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The official portrait of Joe Foss as governor.
The official portrait of Joe Foss as governor.
State of South Dakota photo
June 2, 2017

IN HISTORY: Joe Foss Narrowly Defeated in Republican Nomination for Governor

Although he was elected governor in 1954 by a wide margin, decorated World War II veteran Joe Foss made an unsuccessful gubernatorial bid in 1950 when he faced off against incumbent Attorney General Sigurd Anderson in the Republican Primary in early June 1953.

With all but 42 precincts reporting, Anderson had secured 34.82 percent of ballots cast—just shy of the 35 percent required to clinch the nomination, according to the New York Times. However, Foss was not far behind with an estimated 33,546 votes cast in his favor—just 1,573 votes less than those cast for Anderson.  While the two were neck and neck, Anderson believed that the remaining votes to be tallied in Rapid City would help secure his nomination.

Anderson’s prediction turned out to be right. When all of the votes were counted, Anderson received 35,609 total votes, or 35.35 percent of the total 100,751 votes cast. Joe Foss missed the nomination by fewer than 3,000 votes.

Although he lost his first gubernatorial bid, Foss went on to serve two terms as governor from 1955 through 1959. At 39 years of age, Foss was the state’s youngest governor. At the end of his second term as governor in 1958, Foss launched a bid to become the U.S. Representative for South Dakota, but lost to George McGovern. Foss again sought to become a federal representative when Senator Francis Case died in office, but was defeated by Joseph Bottum, who served out the remainder of Case’s term.

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