2008 United States Senate election in South Dakota

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United States Senate election in South Dakota, 2008

← 2002 November 4, 2008 2014 →
  Tim Johnson official portrait, 2009.jpg 3x4.svg
Nominee Tim Johnson Joel Dykstra
Party Democratic Republican
Popular vote 237,835 142,766
Percentage 62.5% 37.5%

South Dakota Senate Election Results by County, 2008.svg
County results
Johnson:      50–60%      60–70%      70–80%      80–90%
Dykstra:      50–60%      60–70%

U.S. Senator before election

Tim Johnson

Elected U.S. Senator

Tim Johnson

The 2008 United States Senate election in South Dakota was held on November 4, 2008. Primary elections were held on June 3, 2008.[1] Incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Tim Johnson won re-election to a third term. As of 2019, this is the last U.S. Senate race in South Dakota won by a Democrat.

Republican primary[edit]



Republican primary results[2]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Joel Dykstra 34,598 65.74%
Republican Sam Kephart 13,047 24.79%
Republican Charles Gonyo 4,983 9.47%
Total votes 52,628 100.00%

General election[edit]



Already a well-regarded figure, following health problems, Johnson became more popular. "South Dakota is a very kind state," Steve Jarding, a Harvard political scientist, said. "People were rooting for Tim—Democrats, Republicans, independents—they wanted him to be O.K." He was also seen a pragmatic moderate. He received endorsements from the Republican Mayor of Sioux Falls, Dave Munson, and the NRA. Dykstra argued that Johnson voted 80% of the time with U.S. Senator Barack Obama and 90% with U.S. Senator Harry Reid. In response, Johnson pointed out his votes on the confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court justices John Roberts/Samuel Alito, against flag burning, in favor for the Iraq War, Patriot Act, a ban on partial birth abortion, etc.[3]

One of the other reasons why Johnson is popular is earmarks. Recent examples include $248,000 for the Dahl Arts Center in Rapid City, $11 million for Ellsworth Air Base, $400,000 for Rosebud Sioux Reservation, and $37 million for Mni Wiconi Rural Water System. Dykstra opposed earmarks, leading U.S. Senator Tom Coburn to campaign with him.[citation needed]

In August, Johnson visited 20 cities across the state.[4] With nine reservations in the state, American Indians account for 10% of electorate. In 2002, Johnson carried 94% of the Oglala Sioux, the state's biggest tribe.


CQ Politics rated the race as 'Safe Democrat'.[5] The Cook Political Report considered it 'Likely Democrat'.[6] The Rothenberg Political Report considered it 'Safe Democrat'.[7]


Poll Source Dates administered Tim
Johnson (D)
Dykstra (R)
Rasmussen Reports March 4, 2008 63% 28%
Rasmussen Reports July 15, 2008 60% 38%


Johnson easily won re-election to a third term, losing in only four counties. His friend and fellow Democrat, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin easily won re-election to South Dakota's at-large congressional district,

General election results[8]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Tim Johnson (incumbent) 237,889 62.49% +12.87%
Republican Joel Dykstra 142,784 37.51% -11.96%
Majority 95,105 24.98% +24.83%
Turnout 380,673
Democratic hold Swing


  1. ^ Horrigan, Marie (March 18, 2008). "Sen. Johnson Rated Safe as Recruiting Woes Hurt GOP". CQ Politics. Retrieved November 7, 2008.
  2. ^ http://www.sdsos.gov/electionsvoteregistration/pastelections_electioninfo08_primarysw.shtm
  3. ^ Johnson campaigns on cash, Dykstra wants change
  4. ^ Johnson, Dirk; Herszenhorn, David (October 23, 2008). "In South Dakota Race, Gauging the Impact of a Senator's Health". The New York Times.
  5. ^ Race Ratings Chart: Senate Archived October 28, 2010, at the Wayback Machine CQ Politics
  6. ^ 2008 Senate Race Ratings The Cook Political Report, October 9, 2008
  7. ^ 2008 Senate Ratings The Rothenberg Political Report, September 29, 2008
  8. ^ http://clerk.house.gov/member_info/electionInfo/2008/2008Stat.htm#stateSD

External links[edit]