SIOUX FALLS (AP) — Republican Lt. Gov. Dennis Daugaard was elected South Dakota's governor Tuesday, turning back a challenge from Scott Heidepriem, leader of the state Senate's Democratic minority.
With more than two-thirds of the precincts reporting, Daugaard had 62 percent of the votes to succeed term-limited Gov. Mike Rounds and keep the office in Republican hands. Heidepriem had 38 percent.
Daugaard said he thinks voters supported him because he pledged to boost South Dakota's economy and create more jobs and is capable of balancing the state budget.
"I'm ready and anxious to tackle both of them," Daugaard said.
Heidepriem pledged his help and that of other Democrats to help Daugaard deal with the state's problems.
In a race that focused largely on the state budget's problems, Daugaard, 57, said he could manage state government and balance the budget because of his extensive experience in both private business and government. He said an expanding economy will bring state government more tax revenue without raising tax rates.
Heidepriem, 54, argued that Daugaard and current Gov. Rounds failed to control state spending in the past eight years. The Democrat said he would cut spending in many areas, limit spending growth in most state agencies to 2 or 3 percent and use the savings to boost state aid to school districts.
History was against Heidepriem in a state where registered Republicans far outnumber Democrats. The last Democratic governor in South Dakota left office 32 years ago. While 25 governors in South Dakota history have been Republican, only five have been Democrats.
Daugaard's message that he has the experience and character to be governor appeared to draw support from voters.
Cynthia Monnin, 51, of Sioux Falls, said she voted for Daugaard after they met when he attended her church.
"He's an upstanding individual. He's a man of principle," said Monnin, a Republican who owns a construction company.
Daugaard was a banker for 10 years before working for nearly two decades as leader of the South Dakota Children's Home Society, which provides services to troubled children. He was a state senator for six years before becoming lieutenant governor in 2003.
Heidepriem is a lawyer, working first in his hometown of Miller before moving to open a law practice in Sioux Falls. He was first elected to the South Dakota House in 1982 as a Republican and spent much of the next decade in the Legislature. He was elected to the state Senate in 2006 as a Democrat.
Republican state Sen. Jason Gant defeated Democratic Sen. Ben Nesselhuf for secretary of state.
Attorney General Marty Jackley won a new term against Democrat Ron Volesky; Republican Steve Barnett defeated Democratic state Sen. Julie Bartling for state auditor; Republican Rich Sattgast beat Democrat Tom Katus for state treasurer; School and Public Lands Commissioner Jarrod Johnson won re-election against against Democrat Bob Pille; and Public Utilities Commissioner Dusty Johnson won a second term against Democrat Doyle Karpen.