Just six hours before polls close, Democratic governor hopeful Billie Sutton made a 30-minute campaign stop at Augustana University on Tuesday afternoon.
Sutton spoke to a crowd of roughly 60 students and faculty in the Morrison Commons and afterward posed for photos with supporters in the Siverson Lounge.
During his speech, Sutton stressed that he needed the crowd’s help and asked them to drive people to polls and tell their friends and family to vote. Sutton also stressed unity in South Dakota’s politics.
“It’s time we build a stronger South Dakota together, a stronger South Dakota for our future,” Sutton said.
In an interview after his speech, Sutton said he chose to visit Augustana because his campaign has been prioritizing young voters.
“After I announced my campaign, we did a listening tour,” Sutton said. “We heard from a lot of people who are concerned about their kids or grandkids leaving South Dakota, and we heard from a lot of young people about how it is difficult to afford an education here.”
To encourage students to stay in the state, Sutton proposed lowering the cost of higher education, creating more in-state scholarship opportunities and crafting policies that increase wages.
Tom Cool, a Democrat running for state auditor and head of the Council on College Admission Counseling, said the gubernatorial election has been unusual for the state.
“I think we got a lot of Democratic enthusiasm, and I think this is the year we’re going to do it,” Cool said.
Ultimately, Cool said he believes undecided voters will determine the election.
“At the end of the day—regardless of party affiliation—we need leaders who are going to bring us together,” Sutton said after his speech. “We have more in common than not, and we need to work together to solve our problems.”
Sophomore Hunter Lipinski, president of the Augustana Democrats, said he had been trying to get Sutton on campus all fall. Lipinski said the Sutton campaign contacted him on Nov. 4 and asked if it could hold an event on campus on Election Day.
Freshman John Walker has interned for Sutton since June. He said he’s surprised how much attention the campaign has drawn.
“I always had hope in it, but I couldn’t know how intense it’s become,” Walker said. “It’s just crazy where we are now. No one usually pays much attention to midterms, but this year is really intense.”
Sophomore Jillian Stamp said she voted for Sutton early Tuesday morning because she sees him as a “uniter.”
“He’s such a uniter,” Stamp said. “He’s the type of guy that Democrats, Republicans, independents and Libertarians can all find something about Billie that they love.”