South Dakotans voted Republican Kristi Noem governor of the state on Tuesday, which will make her the first woman to serve as the state’s top elected official when she’s sworn in early next year.
Noem prevailed with a roughly 3-point margin over Democrat Billie Sutton. That was 10 times closer than the 30-point margin Donald Trump enjoyed in South Dakota in the 2016 presidential election.
The election of the first female governor might be an occasion to reflect on some governor-related naming conventions in South Dakota.
The state capital’s local high school athletes compete as the “Governors” abbreviated as the “Govs.” Women’s teams are called the “Lady Govs.”
Sen. John Thune’s press secretary, Katie Lingle, suggested in a post-election tweet: “Now that South Dakota has elected a female governor, can we all be the Pierre Governors and FINALLY nix the Lady Govs nickname?!”
It could cost a couple of dollars to swap out “Lady Govs” for “Gov” on uniforms. I’d guess the budget implications would entail some kind of school board action. Some luckless reporter for the Pierre Capital Journal might have to write about it.
A different naming convention was mentioned in passing on Election Night by Tony Venhuizen—who is familiar to many South Dakotans as current Governor Dennis Daugaard’s chief of staff.
Writing for the website he maintains, SoDak Governors, Venhuizen had this to say about Noem’s spouse: “Her husband, Bryon, will be state’s first ‘first gentleman.'”
While “first gentleman” could be adopted without too much controversy, some local precedent does exist for the obvious alternative, “first dude.” Across the Missouri River from Pierre is the city of Fort Pierre, whose mayor, Gloria Hanson, is married to Ron Schreiner. His license plate reads: “1STDUDE”
Earlier this year when I was working as a local newspaper reporter in Fort Pierre, I asked Schreiner if he’d yield the license plate name to Noem’s husband, if she were to win the governorship. Schreiner did not hesitate: No.
That will leave Bryon Noem with the challenge of cramming some variant of “first gentleman” onto a vanity plate, if that’s an option he wants to pursue.
As for the governor’s race, it was closer than any of the other statewide races in South Dakota, but did not depart from the general Republican dominance.
A county-by-county breakdown shows that the governor’s race still somewhat followed a pattern of registered party affiliation, but not nearly as much as the race for the lone seat in the U.S. House (left open by Noem), which was contested between Republican Dusty Johnson and Democrat Tim Bjorkman. Measured by how much it followed party lines, the race for attorney general, contested between Republican Jason Ravnsborg and Democrat Randy Seiler fell somewhere between the governor’s race and the race for U.S. House.
Now for the maps: