U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem defeated Attorney General Marty Jackley in the South Dakota Republican primary contest Tuesday, taking 57 percent of the vote.
The Associated Press called the race for Noem just after 10:30 p.m. Tuesday night, with 86 percent of the vote reported. Final results showed little change to the margins, with Noem’s lead remaining strong over Jackley.
Noem addressed her supporters in a victory speech around 11:30 p.m. in which she offered extensive thanks to her family and campaign staff.
Then she quickly aimed to unite the Republican Party ahead of the November general election.
“I believe our party can unite behind bold vision,” she said.
She also reiterated goals for the state she’d echoed on the campaign trail, including plans to ensure safety, increase transparency, add jobs and support families.
The Republican nominee also shared a story about her father, who she said always shared his dream of growing a farm and ranch big enough that all four of his kids could stay and work together. His dream came true, Noem said, and she wants to extend that dream to the state of South Dakota.
“We’re going to build stronger families,” she said.
The candidates were in a neck-and-neck contest with two weeks ahead of the primary, an Argus Leader-KELO TV poll showed. But Noem found an edge in the final days of the campaign, highlighting the break from the “status quo” she could offer if elected.
She also hit hard on Jackley’s role in delaying a settlement payment to a former DCI agent who was discharged after reporting sexual harassment.
That was what caused a “last-second change of heart” for John Stratman, of Sioux Falls.
“That was the real deal,” Stratman said. “Someone got hurt.”
Noem is the first woman to receive the state GOP’s nomination for the office. And the win sets up what could be a historic bid for the governor’s office.
The Republican nominee could become the first woman to hold the governor’s office. But first, she would have to overcome Democratic opponent Billie Sutton, who has cast himself as a moderate while Republicans Noem and Jackley waged their fight to the right.
And Jackley said he would support her in that effort.
“I had a nice conversation with the congresswoman,” he said late Tuesday. “I let her know if there’s anything I could do to assist her (I would).”