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Dennis Daugaard
Dennis Daugaard talks with supporters during his election party at the Holiday Inn City Centre in Sioux Fall on Tuesday. (AP Photo)

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) -- Lt. Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who ran a campaign that emphasized his rise from humble beginnings, defeated four other Republicans on Tuesday to become the party's candidate for South Dakota governor.

Daugaard will move on to the November election against Senate Democratic Leader Scott Heidepriem of Sioux Falls, who was unopposed for his party's nomination.

Daugaard said he was helped by people all over the state who introduced him to their neighbors. He said the campaign dealt with issues, but he also knew he had to introduce himself as a person because most people don't know much about a lieutenant governor.

"What you must do in a representative democracy is feel the person you elect represents some of your values and attitudes," Daugaard told The Associated Press. "I think people made judgments about whether they could trust me and whether I would be fiscally responsible, a good salesman for South Dakota and a good listener."

With 90 percent of precincts reporting, Daugaard had 51.2 percent of the votes. Former Brookings Mayor Scott Munsterman was second with 18 percent, and Senate Republican Leader Dave Knudson of Sioux Falls was third with 15.8 percent. Sen. Gordon Howie of Rapid City had 11.6 percent, and Buffalo Gap rancher Ken Knuppe had 3.3 percent.

Daugaard, who was endorsed early by term-limited Gov. Mike Rounds, was considered the front-runner throughout the campaign and raised far more money than the other Republican contenders.

With much the campaign focusing on the candidates' plans for dealing with South Dakota's budget deficit and reviving the state's economy, Knudson repeatedly criticized the lieutenant governor for downplaying the seriousness of the state's budget problems. Daugaard, however, refused to get involved in a nasty fight on the issue.

He emphasized his hard work to get through college and become a banker and then director of the South Dakota Children's Home Society, which cares for abused and neglected children. Daugaard, 57, was in the state Senate in 1997-2002 and has been lieutenant governor since 2003.

He told voters his experience has trained him to be governor. "I can hit the ground running. I won't be learning on the job," he said.

Richard and Mary Jean Schoessler, a retired couple from Pierre, said they voted for Daugaard because he was best qualified to become governor.

"He just seemed like a nice person. He comes from a solid family," said Richard Schoessler, 81.

"I've been impressed when I heard him speak," said Mary Jean Schoessler, 75.

Munsterman, 49, argued his experience as Brookings mayor showed he knew how to promote economic growth. He has practiced as a chiropractor in Brookings since 1984 and was on the city council before serving two terms as mayor.

Knudson, 60, focused his campaign on his ability to solve problems, calling himself Mr. Fix It. He has worked in a Sioux Falls law firm since 1975, when he graduated from New York University Law School. He was chief of staff for then-Gov. Bill Janklow in two brief stints during the 1990s and has been in the state Senate since 2003, serving as majority leader the past four years.

Howie, 60, has worked in real estate, investment and has owned a variety of businesses. He billed himself as the tea party candidate, voted against the state budget crafted by fellow Republicans because it increased state spending, and has been a sponsor of bills opposing abortion.

Knuppe, who turns 51 this week, said he would bring outside leadership into state government. His prior political experience mainly involved serving as president of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association.

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