Sioux Falls as her running mate.  The Wismer/Blake ticket was the first all-woman ticket in South Dakota history, and only the fourth time in U.S. history that two women ran on a single ticket for governor and lieutenant governor, following Dawn Clark Netsch and Penny Severns of Illinois in 1994, Peppy Martin and Wanda Cornelius of Kentucky in 1999, and Barbara Buono and Milly Silva of New Jersey in 2013.

Facing an uphill battle against popular incumbent Gov. Dennis Daugaard, Wismer won 25.4% in the general election.  She was returned to the State House in 2016 without opposition.

2014:  Lora Hubbel, Republican

A single-term state representative and frequent candidate, Hubbel ran against Gov. Dennis Daugaard in the 2014 Republican primary.  Hubbel objected to the state’s adoption of the Common Core education standards and opposed the state’s efforts to comply with requirements of the federal Affordable Care Act (or “Obamacare.”)  She lost the primary to Daugaard with 19.1% of the vote.  In a bizarre twist, after the primary, independent candidate for lieutenant governor Caitlyn Collier withdrew from her place on a ticket with former professor Michael Myers, and after a court ruled that Myers could name a new running mate, he selected Hubbel.  The Myers/Hubbel ticket won 4.1% as Daugaard was reelected with 70.5%.

Looking ahead to 2018

Congresswoman Noem will be the seventh woman to seek South Dakota’s governorship.  Although other candidates may enter and much remains to be seen, Noem’s financial advantage, her four successful statewide campaigns, and her high profile in South Dakota politics make her a formidable candidate.

Noem is not the first woman to run for Governor of South Dakota.  She is not the first Republican woman to run, nor would she be the first woman to appear on a general election ballot or to be nominated by a major party for governor.  If she wins the primary, she would be the first woman to be the Republican nominee for governor.  And, if elected, Noem will make history as the first woman to hold the state’s highest office.