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Romney carries South Dakota in presidential race

Associated Press Modified: November 6, 2012 at 10:16 pm •  Published: November 6, 2012

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Mitt Romney won South Dakota's three electoral votes Tuesday, continuing the GOP's domination of presidential politics in the heavily Republican state.

Neither Romney nor Democratic President Barack Obama campaigned in South Dakota, as both sides focused their efforts on competitive states with more electoral votes. No Democratic presidential candidate has carried South Dakota since 1964, when President Lyndon Johnson prevailed over Republican Barry Goldwater.

Some South Dakota voters favored Romney because they believe he can cut federal spending and jumpstart a struggling economy.

"I think he'll get better control of the spending issues in Washington than Obama could," said Chad Hank, 39, an insurance office manager from Tea.

Dennis Nelson, a 56-year-old truck driver from Philip, liked Romney's business experience.

"I think the man's a businessman," he said. "He knows how to do things."

The economy and health care, two of the big issues in the presidential race, also played big roles in the fight between Republican Rep. Kristi Noem and Democratic challenger Matt Varilek for South Dakota's lone seat in the U.S. House.

Varilek, a 37-year-old former congressional staffer, accused Noem of supporting Republican plans that he said would wreck Medicare, the health care program for retirees, and give tax breaks to the wealthy.

Noem, a 40-year-old farmer and former state lawmaker, accused Varilek of supporting tax increases on middle-class families and small businesses and backing the health care overhaul she contends would increase costs instead of reducing them.

"The repeal of Obamacare is important," said Tim Rabb, a 53-year-old chiropractor from Sioux Falls who voted for Romney and Noem.

Varilek also hammered Noem for missing many House committee meetings and failing to get a farm bill passed before Congress recessed for the election. She said she attended most of the meetings she was accused of missing and missed others because she couldn't be in two meetings in once.

That issue struck home with Mike Sanovia, 47, a marketing representative in Sioux Falls who said he voted for Varilek because Noem had missed meetings.

"Kristi is not there, and she's going back and forth on our dime," Sanovia said.

But Rabb, the chiropractor, said he voted for Noem because she's done a good job in her first two years in Congress. He was leery of Varilek because he had worked for several U.S. senators.

"He's been in government all his life, so he doesn't have much business experience," Rabb said.

South Dakota voters on Tuesday also were electing state lawmakers and two members of the three-member Public Utilities Commission, which regulates electric, natural gas and telephone utilities.

Voters also were deciding some ballot issues, including a plan to boost the state sales tax from 4 percent to 5 percent, with the extra money split between schools and Medicaid. Also on the ballot was Gov. Dennis Daugaard's plan to give merit pay to teachers.


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