Kristi Noem earns Republican Party's nomination for 2022 election

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South Dakota's first-term Republican governor has re-captured the state party nomination for the 2022 gubernatorial race.

Gov. Kristi Noem, 50, beat challenger and Sioux Falls lawmaker Steve Haugaard with 76% of total votes cast. Haugaard, an attorney and former House Speaker, had 24%.

Full results: South Dakota election results

The Castlewood native, who in 2018 became the first woman elected governor in South Dakota, now advances to November's general ballot where she'll face Democratic candidate for governor, Jamie Smith.

"We have incredible challenges in front of us and this November South Dakotans will decide if they want Joe Biden's America to come to South Dakota," Noem told supporters during a victory speech at the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Sioux Falls. "I don't think they do."

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Noem is among few incumbent Republican governors in South Dakota to face a re-election primary challenger. And though her victory proved more narrow than former Gov. Dennis Daugaard's 62% margin, Noem enjoyed broad appeal within the state GOP for her handling of COVID-19 and a fundraising advantage of more than 100 to 1 over Haugaard.

“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.”

Governor Kristi Noem speaks after winning the gubernatorial primary at an election night watch party on Tuesday, June 7, 2022, at the Hilton Garden Inn in Sioux Falls.
Governor Kristi Noem speaks after winning the gubernatorial primary at an election night watch party on Tuesday, June 7, 2022, at the Hilton Garden Inn in Sioux Falls.

But Noem has also struggled to manage Statehouse politics at times, publicly clashing with Republican legislators with whom she disagrees and struggling to advance key initiatives coming from her office. For instance, frictions between the far-right wing of the party undermined the governor's desire to advance what was called a "heartbeat abortion ban" and a handful of special projects.

Still, Noem's popularity and brand as a rock star within the national Republican Party proved too much for her 66-year-old challenger to overcome.

Haugaard declined to comment following the AP projecting Noem's win, saying he preferred to wait until more ballots are counted.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared on Sioux Falls Argus Leader: Kristi Noem wins South Dakota Republican gubernatorial primary