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South Dakota Poll Roundup and Smart Politics Projections

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Heading into the weekend, Smart Politics plays it close to the vest in deciding to present South Dakota in the second of its Upper Midwest election summaries for the key battles in the Upper Midwest. With incumbents expected by everyone to hold serve in that state, the real challenge lies ahead in some closely watched Minnesota and Wisconsin races…the roundup and predictions for which are coming soon…

SD Governor: The latest KELO-TV / Argus Leader poll has 1-term incumbent Republican governor Mike Rounds leading Democratic challenger Jack Billion by 22 points: 57-35. Billion has gained 7 points on Rounds since July, but not nearly enough to eke out a victory in a state that has elected a republican governor in the last seven elections, dating back to 1978. In fact, only four Democrats have ever been elected to the Governor's office in the state since elections began in 1889. In 2002 Mike Rounds handily beat Democrat Jim Abbott by 15 points. Rounds' widespread popularity (his approval ratings remain in the low 60s) in a generally pro-Republican state should give him a strong showing, despite indications that the abortion ban he signed will likely be rejected by South Dakota voters. Smart Politics Projection: Rounds, Republican hold.

SD U.S. House-At large: Two-term Blue Dog democratic incumbent Stephanie Herseth remains a very popular figure in South Dakota politics—with favorability ratings in the low 60s—and will prove to be too much for Republican challenger Bruce Whalen to handle. Herseth won South Dakota's at-large seat to the U.S. House of Representatives in a June 2004 special election that was called to fill the seat vacated by Representative William Janklow (who resigned after being convicted of manslaughter for killing a motorcyclist with his automobile). Herseth edged Republican nominee Larry Diedrich in that election by just two points (approximately 3000 votes). The two candidates squared off again in November 2004, with Herseth winning by 7.5 points. Democrats won the first seven at-large races when the number of South Dakota's representatives dropped from two to one in 1982. However, since 1960, Republicans have won 21 of 35 U.S. House elections in the state. But Herseth's family has a long political history in the state - her grandfather was governor of South Dakota, her grandmother was Secretary of State, and her father served in the state legislature for twenty years and was the Democratic Party's nominee for governor in 1986. Herseth's strong name recognition, her incumbency advantage, and her popularity will insure this Blue Dog Democrat remains in the U.S. House. Smart Politics Project: Herseth, Democratic hold.

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Remains of the Data

Gender Equality in the US House: A State-by State Quarter-Century Report Card (1989-2014)

A study of 5,325 congressional elections finds the number of female U.S. Representatives has more than tripled over the last 25 years, but the rate at which women are elected to the chamber still varies greatly between the states.

Political Crumbs

Small Club in St. Paul

Mark Dayton is one of just three Minnesotans ever elected to three different statewide offices. Dayton, of course, had previously served as State Auditor (1991-1995) and U.S. Senator (2001-2007) before winning the governorship in 2010. At that time, he joined Republicans Edward Thye and J.A.A. Burnquist on this very short list. Burnquist was elected governor in 1914 but then became governor after the death of Democrat Winfield Hammond in 1915. He then won the gubernatorial elections of 1916 and 1918 and eight terms as attorney general two decades later (1939-1955). Thye was similarly first elected lieutenant governor of the Gopher State and became governor after the resignation of fellow GOPer Harold Stasson in 1943. Thye won one additional full term as governor in 1944 and then two terms to the U.S. Senate (1947-1959). Twenty Minnesotans have been elected to two different statewide offices.


Respect Your Elders?

With retirement announcements this year by veteran U.S. Representatives such as 30-term Democrat John Dingell of Michigan, 20-term Democrat George Miller of California, and 18-term Republican Tom Petri of Wisconsin, it is no surprise that retirees from the 113th Congress are one of the most experienced cohorts in recent decades. Overall, these 24 exiting members of the House have served an average of 11.0 terms - the second longest tenure among retirees across the last 18 cycles since 1980. Only the U.S. Representatives retiring in 2006 had more experience, averaging 11.9 terms. (In that cycle, 10 of the 11 retiring members served at least 10 terms, with GOPer Bill Jenkins of Tennessee the lone exception at just five). Even without the aforementioned Dingell, the average length of service in the chamber of the remaining 23 retirees in 2014 is 10.2 terms - which would still be the third highest since 1980 behind the 2006 and 2012 (10.5 terms) cycles.


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