Top Political Stories of 2018- #9 Billie Sutton runs to the right but is undone by his record.

#9 Billie Sutton runs to the right but is undone by his record.

After years and years of continuous and unrelenting drought, Democrats believed in their heart of hearts that they had come upon their knight in shining armor.

Billie Sutton, the man Democrats believed could reverse the Democrat Party’s declining fortunes in South Dakota had everything that Democrats thought could propel them to the winner’s column. Billie was a former rodeo star, had a background in ranching, claimed conservative viewpoints on life and other issues, and seemed to resonate as an ‘everyman’ for small town South Dakotans in the mind of Democrats.

Given the focus that Kristi Noem necessarily had on her primary opponent in the many months preceding the fall campaign, Sutton was largely given a bye in the run up to the primary. And while Noem was tied up rebuilding a depleted war chest, Sutton enjoyed campaigning on a largely unchallenged basis.

Until he wasn’t.

The cracks started to appear when it was revealed that Sutton was enjoying the support of Planned Parenthood employees, and that his running mate was pro-choice. And as researchers dug, their excalibur to fatally pierce Sutton’s armor came in the form of a several year-old video where Sutton slathered praise over Bernie Sanders on camera, but qualified it with a statement that he was going to support Hillary because his wife told him to.

Other factors also contributed to his loss, but the biggest blow came from that video which played over, and over, and over.  It was literally used in most every commercial against him. And the constant flack started to accrue hit points.

From there, it seemed as if the Sutton campaign was stymied, and seemed unwilling or unable to counter the mountain of evidence that he was as liberal as South Dakotans viewed his fellow comrades in the Democrat party.

The South Dakota Democrat machine that had proved formidable in elections of a bygone era seemed to have trouble understanding what GOTV stood for, much less implementing it. As South Dakota Democrats thought October might be their time of renaissance, they actually came down with a case of the black plague.

While Billie Sutton ran parts of a campaign which were well done, the cracks were quickly realized and exploited as Kristi Noem and the State Republican Party came together to literally rain misery upon the hapless Democrat candidate.

21 thoughts on “Top Political Stories of 2018- #9 Billie Sutton runs to the right but is undone by his record.”

  1. Another good story…he ran a decent campaign but for a Democrat to win statewide they are going to have to run a flawless campaign and his campaign had flaws. Noem and her team finding that footage was huge!

    1. My opinion is the Sutton campaign and story are at least top 3 likely even top 2 for the entire year.

      He ran a great race until Jackley and Pence came and stole the election back for the GOP.

      1. Jackley did not steal the election back for the GOP. His efforts were too little and too late. Pence was wonderful in Rapid City but West River was already in the bag.

  2. Without a doubt, the race for Governor was the number one political story in South Dakota.

    How poorly her campaign was run in both the primary and the general election is the most overlooked aspect of that story.

  3. Honesty is the he best policy, and Sutton was honest when he started his preference for Sanders and voting for Hillary at his wife’s bequest. When he ran, however, he tried to lie about his policy preferences, but he found out that trying to fool the voters this time did not work. At least when he runs again, and undoubtedly he will, his true political philosophy. Is now known.

    1. It will be interesting to see what Sutton does next. I doubt he will try to go back to the legislature (Like Stace or Rhoden) because now his district will have a GOP Incumbent —which I think is a minor story how he lost his home county and 3 Republicans were elected in his district–

      So that leaves 3 paths as I see it…

      He can run against Rounds for the Senate…Pros and Cons

      He did get 47.5% which immediately makes him a real contender and remember Rounds did not run a great race against Weiland and Pressler and needed help from National GOP. Rounds and Sutton are likely essentially even on money as Rounds has not worked hard at it. I think Rounds is more conservative as a Senator than he was as Gvernor and so that should help him from any primary challenge –it also helps that Rhoden and Ravnsborg have other jobs now–so any challenge comes from the Stace wing and while I don’t think they would unseat Rounds they could force him to spend money and stake out positions.

      2) Sutton waits to take on Noem in a rematch. It will largely depend on how she does with her no new taxes pledge. His biggest problem here is how to remain relevant for 4 years….name ID will fade over 4 years with Noem getting headlines for the entire time at will.

      3) He could run for another Constitutional office–he is only 34–win somewhere to prove statewide electability, it also makes whichever race he takes on competitive immediately like Secretary of State as he can raise money and forces GOP to put resources into another race with an opponent that can’t bring in people like Noem can.

      Springer I think people’s memories of positions fades so it will be up to GOP to remind people of who Sutton supported but as Hillary and Bernie fade from national scene (barring 2020 runs by them) will people relate to them as strongly as they do today.

  4. If he runs for US Senate, that would be a serious mistake on his part. If he thought Noem took him apart, wait until the NRSC and outside groups work him over.

    1. Exactly what I was thinking. Rounds is too likeable. He wouldn’t stand a chance. But he also wouldn’t stand a chance in four years either. While the campaign was a bit disappointing, Kristi will do wonderfully well as Governor and people won’t want a change. He’d probably do himself in permanently if he ran again. His lies are evident by his voting record and memories can be refreshed.

  5. I had never contemplated voting for Sutton anyway, but the admission of loving Socialism-a political ideology that is contrary to liberty and self-reliance, Billie-simply sealed the deal for me. However, the fact that the margin of victory wasn’t greater seems to point to something; I have heard that Noem’s campaign wasn’t the greatest, but I wasn’t paying a lot of attention since I knew early on that unless there was video of her praising a Socialist like Sanders but saying she was voting for a washed up liar like Hillary, I wouldn’t be voting for the Democrat. I don’t think that Republicans-either the candidates or voters-should ever take anything for granted.

    1. I don’t think many people are aware of just how mismanaged Noem’s campaign was from start (Primary) to finish (General). Here’s hoping Herb Jones runs her administration better than Justin Brasell ran her campaign.

      1. Here’s hoping that Herb Jones runs her administration better than Brassel and Christianson ran her campaign.

  6. Losers are only memorable when they are terrifying giants, demons, or dragons, and the winners are notable for defeating them against all odds.

    None of the losers of 2018 are particularly memorable, they’re just a lot of good people who didnt win. Their losses are not important news stories.

  7. I would put Sutton number 2 behind Noem’s victory. He made it close.

    Venhuizen’s blog: Noem’s victory was the narrowest in recent SD history for a candidate for governor.  The final statewide canvas shows that Noem/Rhoden won 172,912 votes, or 51.0%, to Sutton/Lavallee’s 161,454 votes (47.6%) and 4,848 votes (1.4%) for Evans/Shelatz.  Noem’s margin of 3.4% is the closest since Nils Boe defeated John Lindley in 1964. 51.0% is the lowest vote share by a winning candidate since Archie Gubbrud defeated Ralph Herseth in 1960. This blog looked at  SD’s closest elections for governor at this post. Noem’s 172,912 is the least votes cast for a winning candidate for governor since Bill Janklow in 1998.

  8. Amazing how many people on the outside criticize Noem’s campaign when they know absolutely nothing about it. Her campaign was mismanaged during the primary? Did you forget she smoked Jackley and “South Dakota’s Best Campaign Team” by 13 points?

    1. yeah and smoking jackley was a huge mistake and almost cost her the general election with those ads about Aberdeen

    2. Kristi had no grounds game in the primary. Choosing to not prioritize a ground game ensured that her campaign would have to focus heavily on advertising. Jackley’s Ground game closed the gap by March. Kristi’s camp panicked and went hard negative; that won her the campaign but used up the good will of voters.

    3. Me thinks it would be wise to not try defend the strategy and execution of that campaign. She won because she was the better candidate and will be a better Governor.

      Take the win and move on. To defend the indefensible will not end well.

  9. GOP has a +30.6 point lean advantage built in with the state demographics, and Gov. Noem needed to bring in Trump and Pence to latch onto their coattails and have her primary opponent regularly support her in public down the stretch.

    While I don’t any of those events were needed to push her campaign through to the win, it is embarrassing that they ever warranted consideration. Statewide GOP should consider this a courtesy notice that voters shouldn’t be taken for granted.

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