Kristi Noem

U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem will become South Dakota’s first female governor after defeating Democrat Billie Sutton in Tuesday’s general election. (File)

 Kristi Noem won Tuesday’s general election by an unexpectedly narrow margin of about 5 percent, after a hard-fought campaign against Democrat Billie Sutton.

She will be South Dakota’s first female governor.

Noem claimed about 52 percent of the vote to Sutton’s 47 percent. Libertarian Kurt Evans had claimed about 1 percent of the vote. About 80 percent of the state’s precincts had fully reported.

Noem’s campaign message hinged on what she called the “Four Pillars of Protection”. Those pillars included protection from taxes, protection from government growth, which included a pledge not to create any new boards or commissions while governor, protection from federal intrusion and protection from government secrecy. The pillar focusing on secrecy included a commitment to work with local governments in addition to state offices to improve transparency.

Noem’s message was bolstered by a September visit from Trump and late in the game buy a visit from Vice President Mike Pence and Republican Senators Lindsey Graham of North Carolina and Cory Gardner of Colorado on Nov. 5.

Stanley County went for Noem in a big way. Roughly 69 percent of voters there picked Noem.

Sutton, for his part, ran on his credentials as a moderate Democrat, who had more in common with centrist Republicans than Democrats on the far left of the spectrum. Sutton also has been the state senate minority leader and touted his willingness to work with Republicans to get legislation passed.

Sutton chose Michelle Lavallee a former Republican to be his running mate, choice, he said, that showed his willingness to work across party lines.

Hughes County voters went blue in the Governor’s race. Sutton pulled 51.75 percent of the vote to Noem’s 46.82 percent.


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