South Dakota is getting a new governor.
The state’s current governor, Republican Dennis Daugaard, is term-limited out this year, leaving the governor’s mansion up for grabs. There’s a surprisingly heated Republican primary between House Rep. Kristi Noem and South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley. Because South Dakota is among the reddest of the Midwestern states, it’s likely that whoever emerges victorious from the primary will be the state’s next governor.
Polls close at 7 pm local time (South Dakota is split between the Mountain and Central time zones). We will have live results, powered by Decision Desk, below.
The contest for the Republican nomination has gotten close — and bitter — in recent weeks. Jackley and Noem are running a deluge of negative ads. Jackley has been hitting Noem for failing to keep campaign promises on health care and balancing the budget while serving in the House of Representatives in Washington, while Noem has attacked Jackley for being weak on crime.
Jackley has also been mired in a bizarre scandal over a $1.5 million sexual harassment and retaliation settlement between a former agent with the Division of Criminal Investigation, Laura Zylstra Kaiser, and DCI officials. Kaiser, who was dismissed from DCI after filing harassment complaints, said state officials delayed the settlement payments after Jackley saw her sitting with Noem at a Republican fundraising event. The Argus Leader reported:
A jury in December found that state officials retaliated against Kaiser after she filed complaints about abuse and sexual harassment. In February, she reached an agreement with the state, but, she says, the state began withholding the agreement and then started demanding that she also sign a non-disparagement agreement that would have barred her from criticizing Jackley, who denied her grievance prior to Kaiser leaving the DCI.
A recent Mason-Dixon poll found Noem with a 1-point lead over Jackley and concluded she’s doing better with women voters.
While Jackley has been in office since 2009, Noem has served the state’s at-large district in Congress since 2011 and has a stronger name recognition than most House candidates running for higher office. She serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, one of the most important committees in Congress, and if elected, she’d be the state’s first female governor.
The candidates don’t have to distance themselves from President Trump, who has a 72 percent approval rating in South Dakota. The winner of this primary will be up against Democrat Billie Sutton, who currently serves as the state’s Senate minority leader and is running unopposed.
But in such a solidly red state, whoever wins the Republican primary will likely be the next governor of South Dakota.