SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Democrats face a lot of built-in disadvantages running campaigns in such a red state like South Dakota. But party members are hoping to build upon the momentum of a strong showing in the governor's race.
They acknowledge that won't be an easy task, moving forward.
One of the newest incoming members of the South Dakota legislature is a first-time office seeker in District 14.
"I didn't know what to expect in a heavily Republican district. But I worked really hard and it feels really great," State Representative-elect Erin Healy of Sioux Falls said.
Despite her victory on Tuesday, Erin Healy says her party has a lot of work to do in order to win more races in the future.
"I don't think it's in a bad place. I don't think it's in a great place. I think we need to work hard to make sure that we're not just focusing on the party platform, that we're focused on people's needs," Healy said.
"I think we're in a better place than we've been in a couple of years," Paula Hawks said.
Paula Hawks says she felt the South Dakota Democratic Party didn't offer her enough support in her unsuccessful bid for U.S. House two years ago.
"In 2016, we didn't have the kind of engagement I was hoping for from party leadership and I think that has improved a great deal in two years," Hawks said.
Healy says the party helped her lay the groundwork for a winning campaign.
"They provided a lot of guidance to us, they gave us a lot of support when it came to the software program that we used and for target audiences, they helped us a lot with that," Healy said.
Both Hawks and Healy agree that the state Democratic Party is doing a much better job of branding itself by getting a simple, cohesive message out that South Dakota voters, from all political persuasions, can embrace.
"People first. Allowing people first and finding the best way to make government work best for everybody," Hawks said.
The South Dakota Democratic Party's communications director says the party did whatever it could to help Hawks' campaign in 2016. Aaron Matson says this year, the party had more resources to assist candidates, including more funding from the Democratic National Committee.