Noem wins second term as South Dakota governor
Kristi Noem has won another term as South Dakota governor, defeating Democrat Jamie Smith and Libertarian Tracey Quint.
The Associated Press called the race for Noem Tuesday night. Smith conceded shortly afterwards.
Noem served in the state legislature before being elected to the U.S. House in 2010. She ran for governor in 2018, defeating Democrat Billie Sutton with 51% of the vote.
Smith has been the minority leader in the South Dakota House since 2019. He was first elected in 2016, representing a Sioux Falls district. He announced his bid for governor in February.
Noem has seen her star within the GOP rise on the national stage in recent years. She touted her hands-off approach to the COVID-19 pandemic and has used social media to contrast herself against President Joe Biden, a political foil for many Republican candidates in deep red states.
Despite Noem's growing fame, Smith provided a resilient challenge in a state with a strong Republican majority. Smith used Noem's popularity against her, pointing to her frequent campaign trips for other candidates as proof she is focused on national ambitions rather than state issues.
Noem's campaign hit a rocky patch in August when she came under scrutiny of a state ethics board. The board investigated one complaint that Noem helped her daughter acquire a real estate appraiser license, and another that alleged she misused the state airplane. Noem denied wrongdoing in both cases, calling the complaints political hit jobs initiated former Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg. A DCI investigation cleared Noem on her use of the state plane.
The Republican incumbent intensified her campaign as the election drew nearer. She publicly touted a proposal to cut the state's sales tax on food, something Smith previously pushed for as a state lawmaker.
In the week leading up to the election, Noem brought in political stars like Virginia Governor Glen Youngkin and Tulsi Gabbard. Former President Donald Trump also made a virtual appearance.
In her acceptance speech, Noem doubled down on her campaign promise to fight inflation by cutting the state sales tax on food.
“We’re going to remember that the solution lies in less government, not more,” Noem said. “We’re going to recognize that strong families are they key to strong communities. We have to realize that tax payer dollars are not our own. They belong to the people. This next legislative session my priority will be returning $100 million of tax cuts to the South Dakota people, which is the largest tax cut in our history.”
After conceding the election, Smith encouraged supporters to go forth with a renewed sense of hope.
“Because when we have each other, we have a reason to keep going,” Smith said. “As I leave this stage tonight, I leave you with my deepest gratitude and the certainty that the future is bright. Because even though things didn’t go the way we want I know we accomplished something. We can accomplish anything when we do it together.”
Noem's win marks Republicans' continued dominance over the governor's office in South Dakota. A Democrat has not held the office since the 1970s.