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South Dakota gubernatorial election, 2002

South Dakota Gubernatorial, 2002

November 2, 2002

Nominee Mike Rounds Jim Abbott
Party Republican Democratic
Running mate Dennis Daugaard Michael Wilson
Popular vote 189,920 140,263
Percentage 56.77% 41.92%

Governor before election

Bill Janklow

Elected Governor

Mike Rounds

The 2002 South Dakota gubernatorial election took place on November 2, 2002 to elect a Governor of South Dakota. Republican nominee Mike Rounds was elected, defeating Democratic nominee Jim Abbott.


  • Democratic primary 1
    • Candidates 1.1
    • Results 1.2
  • Republican primary 2
    • Candidates 2.1
    • Campaign 2.2
    • Results 2.3
  • General election 3
    • Results 3.1
  • References 4

Democratic primary



Democratic primary results[1]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Jim Abbott 46,794 68.78%
Democratic Ron J. Volesky 11,481 16.87%
Democratic Jim Hutmacher 8,847 13.00%
Democratic Robert Hockett 915 1.34%
Totals 68,037 100.00%

Republican primary



Rounds' victory was one of South Dakota's greatest political upsets. Until late in 2001, then-Congressman John Thune was the front-runner for the nomination. When Thune passed on the race in order to challenge Senator Tim Johnson, state Attorney General Mark Barnett and former Lieutenant Governor Steve T. Kirby quickly became candidates. Rounds declared his candidacy late, in December 2001 and was out-raised and outspent ten-to-one by each of his opponents.

However, the contest between Kirby and Barnett soon became very negative and "dirty". Barnett attacked Kirby for not investing in companies based in South Dakota and for his involvement with Collagenesis, a company which removed skin from donated human cadavers and processed them for use. It became the subject of a massive scandal when it was revealed that the company was using the skins for much more lucrative cosmetic surgery like lip and penis enhancements while burn victims "lie waiting in hospitals as nurses scour the country for skin to cover their wounds, even though skin is in plentiful supply for plastic surgeons".[2] Kirby invested in the company after the scandal broke and Barnett attacked him for it in television advertisements.[3] However, the advertisements backfired because "the claims were so outlandish, that people thought for sure that they were exaggerated or completely fabricated."[4]

As the two front-runners concentrated on attacking each other, Rounds insisted on running a positive campaign and was not attacked by his opponents. Rounds' positive image and extensive knowledge of state government won him many supporters who were alienated by the front-runners. On the day of the primary election, Rounds won a stunning victory, with 44.3% of the vote to Barnett's 29.5% and Kirby's 26.1%.


Republican primary results[5]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Mike Rounds 49,331 44.34%
Republican Mark Barnett 32,868 29.54%
Republican Steve T. Kirby 29,065 26.12%
Totals 111,264 100.00%

General election


South Dakota gubernatorial election, 2002[6]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Mike Rounds 189,920 56.77% -7.27%
Democratic Jim Abbott 140,263 41.92% +9.07%
Independent James P. Carlson 2,393 0.72%
Libertarian Nathan A. Barton 1,983 0.59% -1.10%
Majority 49,657 14.84% -16.35%
Turnout 334,559
Republican hold Swing


  1. ^
  2. ^ Moulitsas, Markos (26 February 2008). "GOP’s flesh-eating zombie candidate". The Hill. Retrieved 1 April 2013. 
  3. ^ "Collagenesis". Youtube. 5 November 2006. Retrieved 1 April 2013. 
  4. ^ "SD-Sen: 2002 ad against Flesh Eating Zombie". Daily Kos. 28 February 2008. Retrieved 1 April 2013. 
  5. ^
  6. ^
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