Lieutenant Governor Matt Michels waved a broom above his head at the beginning of his victory speech.
“Republican clean sweep,” he yelled.
The Republicans certainly did sweep Tuesday night, winning control of all 13 statewide political offices. All state federal officials now belong to the Republican party.
Senator John Thune said state politics is South Dakota’s big league sport.
“If that’s true, then tonight, our team had a really good night,” Thune said.
Governor Dennis Daugaard said the election was about the state not spending money it doesn’t have, staying self-reliant and helping neighbors when they’re in need.
“The election was about values that make South Dakota great,” Daugaard said.
Daugaard highlighted work on strengthening the state economy, applying justice system reform to the juvenile system and ensuring South Dakota has highways and railways to match the growing economy.
“Our history is one of perseverance,” Daugaard said. “We don’t merely survive, we prosper and exceed beyond expectation.”
Across town, moods were less victorious as the night’s results rolled in at the Democrat’s election watch party, where there were no federal victories for the night.
Balloons dropped from the ceiling as Republican Mike Rounds finished his victory speech after winning South Dakota’s Senate seat.
“Tonight, the people of South Dakota have sent a very, very powerful message,” Rounds said.
The former governor and future senator walked on stage to the song “Eye of the Tiger” and promised to work toward expanding the Keystone Pipeline.
“I think we take a bit of the South Dakota common sense and take it to Washington D.C., we can start fixing things right now,” Rounds said.
Throughout the night, small cheers erupted as different national Republican victories were announced via a screen projecting Fox News at what was called “Harry Reid’s retirement party” earlier in the night. Prior to the polls closing, the screen aired different political ads for South Dakota Republican candidates.
Senior and Student Government Association President Tyler Tordsen spent the afternoon in Sioux Falls. After previously interning in the state senate governor’s office, the night was full of familiar faces.
“It’s almost like a family reunion,” Tordsen said.
Although he didn’t work on a campaign this election season, Tordsen said the night had an exciting atmosphere.
“I wanted to show support and be part of the exciting part of the campaigns, and see them all come to the end,” Tordsen said.
Augustana College junior Jesse Nelson has worked on Rounds’ staff for the past year.
“Now it’s time to enjoy an evening of celebration,” Nelson said.
Nelson, a political science major, said the experience has helped him understand the political process.
“I can’t even tell you how much I’ve learned in the past year,” Nelson said.
The last race he worked on was Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. Waiting for the results of the Senate race, he said the energy for Tuesday’s election was vastly different than the 2012 defeat.
“I feel like we definitely have high energy and joy,” Nelson said. “People are feeling a lot more comfortable with how this race has gone.”
Rounds was projected to be the winner shortly after the polls closed at 8 p.m., one hour later than anticipated because of a late poll opening in Shannon County.
Supporters sported shirts with their candidates’ names on them, others had stuck campaign bumper stickers to clothing and one man even sported a American flag-inspired blazer. Campaign signs were passed out among the crowd of a couple hundred that filled both the floor and the balcony of the venue.
Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” played between speeches as the widespread victories were celebrated. State office speeches were kept short and were filled with thank yous to family members and supporters.
“Tonight’s your night,” said Attorney General Marty Jackley.
Republican Shantel Krebs was elected to be the next Secretary of State.
“I pledge I will run that office with integrity and fairness,” Krebs said.
In her speech, she thanked her supporters and promised to increase the number of corporate filings and focus on customer service.
“I will always remember that the taxpayer is my boss,” Krebs said.
Democrats fall short
Supporters of the Democratic campaigns sat in anticipation, but with confidence in the results as the results for the Nov. 4 rolled in.
As election results announced by KELO-TV began to fall in Republican favor and eventually revealed the Democratic defeat, faces fell — but overall, the crowd was not discouraged by the loss.
“This is just the beginning. We’ve started a fire on the prairie tonight,” exclaimed Weiland in his speech.
The crowd roared with agreement as Weiland expressed his desire to see his policies benefit American citizens.
Though Wismer acknowledged her defeat, she encouraged Daugaard to think about her policies and thanked her running mate, family, friends and campaign supporters.
“I knew I was taking on a pretty big challenge, but I never thought of myself as a natural candidate,” Wismer said.
Wismer said she decided to run because she did not agree with Daugaard’s policies and wanted the Democratic Party to have a shot.
Even though the Democrats lost the election, it was obvious the crowd was still proud of their candidates and did not see this loss as a setback.
Wismer was met with applause and cheers of “Susan!” as she exited the stage. Likewise, Weiland was greeted by spectators with cheers of “Rick!”
The live band entertained guests with a variety of music on the same stage where the election results across the country were being streamed live as they came in from MSNBC.
Many of the supporters were social with each other, sometimes greeting familiar faces and other times saying “hello” to the stranger next to them.
Every now and then, announcements were made about the campaign, and the crowd hushed and watched the screen expectantly.
In the background, a slideshow of Weiland was played, which documented his pledge to visit every town in South Dakota during his campaign. Photos included Weiland standing in front of town signs, playing his guitar and speaking with locals.
University of South Dakota graduate Hannah Prentice, Wismer’s campaign manager, said students have been very helpful to the Democratic campaign.
“Students have had a very important role in our campaign,” Prentice said. “Doing whatever we ask of them and more.”
South Dakota State University senior Kristin Snortum advised younger voters to participate in the election as much as possible.
“If we don’t have voter turnouts, they’re not going to pay attention to us,” Snortum SAID.
Kennedy Weiland, USD graduate student and Rick Weiland’s uncle, said her day was very relaxed but she was excited for the results.
“It’s very nerve-wracking,” Kennedy Weiland said. “I’m proud of him.”
Wismer said volunteers and College Democrat organizations were helpful in supporting her campaign.
“We made some appearances on college campuses that weren’t so well attended, but it made us aware of how much work we have to do on the college campuses to re-engage that generation,” Wismer said.
(United States Senator Mike Rounds gives his victory speech at The District in Sioux Falls Tuesday evening. Megan Card/The Volante)