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Mike Rounds

Assumed office 
January 7, 2003
Lieutenant Dennis Daugaard
Preceded by William J. Janklow

Member of the South Dakota Senate
from the 24th district
In office
Succeeded by Patricia de Hueck
Preceded by Jacquie Kelley

Born October 24, 1954 (1954-10-24) (age 55)
Huron, South Dakota
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Jean Rounds
Residence Pierre, South Dakota
Alma mater South Dakota State University
Profession Insurance executive, Politician
Religion Roman Catholic

Marion Michael "Mike" Rounds (born October 24, 1954) is an American politician. Rounds has served as the 31st and current Governor of South Dakota since January 7, 2003, having been elected on November 5, 2002 and re-elected on November 7, 2006.



Rounds, the oldest of eleven children, was born in Huron, South Dakota and has lived in Pierre, the state capital, since he was three. Rounds was named for an uncle, Marion Rounds, who was killed in the Pacific theater during the Second World War; however, he has from a young age been known as "Mike."

Several members of the Rounds family have been involved in state government. His father, Don Rounds, worked at various times as state director of highway safety, a staffer for Rural Electrification Administration, and executive director of the South Dakota Petroleum Council. Rounds's brother, Tim Rounds, is a member of the South Dakota State Legislature representing District 24, which includes Pierre.

Rounds attended South Dakota State University in Brookings, where he earned his B.S. in political science. While at SDSU, Rounds met his wife, Jean, formerly of Lake Preston, South Dakota. They were married in 1978 and have four children.

Rounds is a partner in Fischer Rounds & Associates, an insurance and real estate firm with offices in Pierre, Rapid City, Mitchell, and Brandon. He placed his ownership interest into a blind trust upon being elected governor. Rounds is a member of Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church of Pierre. He is also a member of numerous service clubs and community organizations including Elks, Exchange Club, Knights of Columbus, and Ducks Unlimited.



State Senator

Rounds represented District 24, which includes Pierre and the surrounding area in the South Dakota State Legislature from 1991 to 2001, serving from 1995 as majority leader. In 1990, Rounds won 52.5% of the vote in a successful challenge of incumbent state senator Jacqueline Kelley, a Pierre Democrat. He was reelected in 1992 with 59.9%, in 1994 with 77.3%, in 1996 with 66.0%, and in 1998 with 74.9%. Rounds was barred from seeking reelection in 2000 by legislative term limits, which South Dakota voters had passed in 1994.

In 1995, Rounds was selected by his peers to be Senate Majority Leader. During his time as majority leader, Rounds worked closely with Governor Bill Janklow and was respected for his effective leadership of the Senate. Rounds had an important role in passing several of Janklow's initiatives, including property tax reduction, reform of the school aid funding formula, the "wiring" of South Dakota schools, and the sale of the state cement plant.

2002 Gubernatorial Election

Rounds's victory in the 2002 Republican Gubernatorial Primary 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 to challenge Senator Tim Johnson, state Attorney General Mark Barnett and former Lt. Governor Steve Kirby quickly became candidates. Rounds declared his candidacy late, in December 2001, and was outraised and outspent ten to one by each of his opponents. However, the contest between Kirby and Barnett soon became very negative and "dirty". As the two front-runners concentrated on each other, Rounds insisted on running a positive campaign and was not attacked by his opponents. Rounds's 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%.

After winning the Republican nomination, Rounds selected state senator Dennis Daugaard of Dell Rapids to be his running mate. Their Democratic opponents were University of South Dakota President Jim Abbott of Vermillion and his running mate, former state representative Mike Wilson of Rapid City. During the campaign, Abbott, who had been considered the Democratic Party's strongest nominee in years, was hampered by his strategic inability to attack Rounds; any effort to "go negative" would have only reinforced Rounds's positive campaign.

Rounds was elected governor on November 5, 2002. The results were as follows:

Rounds's election signaled several "firsts" for South Dakota. Rounds is the first resident of Pierre, the capital city, to be elected Governor. He is also the first alumnus of South Dakota State University, the state's largest university, to serve as governor, as well as the first baby boomer.

2006 Election

Rounds enjoyed high popularity throughout most of his first term. After signing a controversial bill to ban most abortions in early 2006, Rounds approval rating dropped significantly, but recovered substantially by summer. Rounds was therefore a heavy favorite for reelection.

In 2004, rumors circulated that television personality and former South Dakotan Pat O'Brien was considering a return to his home state to challenge Rounds; however, revelations of personal problems ended speculation about an O'Brien candidacy in 2006. Former state senator Ron Volesky of Huron, a Democrat, had announced his intention to oppose Rounds, but abandoned his bid on February 22, 2006, citing an inability to raise funds.

Two Democratic candidates emerged to challenge Rounds: Jack Billion, a retired surgeon and former state legislator from Sioux Falls, and Dennis Wiese, the former president of the South Dakota Farmers Union. Billion easily defeated Wiese for the nomination, and selected Rapid City school board member Eric Abrahamson as his running mate.

Rounds was reelected on November 7, 2006. The results were as follows:

Rounds Administration

Abortion ban

On February 22, 2006, the state legislature of South Dakota passed an act banning all medical abortions except those necessary to save the mother's life (see double effect). Rounds signed the act on March 6, and the ban was to have taken effect on July 1, 2006, but never did because of a court challenge. A referendum for a potential repeal of H.B. 1215 was placed on the ballot for the November 2006 statewide election due to a successful petition.[1] On May 30, over 38,000 signatures were filed, more than twice the 17,000 required to qualify. The law was ultimately repealed by voters on November 7, 2006.[2]

According to a Survey USA poll released in January 2006, Rounds had an approval rating of 73% and a "net" approval rating of +52%, which placed him among the top five governors in the United States in terms of approval rating.[3] Following the abortion ban, again according to a SurveyUSA poll, Rounds's approval rating dropped 14% to 58%; his approval rebounded to 70% after the ban was repealed.[4]

Distilleries legislation

During the 2006 legislative session, Governor Rounds signed House Bill 1233, entitled “An Act to provide for the establishment and operation of artisan distillers and to revise certain provisions concerning farm wineries.”[5] This bill, proposed by the Rounds’ brother, Jamison, changed state law to allow for operation of small-scale (50,000 gallons/year/facility) liquor distilleries in the state.[6] At the time, Jamison Rounds testified before the legislature and explained that he was advocating the change so that he could open a distillery in the state.[7] The bill passed the state house 60-5 and the state senate 33-2; among those voting in favor was another Rounds brother, Representative Tim Rounds.[8] Shortly after the law went into effect, Jamison Rounds and another brother, Tom, announced that they had purchased a building outside of Pierre with the intention of opening a distillery.[9]

The Argus Leader, the largest newspaper in South Dakota, ran an opinion piece regarding the legislature’s overwhelming passage of the distillery bill. The article, entitled “Ethically confused– again: For lawmakers, high moral ground doesn't include the Roundses' booze business,” noted the irony that the state legislature would allow operation of distilleries in the same session that it passed legislation banning abortion.[10] Sen. Clarence Kooistra (R), one of the few state legislators to vote against the bill was quoted as saying, "I just didn't think we should be expanding liquor sales. I felt we were sending the wrong message."

Death penalty

Under Rounds's administration South Dakota has performed the first execution in this state since 1947, when volunteer Elijah Page[11] was put to death by lethal injection in July 2007.

Political Future

Beyond 2006

Speculation persisted that in 2008, Rounds would seek the United States Senate seat held currently by Tim Johnson, a Democrat who has held the seat since 1997. However, Rounds did not file to run against Johnson by the deadline, passing on the Senate race.


  1. ^ "South Dakota voters reject abortion ban". Argus Leader. November 7, 2006.  
  2. ^ Associated Press (November 8, 2006). "South Dakota Nixes Abortion Ban; Michigan Voters OK Anti-Affirmative Action Initiative". FOX,2933,228038,00.html.  
  3. ^ "Approval Ratings for all 50 Governors as of 1/19/2006". Survey USA. January 19, 2006.  
  4. ^ "Poll:Do you approve or disapprove of the job Mike Rounds is doing as Governor?". Survey USA.  
  5. ^ "House Bill 1233". 2006 Legislative Session. South Dakota Legislature.  
  6. ^ "HB 1233 (text of bill)". South Dakota Legislature.  
  7. ^ "Senate Commerce Committee hearing" (audio file). 2006 Legislative Session. South Dakota Legislature. February 21, 2006.  
  8. ^ "Roll Call Vote, HB 1233, House of Representatives, Concurred in amendments". 2006 Legislative Session. South Dakota Legislature. Retrieved 2006-12-16.  
  9. ^ Jonathan Ellis (August 12, 2006). "Rounds brothers plan new distillery". Argus Leader. sio2006081416070110.  
  10. ^ "Ethically confused– again". Argus Leader. August 13, 2006. sio2006081513350174.  
  11. ^ Death Penalty Information Center. "Executions in the United States in 2007". Retrieved 2007-11-20.  

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
William J. Janklow
Governor of South Dakota


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