We don’t have access to any exit polls here at South Dakota’s favorite newspaper, even if they exist.
But here’s a projection: This will be another good night for the South Dakota Republican Party. I know, I know, get off that limb …
There are 105 legislative seats being determined right now. Republicans have huge majorities in both Houses, holding a 50-19 edge in the House, with one independent, and 30-5 in the Senate. They might not have such huge margins at the end of the night, but there is little doubt they will still control the Legislature.
Rep. Kristi Noem, a Republican, is the favorite to defeat Democrat Matt Varilek, who ran a very strong race against an incumbent. If Noem wins, speculation immediately turns to 2014. Will she seek a third term in the House or seek to step up in class and try to move to the Senate?
If Varilek wins, he would join his old bosses Tom Daschle and Tim Johnson in starting their careers in the House. If he loses, will he return to a staff job, seek another position or land a political job? If he comes close, will be try again in 2014 or down the road?
One of the two Public Utilities Commission races may be the closest one of the night, if the Nielson Brothers’ polls have been right. Can Matt McGovern, a Democrat and the grandson of you know who, unseat Commissioner Kristie Fiegen?
It seems a foregone conclusion that PUC Commissioner Chris Nelson, a Republican and former two-term secretary of state, will win a four-term on the PUC, handily defeating farmer Nick Nemec. Even Nemec was urging people to back his Democratic pal McGovern in recent days.
If the GOP sweeps races tonight, and holds huge edges in the Legislature, it’s another terrible night for the South Dakota Democrats. While they recruited a lot of legislative candidates, they were once again heavily outspent, and the state party drew a lot of heat for its attack postcards it sent out in legislative races. The errors on polling places in mailers that were sent out last week add to the party’s woes.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard isn’t on the ballot, but five ballot questions — proposed constitutional amendments O and P, initiated measure 15, and referred laws 14 and 16 — are tied to him. This will show how much influence DD has in SD.
Lastly, Nielson Brothers Polling also has a lot on the line tonight. While its polls have been accurate in many races, its big miss in the 2010 South Dakota governor’s race hangs over it, and the GOP continues to bash it as a Democrat-leaning firm. If it gets close on the races tonight, it may start to shed that label.
One other side note: South Dakota Republicans are counting on Kristi, Kristie and Chris, while the Democrats pinned most of their hopes on two Matts. What’s in a name? We will know in a few hours.