South Dakota US Senate Historical Snapshot

Now that Mississippi Republican Trent Lott has announced his retirement, 35 U.S. Senate seats will be on the ballot next November—23 held by the GOP and just 12 by Democrats. One of the few seats targeted by the Republicans is that held by Democrat Tim Johnson of South Dakota.

Johnson is extremely popular in his home state, but, given South Dakota’s heavy Republican leanings, it is one of the few opportunities the GOP has to invest its resources in stealing a seat.

South Dakota has voted overwhelming for Republicans for major office:

* Republicans have won 25 of 29 presidential elections since 1892 (86 percent).
* Republicans have won 42 of 52 gubernatorial elections since statehood in 1889 (81 percent).
* Republicans have 93 of 118 U.S. House seats since 1889 (79 percent).

Republicans have also won the majority of U.S. Senate seats since popular elections for the office began in 1914, although by a less impressive margin, winning 20 seats to 12 for the Democrats, or 63 percent. Democrats have also won 9 of the 15 seats dating back to 1962.

Overall, Republicans have garnered 4.33 million of the 8.26 million votes cast for U.S. Senate in South Dakota since 1914 (53 percent). Democrats have won 3.75 million votes (45 percent) while 172,490 votes have gone to third parties (2 percent).

A third party candidate for U.S. Senate has not received 5 percent of the vote since 1926, when Howard Platt of the Farmer-Labor party earned 7.1 percent. The strongest showing for a third party candidate was in 1920 when non-partisan Tom Ayres came in second place with 24.1 percent of the vote.

Republicans have also enjoyed a much larger average margin of victory in South Dakota U.S. Senate elections—18.4 points, compared to just 9 points for Democratic victors.

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