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As recent history in South Dakota has shown, winning the Republican Party governor primary election is a huge stepping stone to winning the November general election. So the 2018 party primary now three weeks away is under a lot of scrutiny, with two top tier candidates fighting to come out on top.

Kristi Noem is the holder of the sole South Dakota seat in the U.S. House, and after eight years in that office is seeking a move to the governor position. Fellow Republican state Attorney General Marty Jackley is competing hard in the race.

State Sen. Jim Bolin, R-Canton, said the Jackley-Noem race is a tough decision for Republicans in South Dakota.

"A very good and talented candidate is going to lose, and a very good and talented candidate is going to win," Bolin told the Journal, after he stopped in Sioux City to speak about the legislative year concluded.

Bolin said neither Noem or Jackley have done anything to peeve any key Republican constituencies, so the race should play out very competitively.

Asked to weigh strengths and weaknesses, Bolin said, "They are both pretty conservative. They both are ambitious, talented individuals."

More specifically, Bolin said Jackley knows how to get people to work together in a state organization and would make a good chief executive. Bolin said Noem is versed to bring changes to the Legislature in Pierre, to move lawmakers out of their existing comfort zone.

In fundraising, in the most recent campaign finance reports, both Noem and Jackley raised just over $900,000 for the 2017 year. So the two came into the year roughly even in money to turn into advertisements and for staffing their campaigns.

The South Dakota governor position is an open seat because Dennis Daugaard, a Republican, has reached eight years in office and cannot run again due to the state term limits law.

The Democrat in the governor race is Billie Sutton, of Burke, who is the Minority Leader in the South Dakota Senate. Sutton, by the way, this morning has a press conference in Sioux Falls to unveil his proposals for a stronger South Dakota economy.

The last time a Democrat was elected governor in South Dakota came  when Dick Kneip won three terms, in 1970, 1972 and 1974. The state moved from two-year to four-year governor terms in 1974.

The primary election in both South Dakota and Iowa will be held on June 5. The primary in Nebraska took place Tuesday.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this piece cited Terry Lee LaFleur and Lora Hubbell as two other Republican candidates. They announced as governor candidates, but did not file full petitions to be placed on the primary election ballot.


County and education reporter

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