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Statewide GOP incumbents outlast challengers, Amendment C rejected

Noem 2022 primary.jpg
Josh Haiar
Governor Kristi Noem addresses crowd at election watch party in Sioux Falls

It was a quick night for the top of the ticket. The Associated Press called the primary election for Governor Kristi Noem and US Senator John Thune about twenty-two minutes after polls closed.

Republican Representative Steve Haugaard challenged Governor Kristi Noem, hoping his messages of government transparency would resonate with voters.

But Noem’s popularity has risen since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Noem says she’s thankful for getting the nomination again.

“And now, with your support, we’re going to have the chance to go to a November election and make sure that we’re pushing back on Joe Biden’s America and what he’s doing to this country,” Noem says.

Noem will face Democrat Jamie Smith and Libertarian Tracey Quint in the general election.

Republican state Representative Taffy Howard lost handily to Dusty Johnson in what became a heated race.

Johnson says it feels good to get re-nominated.

Dusty 2022 primary.jpg
Lee Strubinger
Representative Dusty Johnson celebrates his victory against challenger Taffy Howard in Sioux Falls.

“This was a difficult race, because, frankly, we had almost a million dollars of outside money dropped in the state. I always think South Dakota elections should be run and determined by South Dakotans. So, this win is even more gratifying because, frankly, we didn’t let the New Jersey PAC’s win.” says Johnson.

Another incumbent, U.S. Senator John Thune, survived challenges from two candidates. That’s even after former-President Donald Trump declared Thune’s political career over.

“I want to thank Republicans in South Dakota for supporting my Senate candidacy,” Thune says. “I look forward to continue putting South Dakota's interests on the national agenda and stopping Biden's radical, left-wing crusade.”

Primary voters also rejected Constitutional Amendment C, which would have raised the threshold for certain ballot questions to 60 percent.

Republican lawmakers placed the question on the primary ballot, so it would be in place for Medicaid expansion in November.

Voters rejected the proposal by nearly 70 percent.

Republican State Senator Lee Schoenbeck placed the question before South Dakota voters. He says the opponents ran an amazing ad campaign.

“They did a really good job because there is zero doubt that if you put a ballot question out there that said ‘Do you want to make it harder to enact an income tax in South Dakota?’ It gets, like, 80 percent of the vote. Instead, it got a third of the vote,” Schoenbeck says. “They did a great job of confusing the issue.”

However, Constitutional Amendment C is getting challenged in court.

David Owen is president of the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce. He is not acting in his official capacity as he joins a few in bringing a lawsuit. The suit challenges the ballot question as having more than one subject, which is prohibited in the constitution.

Owen says he’s always had faith in South Dakota voters.

“This is a relief,” Owen says. “I’ll remind listeners that several years ago there was a proposal to say constitutional amendments needed 55 percent. Virtually no campaign and voters rejected that. I think the voters of South Dakota are very careful about the kinds of things they put in the constitution.”

Owen suspects the lawsuit might get dropped. However, he says the single-subject question needs to be answered. The measure will not affect Medicaid expansion in November.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.