PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — So much for the governor’s race being the toss-up that Democrat candidate Jamie Smith had claimed in his TV ads a few days ago.

The 27% margin of victory by Republican Governor Kristi Noem on Tuesday night was larger than many expected and much greater than two pre-election polls had indicated.

It far exceeded her 3% margin from 2018 against Democrat Billie Sutton.

She had ads of her own characterizing Smith that were still airing less than an hour before polling places closed Tuesday evening.

In a contest that attracted 349,709 voters — the highest in South Dakota history — Noem left nothing to chance.

She had help. Beyond the millions Noem raised in and outside South Dakota, the political-action arm of the Republican Governors Association sent more than $2.5 million in the past two years to her re-election committee.

Smith on the other hand didn’t report receiving anything from the Democratic Governors Association’s political-action arm.

Even so, Smith was able to raise more than $1 million for his campaign in the past 10 months. That would have been enough for him to be competitive in some recent races.

But Noem raised much more — more than $12 million — and used a lot of the money to define Smith in TV ads as an ally of Democrat U.S. President Joe Biden — who lost to Republican President Donald Trump in South Dakota — and as an opponent of guns and a COVID-19 masker and a tax-increaser and a Black Lives Matter/Critical Race Theory supporter.

Smith never did put out his record of supporting repeal of South Dakota’s sales tax on groceries. Noem reversed herself, called for the repeal and made it a plank of her campaign.

Smith’s ads meanwhile told voters that he wouldn’t be traveling the country like Noem — that he would “focus on South Dakota” — and that he supported abortion rights, which Noem generally opposed.

Then there was the matter of debates — or the lack of them.

Representative Steve Haugaard, a former speaker of the House, challenged Noem in the June primary. Noem wouldn’t debate him. She won 91,661-28,315.

Noem agreed to one televised debate with Smith. It took place in Rapid City on a Friday evening in late September. Smith wanted several more.

When he went on stage at a Sioux Falls luncheon, he talked about taxes. Noem’s campaign took some excerpts of those comments and turned them into a negative ad that ran for weeks, right into election day.

Noem also showed she knew how to quiet the waters. She had announced plans for a special legislative session on further restricting abortion after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that the issue should be left to states, then retreated from that plan as abortion-rights protesters took to the streets of Sioux Falls and Pierre.

The state Board of Education Standards held its first hearing on Noem’s controversial social-studies standards, but the subsequent hearing won’t occur until later this month. The state Department of Education planned a public hearing on anti-CRT rules that Noem wanted, then mysteriously delayed the hearing to a date uncertain.

She also fought an ethics complaint about a real-estate appraiser certification that her daughter received, claiming the Government Accountability Board didn’t have jurisdiction over a governor, then resolved it without a public reprimand. An ethics complaint about her use of the state airplane was determined by the Hughes County state’s attorney to be unfounded.

Whether intentional or not, Noem also benefited from Trump staying away from her race until Monday, when she played a brief endorsement from the former president at a Rapid City rally. He had campaigned in Sioux Falls for her in 2018 and he visited Mount Rushmore for an Independence Day fireworks display in 2020.

Republicans won all nine of the statewide contests that were on the South Dakota ballot Tuesday and they kept their two-thirds majority control in both chambers of the Legislature. A ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana also failed, after Noem had fought to convince the South Dakota Supreme Court to overturn Constitutional Amendment A legalizing it that 54% of voters approved two years ago.

In her victory speech Tuesday night, Noem said: “When I wake up in the morning to do my job, I do it based on our state’s motto, which is, ‘Under God, the people rule.’ I remember that in my role as governor, it’s my privilege to serve you, to honor our constitution, to keep government limited, and to protect the American ideals of freedom and opportunity. Over the last four years, South Dakota has been an example to the nation of the power of those ideals. We have proven that when leaders remember what their authority is, and what their authority isn’t, that that’s when people have the opportunity to succeed.

“Thanks to all of you, we are going to keep proving it for the next four years.”