South Dakota Gov. Noem, Sen. Thune Easily Overcome GOP Primary Challenges

South Dakota Gov. Noem, Sen. Thune Easily Overcome GOP Primary Challenges South Dakota GOP Gov. Kristi Noem speaks with Newsmax's Rob Schmitt South Dakota GOP Gov. Kristi Noem speaks with Newsmax's Rob Schmitt. (Newsmax)

By Eric Mack | Tuesday, 07 June 2022 09:29 PM

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has parlayed popularity with Republicans for her hands-off approach to pandemic restrictions into national prominence.

While it did not insulate her from criticism — and a primary challenger — from the right in the reliably conservative state, she easily won her GOP primary Tuesday night.

Newsmax's election partner Decision Desk HQ called the races for Noem and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., shortly after the polls closed at 9:09 p.m. ET. Get the latest election returns from Decision Desk HQ here.

Noem easily defeated state Rep. Steve Haugaard, a former state House speaker who has accused Noem of using the governor's office to mount a 2024 White House bid.

Noem has used this election fundraising cycle to collect a record amount of money for a South Dakota gubernatorial candidate — bringing in more than $15 million from a series of fundraisers all over the country.

"She was one of the only governors who stood firm in not using the pandemic to increase government intrusions in our lives," said Kerry Larson, a Republican voter from Sioux Falls. "It says a lot about her and how she will govern under pressure."

Noem will face Democrat state Rep. Jamie Smith, who did not face a primary challenger.

Thune, the No. 2 Republican in the chamber, defeated two primary challengers who joined the race after Thune drew the ire of former President Donald Trump. Trump speculated the senator's career was "over" after he made public statements dismissing the former president's allegations of voter fraud in the 2020 election.

Thune will face would face Democrat Brian Bengs, an Air Force veteran and college professor, in November's general election.

Thune's status in Washington factored into Republican Sandra Pay's vote, saying it would be "crazy" to vote out someone who has risen to the No. 2 spot among Senate Republicans.

"He's got power," she said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Original Article