PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Republican Kristi Noem set a South Dakota record Tuesday for most votes received by a candidate for governor with 217,014.

She broke the old mark of 206,990 by Mike Rounds.

And here’s something that might have worked to her advantage. Three of the counties with the largest voting-age populations saw turnout below the statewide average of 59.40%.

The largest, Minnehaha, came in at 57.76%. Pennington, the second-largest, posted just 53.26%. Brown, fourth-largest, reported 57.54%.

Many rural counties meanwhile had turnout rates much higher than the statewide average. Rural counties traditionally tend to be more conservative and more Republican.

Noem oriented her campaign toward conservative voters. That stronger rural presence may have helped her and worked against the Democrat challenger, Jamie Smith, who is from Sioux Falls.

More than half of the state’s 66 counties — unofficially, 35 — cast 70% or more of their votes for Noem. Smith managed to take only five: Buffalo, Clay, Corson, Oglala Lakota and Todd. Contrast that to four years ago, when Noem edged Democrat Billie Sutton, 51-48%, and Sutton won 22.

Sutton, a former rodeo rider from Burke, was treated well in South Dakota’s five most-populated counties. He not only finished with more votes than Noem in Minnehaha, Brown and Brookings, he also came closer in Pennington and Lincoln than Smith did.

Statewide turnout also was higher four years ago at 62.66% of voters. Minnehaha was a bit light at 61.41% and Pennington was clearly below at 58.24%, But Lincoln at 66.03%, Brown 62.96% and Brookings 64.45% all were above the statewide number.

The 217,014 votes Noem received Tuesday were well up from her 172,706 four years ago. Despite the lower overall turnout rate this time, nearly half of her roughly 44,000 increase came in Minnehaha, Pennington, Lincoln, Brown and Brookings counties. Here’s how the two contests compared.

Minnehaha

2018 — Sutton 37,167. Noem 32,149.

2022 — Noem 39,230, Smith 33,372.

Pennington

2018 — Noem 22,944. Sutton 17,988.

2022 — Noem 27,586. Smith 16,215.

Lincoln

2018 — Noem 12,894. Sutton 11,109.

2022 — Noem 16,828. Smith 10,727.

Brown

2018 — Sutton 7,338. Noem 6,821.

2022 — Noem 8,456. Smith 5,225.

Brookings

2018 — Sutton 6,372. Noem 5,225.

2022 — Noem 6,974. Smith 5,096.

Noem received 62% of the vote Tuesday. Her 11-point improvement was second-largest by a governor seeking re-election since South Dakota switched to four-year terms in 1974. 

Bill Janklow set the mark at 14 points in 1982.

Here’s a look at the numbers:

1974 Kneip 149,151 of 278,228 total 53.607% 

1978 Janklow 147,116 of 259,795 total 56.628% 

1982 Janklow 197,426 of 278,563 total 70.873% 

1986 Mickelson 152,543 of 294,441 total 51.808% 

1990 Mickelson 151,198 of 256,723 total 58.895% 

1994 Janklow 172,515 of 311,613 total 55.362% 

1998 Janklow 166,621 of 260,187 total 64.039% 

2002 Rounds 189,920 of 334,559 total 56.767% 

2006 Rounds 206,990 of 335,508 total 61.695% 

2010 Daugaard 195,046 of 317,083 total 61.513% 

2014 Daugaard 195,477 of 277,403 total 70.467% 

2018 Noem 172,912 of 339,214 total 50.974% 

2022 Noem 217,211 of 350,122 total 62.039%