Republicans have won [the Governor's seat] all eight times since 1974, when Richard Kneip was the last Democrat to win. Democrats have won marquee statewide races since then, but always for Congress. Democrats hold a 13-8 lead over Republicans in U.S. House elections since 1974 and a 6-5 edge in Senate races.
Different desires in state, national elections
That pattern shows that South Dakota voters look for different things in state and national leaders, [Northern State Univ. Prof Jon] Schaff said.
"Races for federal office have tended to be on the basis on who can deliver federal money. Democrats are well suited for that," Schaff said. "At the state level, what most of the state wants from state government is to be left alone."
Think about it if you're not a South Dakotan - who are the significant SD politicians you can name? Likely Democrats, including former Presidential candidate George McGovern and long time Senate leader Tom Daschle. Reservations, farming, military installations and other features of The Rushmore State all assume significant Federal involvement.