Abbott coasts to primary win USD president will face Rounds in November Colette Abbott, wife of Democratic candidate for governor Jim Abbott, listens as he addresses supporters Tuesday at the Sioux Falls Convention Center. by David Lias People hoping for high drama in the South Dakota Democratic gubernatorial primary race had their hopes dashed Tuesday.
University of South Dakota President James Abbott coasted to an easy victory, garnering nearly 70 percent of the votes cast by Democrats across the state.
As election returns began to trickle in Tuesday, Abbott was continually reported as the top vote-getter by a wide margin.
He addressed supporters Tuesday night at the Sioux Falls Convention Center shortly before 10 p.m.
By that time, more than half of South Dakota precincts had been counted, and Abbott had 69 percent of the vote, sealing his victory.
"Tonight is a victory for the people of South Dakota," Abbott told a crowd of well-wishers.
"From day one, we've said that our state must choose whether to sit back and accept what happens or to take charge of our own destiny and create South Dakota's future ourselves," he said.
Abbott said his campaign's goals have and will continue to be high aspirations for South Dakota, for the state's children and schools, for senior citizens and health care, for families and for the economy.
"Today, Democrats embraced that vision," he said.
Abbott's opponent in November will be Republican Mike Rounds, a Pierre businessman and former state senator who rose above the negative fray between the top two GOP gubernatorial candidates, former Lt. Gov. Steve Kirby and Attorney General Mark Barnett.
Rounds topped the Republican field, receiving 44 percent of the statewide Republican vote.
Abbott made an appeal to all South Dakotans Tuesday to join his effort to be the first Democrat elected governor since Richard Kneip.
"Tonight, I humbly ask all South Dakotans � Democrat, Republican and Independent � to join with us in our campaign," he said. "I believe every citizen in every corner of this great state shares our high hopes and our high aspirations for the state of South Dakota."
Earlier this year, the South Dakota Board of Regents agreed to grant Abbott a leave of absence from his job as president of The University of South Dakota if he chose to run for governor.
He announced his candidacy in April.
"I'm proud to be a life-long South Dakotan, raised in Yankton and Irene in a family of eight brothers and sisters, some of whom are here tonight," Abbott said.
His parents and Colette Abbott's parents were among the packed room of political supporters at the convention center.
"My father worked hard, really hard, sometimes holding down two jobs almost always, and sometimes three," Abbott said, "and my mother worked hard as well, just to support us. The example that they gave me caused me to have enormous confidence and faith in the people of this state and what we're capable of when we want to make things happen."
He noted that his commitment to education is deep and personal. He is a product of South Dakota schools, and five years ago, he became the first USD alumnus to become president of that institution.
"I believe that South Dakotans want a governor with vision," Abbott said. "Tonight, I pledge to run an aggressive campaign, a campaign worthy of the people of South Dakota. Hopefully, my opponent will do the same for South Dakota's sake."