Election victory: “Winning the election is a good-news, bad-news kind of thing.
OK, now you’re the mayor. The bad news is, now you’re the mayor.” – Clint Eastwood
For a long time, I thought Stephanie Herseth Sandlin would be the state’s first female governor.
She had the political pedigree – her grandfather was governor and her dad came within an eyelash.
Instead, she became the first South Dakota woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. She served from 2004 to 2011 before being ousted by the woman who would, in fact, become South Dakota’s first female chief executive officer, as Kristi Noem likes to describe the governor’s position.
Later, Herseth Sandlin found peace and prosperity as the first woman president of Augustana University. Her work is meaningful and she’s back in her home state full-time.
That was an objective of Noem, too. Living during the week in the nation’s capital and coming home on weekends isn’t the most wonderful of lifestyles. Most of those who have been there and done that would agree.
The question many posed after last week’s election was this: What kind of governor – CEO – will Noem be?
And the second most popular question was: In a heavily Republican state, why was the race so close?
Reason one: The hardball television ad against her primary opponent, Marty Jackley, incensed many Republicans and not just Jackley supporters. Though Jackley ultimately endorsed her, the damage had been done. Democrat Billie Sutton carried Hughes County, a first since 1972.
Two, Noem IS a conservative, too conservative for some moderate and liberal Republicans who found, in Sutton, a reasonable alternative. This was particularly true for RINOs and NeverTrumpers because Noem had associated herself with the president on more than one issue.
Three, Noem has struggled with the female vote. Or at least that’s what some political experts tell me. I can’t quantify it, but the supporting data is there.
Four, Sutton ran as a moderate-to-conservative candidate. Pro-gun, pro-life, and pro-balanced budget. It was a comfort to many Republicans and they voted for him.
Fifth, and most important, was Sutton’s compelling personal story. Why not vote for a man whose rodeo career was cut short by an accident, but who recovered and succeeded in professional and political careers and was a good provider for his family?
Back to the first question. What can we expect from Noem as governor? Unless I miss my guess, great things. She’s smart, she’s tough and she’ll be a great saleswoman for the state, which is a key part of her job.
It also fits in with her top priority: Developing more and better jobs for our state’s young people so they can stick around.
It should be fun to watch.
Nov. 14, 2018