There are 111,894 reasons for statewide candidates to spend a lot of time campaigning in Sioux Falls. Four are KSFY, KDLT, KELO, and that Sioux Falls newspaper. The other 110,890 are the registered voters who make up over 21% of South Dakota’s electorate.
Billie Sutton and Tim Bjorkman may find a couple more statistical reasons in Tuesday’s GOP primary results to campaign extra hard in our eastern Queen City.
Both Kristi Noem and Dusty Johnson scored slightly higher percentages in Minnehaha County than they earned statewide (Dusty 0.79 points better; Kristi 1.35 points better). But Minnehaha County had the sixth-lowest Republican turnout by percentage in South Dakota. Even with seven Republican Legislative primary races in five of the eight Legislative districts that octosect our most populous county, only 32.13% of Minnehaha Republicans bothered to cast votes for their gubernatorial nominee, and only 31.85% of them cast votes for their Congressional nominee. Statewide, Republican turnout for those two races was 41.00% and 40.18%, respectively. If Minnehaha County Republicans had been as excited about their primary choices as the rest of the state, they’d have cast 3,800 more ballots in the U.S. House race and 4,000 more ballots in the Governor’s race.
Those figures suggest that Minnehaha County Republicans are less enthusiastic about their top-ticket nominees than Republicans are elsewhere in South Dakota. Republican turnout was also notably low in Union, Clay, Lincoln, Moody, Brookings, and Lake counties. The sleepiest of those counties, SDGOP chairman Dan Lederman’s sleepover site in Union County, had the third-worst Republican turnout in the gubernatorial race (25.53%) and second-worst in the U.S. House race (23.96%). (Yeah, good effort to engage your neighbors in democracy, Dan!) Those seven contiguous counties offer candidates over 37% of South Dakota voters.
There are many things Sutton and Bjorkman need to do to win their races against the Republicans whom South Dakota history and current voter registration say are the favorites in November. But smart campaigners look for every marginal advantage, and I’d say an eight-point enthusiasm deficit among Republicans in the southern half of the I-29 corridor is worth an extra round or two of get-out-the-vote canvassing for the Ds and Is and an extra round of mailers to remind the Rs why they aren’t that excited about their nominees.