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Sutton Drew 91K New Democratic Voters… Who Didn’t Vote for Many Other Democrats

I just heard Seth Tupper say that Billie Sutton’s second-place finish last night was “near miraculous.” If that’s a miracle, then your God has no mercy for Democrats.

However, Sutton’s loss did produce at least one remarkable number: 90,867 more Democratic votes than in the last gubernatorial election:

2002 2006 2010 2014 2018 diff
GOP 189,920 206,990 195,046 195,477 172,894 -22,583
Dem 140,263 121,226 122,037 70,549 161,416 90,867
Ind 2,393 11,377
Lib 1,983 4,010 4,844
Con 3,282
total 334,559 335,508 317,083 277,403 339,154 61,751

61,751 more voters participated in this gubernatorial election than the last. Sutton got more people to mark “D” for Governor this year than any other Democratic candidate yet this century.

Yet those additional 90,867 Democratic voters did little to boost the fortunes of any other Democratic ticket. The Sutton surge, if it included any voters who were willing to mark any other Ds downballot, may have helped Erin Healy, Kelly Sullivan, Michael Saba, Ryan Cwach, and Peri Pourier win seats in their Sutton-swinging counties, but Sutton’s 50% toppages in Brown, Marshall, Day, and Roberts County did not save the District 1 seat that Republican Tamara St. John stole from Democrats or bring any Dems up in Districts 2 and 3. Sutton’s solid 51’s in three of District 8’s four counties did not help Scott Parsley take back his seat from Jordan Youngberg or pull up either Democratic House candidate. And whatever state employees quietly picked Sutton over their next boss didn’t dare squirt out and give any substantial vote boost to their District 24 Democratic candidates for Senate and House… even though their Senate candidate, Amanda Bachmann, was one of Sutton’s biggest boosters.

Billie Sutton brought out a lot of voters who sat on their hands in 2010 and 2014. But those voters weren’t enough to save South Dakota from descent into deeper kakistocracy.


  1. leslie 2018-11-07

    Our dear lying leader of right said nothing during post-election press conf this AM MST, about Sessions, the fired him. When asked:”i could’ve fired him at anytime but didn’t. No collusion. No anything.”

    If trolls enable this liar here, that is anything but civil. Lying Chief Kakistrat.

  2. happy camper 2018-11-07

    There is no god there are no miracles but it was surprising how well Sutton did he has no great qualifications a BS in finance and worked in his wife’s family bank big deal. A few years in the state legislature only 33 years old this may be more about how poorly the electorate saw Noem, or they did discriminate against her as a woman, but not against him with a physical handicap I really don’t know a lot is open for interpretation, but I would love some of the Republicans from their perspective to explain why Noem did not have more support. That to me is the astonishing thing.

  3. Kurt Evans 2018-11-07

    Billie seems basically honest, and Noem’s campaign seemed extraordinarily deceitful, especially by South Dakota standards.

    Even among my relatives and strong supporters, there was internal conflict over whether to vote for me or for Billie. If South Dakota had ranked-choice voting, I’m pretty sure he would have been my second choice.

    In the end Dusty Johnson’s nearly flawless campaign probably dragged Noem across the finish line.

  4. OldSarg 2018-11-07

    Leslian, I think Trump fired him to get your goat. You should teach him a lesson and call your democrat representative! Oops, my bad. You don’t have one. . .

  5. Kurt Evans 2018-11-07

    There are few things less classy than gloating the day after a hard-fought election.

  6. mike from iowa 2018-11-07

    OldStickywicket has class. It is all fifth and last class.

  7. happy camper 2018-11-07

    The thing is Kurt you know why your supporters didn’t want to feel the votes for you may have been enough to keep Billie out and let Noem win in such an expected tight race, but I wish someone would shine more light on what happened. It could be as you say that SD turned away from Noem’s dirty campaign. If the clip Cory has of her campaign manager with Ethan Marsland is indicative that is way beyond how South Dakotans carry themselves.

  8. happy camper 2018-11-07

    Oh, someone at DWC suggested it was resentment against Noem from Jackley supporters they might be right and also fits with the way she ran her campaign.

  9. happy camper 2018-11-07

    Not a situation likely to reoccur either, two highly popular Republicans running against each other in the primary splitting the ticket apart. It was surprising from the beginning and something the Repubs should avoid in the future …. if they enjoy keeping a stranglehold on the state and all that. Let’s cross our fingers she does well or at least not as bad as predicted.

  10. Spencer 2018-11-07

    I think part of the problem with Sutton’s lack of coattails is the extent to which he campaigned to the right to appeal to conservatives. The morning of the election, I heard two news stories on the radio about how pro-life and pro-gun Billie Sutton was including his ads that suggested the same. If that is the top of the ticket, why would that same Billie Sutton voter vote for a Cory Heidelberger? Unfortunately, the ruse almost worked. If it were not for the running mate abortion interviews and the Planned Parenthood fundraiser, he would be the next governor. You cannot imagine how many Billie Sutton supporters switched after those two stories broke.

  11. RJ 2018-11-07

    OS- for someone who is so sensitive to “nasty” names, you sure do use them regularly.

  12. happy camper 2018-11-07

    If Spencer is correct Sutton was being disingenuous – supposedly authenticity matters – until you’re so certain you’re right and become a propagandist.

  13. Joe Nelson 2018-11-07

    I am happy to see SD elect its first female governor; a historic first for women in the state.

    I am curious about Sutton’s campaign, as he did do quite well. What would you all say that he did that drew in so many voters? Why did he get more votes, but other candidates did not? Are their lessons that Cory could learn from Sutton in order to get more votes next time?

  14. mike from iowa 2018-11-07

    Spencer, I believe Cory mentioned numerous times Sutton’s pro-life and 2nd amendment stances. It isn’t like that info just popped up on election day.

  15. Debbo 2018-11-07

    Democrats should run fully as Democrats. They can be moderate Democrats, nothing wrong with that, but a Democrat must support full and equal human rights for everyone, EVEN women. No exceptions.

    I know Sutton lost some votes because he was more GOP-lite, not supporting full equal rights.

  16. Adam 2018-11-07

    One rogue Dem’s success does not a party make.

    Wide-spread last-minute play of this advertisement is why Billie lost, and it is self explanitory why there were no down ticket votes in SD.

  17. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-11-07

    Joe, I’m working my way up from outrage to lesson-digging.

    Sutton drew more votes by tacking right, as Spencer says. That’s not a lesson I can put to use, because that would involve my being dishonest. In that regard, Sutton won more votes by being wrong on key issues.

    Sutton also drew more votes because of his unique personal story and image. I can’t apply that lesson, because, even though I look great in hats, I can’t tell a cowboy story that affirms a popular South Dakota self-image.

    Sutton also drew some more votes because he was able to raise the money to fairly challenge much of Noem’s propaganda. That’s a lesson we all can learn… but we can’t put into practice if we follow Tim Bjorkman’s lead and refuse PAC money.

  18. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-11-07

    Jeepers, Adam: are we going to be running against 2016, Hillary, and lies about amnesty and health care forever?

  19. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-11-07

    Kurt! Dusty as the coattailer pulling Noem across the line? I hadn’t considered that possibility, since I’ve been viewing the House race as a sideshow, almost independent of the bright-light Gov’s race. Flesh that out for me: what would people have seen in Dusty that made some significant number go, “Well, if I’m voting for Dusty, I’d better send Kristi to Pierre, too”?

  20. Dale Barnhart 2018-11-07

    I was thinking about this as I spent the day on the interstate driving to a doctor appointment. The results seem all over the place. Curd is neck and neck with newcomer Olivier, Elizabeth May lost and a few other incumbents lost or had really close races. Sutton was pretty much within 1% for most of the night. IM 24 passed, so did Z. Some surprising – some not at much. Seiler and Sutton ended up winning Minnehaha County. My speculation is that a lot of Republicans in SD weren’t exactly happy with the negative ads Noem ran against Jackley in the primary. Those Republicans added to the momentum that developed and Sutton and Seiler benefited from it, which almost propelled Sutton to a victory. Although Jackley ended up endorsing Noem, I think Noem will have a very hard time healing the hard feelings they have for Jackley’s loss. I think this contributed to some upset in races down the line. The other factor has to do with Trump, maybe never-trumpers didnt get the Republican votes that Trump supporting legislators might have. And in some cases where legislators liked Trump, might have been enough to eek them by some of the Democrat opponents. Out of all the statewide races, the one I thought would be the closest and most likely potential for an upset was Ravnsborg vs Seiler which ended up not being close at all. At the Republican convention Ravnsborg didnt win on the first ballot, with Russell and Fitzgerald able to get over 50% between the two, but on the 2nd vote Ravnsborg was able to win easily. Maybe across the state there were enough Republicans that didnt have confidence in Ravnsborg to not vote for him which kept it from being a complete blowout. Some of Jackley’s supporters might have allowed their misgivings about Noem’s attack ads to either not vote in the AG race, or vote for Seiler. Im not being critical of Jackley supporters, id be a little(a lot) upset if Noem ran those ads against someone I thought highly of. If they did behave that way I wouldn’t blame them one bit.

  21. Adam 2018-11-07

    When is civilized person is injected into an environment comprised only of packs of filthy animals, he/she must choose a pack of filthy animals to affiliate themselves with or their very existence is in greater peril than if they had not.

    And that’s why South Dakota is lost until Democrats shed their ineffective/impotent label and infiltrate the SD Republican Party by flooding it with rhinos and thereby controlling Republican primary elections – where/when only 25% of Republicans turn out the vote.

    With a good pair of glasses, there’s no other way to look at the numbers.

    Take it or leave it, baby. I did not invent math or sociology, but that’s what governs political success – so I embrace as much of it as I have to.

  22. leslie 2018-11-07

    Billie went to a real university, UW (BA Finance). Kristie went to congress and got her degree while serving as Representative. Billie served in the SD Legislature since 2010 and made a name for himself as one of the Democratic Cowboys and Indians. Kristie was hand picked by the SD GOP, like unqualified inexperienced Ravnsborg. Tim may have made the fatal mistake of standing on ethical campaign finance grounds. “Forgetting to duck”, psychologists call it.

    Misogynist OS, at it again, calling me “leslian”. I wonder how many different trolls post under his name?

  23. leslie 2018-11-07

    Oh, where are those 115,000 registered Independents Mercer keeps writing about?

  24. Adam 2018-11-07

    Billie Sutton is the very first symbol and fruit of unity in/amongst South Dakota moderates. This much is VERY ULTRA noteworthy.

    I think the South Dakota Republican Party would very much appreciate a more moderate wing within itself. It’s just saddened me that our Democrats don’t find themselves worthy of filling that void.

  25. Adam 2018-11-07

    Just like Trump, my typos are intentional as it adds to my credibility [Trump’s stated logic for purposeful typos]

  26. Debbo 2018-11-08

    Adam, you think moderate Democrats should become Republicans? And what of liberal Democrats? Should they leave SD? Many have. More probably will.

    The idea of Democrats becoming Republicans to create a moderating force surrenders to a narrative of an unthinking, all R all the time electorate. All though I am feeling fed up with SD voters right now, I have a visceral reaction against giving up, which is what you seem to be saying. Give up honest opposition and resort to subterfuge. I dunno. Just doesn’t feel right.

  27. Adam 2018-11-08

    I think it’s about breaking the fourth wall, like The Colbert Report, where conservatives actually thought that this flaming liberal had one conservative bone in his body – because they are that easy to fool.

  28. Adam 2018-11-08

    Once you embrace their inherent gullibility, it shouldn’t be that hard to play theater – that is – if you care about selling the voice of reason to isolationist peoples.

  29. OldSarg 2018-11-08

    “Misogynist OS, at it again, calling me “leslian” read it aloud to yourself and see if you can figure out why I would call you lesbian whilst you call me names. . .

    It works both ways stupid. “Think” 4th grade playground: You call someone a name and they call you a name back. Who was the fool to start it? Think before responding and understand: If you are civil to me I will be civil to you.

  30. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-11-08

    Dale offers an interesting an wide-ranging comment. I offer only one small critique: the observation that a candidate had any kind of vote status “for most of the night” is politically and historically irrelevant. Reports of incomplete vote counts are artifacts of administrative efficiency at county courthouses, not reflections of any merits of a candidate or campaign. The more relevant way to frame the observation is, as Dale observes, that Sutton and Seiler won Minnehaha County, where Dems made progress and took a couple GOP seats. That regional fact, not the chronological order of reporting, tells us where we Dems can find support for the next run.

  31. mike from iowa 2018-11-08

    A little perspective is in order-

    Senate popular vote:
    Democrats: 40,558,262 (55.4%)
    Republicans: 31,490,026 votes (43.0%)

    Senate seats: Republicans +3″

    Dems had 9 million more votes than wingnuts and still lost three seats. This happens every election because of GERRYMANDERING by wingnuts.

  32. Jason 2018-11-08

    A little perspective is in order-

    MFI wrote:

    Senate popular vote:
    Democrats: 40,558,262 (55.4%)
    Republicans: 31,490,026 votes (43.0%)

    Senate seats: Republicans +3″

    Dems had 9 million more votes than wingnuts and still lost three seats. This happens every election because of GERRYMANDERING by wingnuts.

    LOL. LOL. LOL.

    I swear you don’t even have a sixth grade education.

  33. Jenny 2018-11-08

    I think the biggest draw from voters with going for Sutton is the weariness of the one party rule and the corruption that has come with it.
    A one party system is never good and I think there are plenty of South Dakotans that are finally realizing that.
    No one thought the race would be this close and if Noem hadn’t had all the outside help coming in to help her it very well could have been Sutton’s win. Money and influence win elections.

  34. Jenny 2018-11-08

    Cory, Minnehaha County going blue is big, but also who would have thought Hughes County, which is republican Pierre would go blue! Also Pennington County was close, it went for Noem by only seven percentage points. This is remarkable!
    Keep fighting SD Dems!

  35. mike from iowa 2018-11-08

    Dear Opinions are neither right nor wrong Troll, right back atcha.

    My 5th grade teacher was Edith Benson, the year JFK eas assassinated.

    My 6th grade teacher’s name was Mrs. Welch.
    7th grade teacher was ‘Surfer Bill’ Jents who bounced a ‘Superball’ all during class.

    8th grade was taught by ‘Juicy Jim’ Bruce. He was called that because of his nose picking and chewing routine when he thought no one was looking.

    I made it at least to 8th grade, dropout Troll.

  36. OldSarg 2018-11-08

    mike~ It is too early for you to post. Please read the 17th Amendment of the Constitution so you don’t sound so simple minded. Thank God Iowa has you and not our state.

  37. mike from iowa 2018-11-08

    Here’s another riddle for you, Troll- As of Tuesday’s data, North Carolina has 2,640,726 registered Democrats (38.9 percent), 2,056,294 voters registered as unaffiliated (30.3 percent), 2,055,758 registered Republicans (30.3 percent) and 33,474 registered Libertarians (0.5 percent).Sep 13, 2017

    Now look at the gerrymandered map and ask yerself how could a party with 38% of the registered voters only get 23% of the congressional seats.

    I know you are narrow between the ears and have tunnel vision, but I firmly believe you can see how unfair gerrymandering is when done to this extreme.(I won’t hold my breath, Troll)

  38. OldSarg 2018-11-08

    mikey~ here is a link to Kids Law. It will explain the 17th Amendment at a level you may understand:

    It’s a good site. You will like it.

  39. OldSarg 2018-11-08

    mike~ Senate elections are a state wide popular vote. There are no lines that form voting blocks which would involve gerrymandering for Senate elections. Gerrymandering cannot affect a state wide election in North Carolina or Iowa or any other state. It is a state wide popular vote. No gerrymandering involved.

    Here, try to understand this: No, no. Not happen. No bad man take simple man vote.

  40. Wayne B. 2018-11-08

    Saba squeaked by because, I think, enough Republicans remembered the stupid things Clark said and punished him for it.

    Cory, how many votes did you garner in the two elections in which you ran? Did you pick up more votes this time around? Do you think that had anything to do with more handshakes or from Billie’s short coattails?

    MFI – just to extend a bit of kindness (and in the hopes that maybe you’ll tone down your rhetoric), Jason is pointing out that Senate races can’t be gerrymandered because they are statewide elections; there are no districts to gerrymander. So more Dems can vote in total, but if they’re all concentrated in populous states, then you’ll see an imbalance like you note.

  41. mike from iowa 2018-11-08

    OldSimplynotsmartenoughtobreatheonhisown- how do you think state’s populations are thrown together? You and Troll pogey bait are so far off the grid it is pathetic.

    Even the courts say gerrymandered districts are unconstitutional and have to be changed so all of one party cannot be locked in one district to allow an electoral advantage of gargantuan proportions to the party that cheats and steals elections every 2 years.

  42. OldSarg 2018-11-08

    mike~ gerrymandering still has nothing to do with a state wide popular vote. All the state wide votes are added up and Voilà!

    Do not take this personal but please reconsider where you are getting your ideas. In a US Congressional Senate race the vote in every state is a popular vote and not dependent upon the district or area you vote in. The person just votes and the votes are totaled to determine the winner.

  43. TAG 2018-11-08

    Back to Billie – I don’t think he was disingenuous at all. He didn’t suddenly become pro-gun-rights or pro-life for the election. He may have considered an income tax in the past, but learned that it would never happen in South Dakota, and wouldn’t be popular.

    That isn’t being disingenuous or deceitful. It’s called being responsive to the opinions of your electorate. It’s also called learning. Being open to new ideas, and changing them when presented with compelling arguments is a good trait, in my opinion. Inflexible ideologies are not, IMO. Especially for the executive branch of government.

    I would say that if there is one major lesson to be taken from Billie’s (almost) success, its that he attempted to neutralize or at least downplay the contentious wedge issues that have been so divisive. He tried to “not take the bait” on wedge issues, so to speak, and chose to focus on things that have more widespread appeal, like tackling corruption and investing in education.

    At the end of the day, we may differ on the methods, but who among us is “pro-corruption” or “anti-education”? Or for that matter, who is “pro-deficit spending” or “pro-nazis” or “pro-poverty expansion”? Focusing on shared values is a good thing, not something to be suspicious of. Allegedly.

  44. mike from iowa 2018-11-08

    Cory, you might find this bit of info curious why votes for Sutton didn’t translate to any other Dems-

    Iowans split tickets in state, federal races

    So what accounts for Republicans’ success at the state level but Democratic gains in federal races? Split ticket voters.

    In 85 of Iowa’s 99 counties, the Democratic candidate for Congress earned more votes than gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell.

    Paul said the strong showing by Democrats in those congressional races seemed to indicate a potential Hubbell victory.

    Jennifer Duffy, an elections analyst with the Cook Political
    Report who specializes in governor’s races and the U.S. Senate, said that was common across the nation this year.

    “We saw a lot of splitting tickets this time, even if the same party won say the governor’s race and the Senate race — one may have won by 15 points and one may have squeaked by,” Duffy said. “It means voters thought about it.”

    What that seems to indicate, Strawn said, is that the governor’s race “wasn’t completely nationalized.”

    In Iowa, the governor’s race focused around state issues like the privatization of Medicaid, access to mental health care services, state-level tax cuts a

  45. Kurt Evans 2018-11-08

    I’d written:

    In the end Dusty Johnson’s nearly flawless campaign probably dragged Noem across the finish line.

    Cory writes:

    Flesh that out for me: what would people have seen in Dusty that made some significant number go, “Well, if I’m voting for Dusty, I’d better send Kristi to Pierre, too”?

    Well, Dusty obviously supported her and campaigned essentially side-by-side with her in the closing days of the race, but more broadly it just seems to me that—with occasional exceptions—people tend to consciously or subconsciously associate candidates from a given party. Sorry I don’t have a more intellectually stimulating explanation. :-)

    Jenny writes:

    … who would have thought Hughes County, which is republican Pierre would go blue!

    Government towns generally lean toward the big-government left.

    “TAG” writes:

    Back to Billie … Being open to new ideas, and changing them when presented with compelling arguments is a good trait, in my opinion. Inflexible ideologies are not, IMO.

    Billie Sutton seems to see the role of government the way I did at age 18, and Kristi Noem seems to see it the way I did at age 28. I wasn’t a bad person at either of those ages, and at age 48, I have points of agreement and disagreement with each of my former worldviews.

  46. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-11-08

    Wayne, Al and I both actually got fewer votes this time than in 2016—me 246 fewer, Al 1031 fewer. My percentage rose from 39% to 42%. I don’t have hard data on what cause that minor increase, or whether that increase could just be statistical noise.

  47. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-11-08

    Kurt, when you were 28, you saw government as just another beauty pageant? I’m disappointed in you.

  48. Kurt Evans 2018-11-08

    Cory writes:

    Kurt, when you were 28, you saw government as just another beauty pageant?

    Oh, Cory. :-)

    Not exactly, but I sometimes saw it as a tool to micromanage other people’s lives and coerce non-Christians to act like Christians. #TrueConfessions

  49. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-11-08

    Wow—that is an apt summary of Kristi Noem’s current politics. Now that your campaign is done, you should blog more.

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