Mike Rounds

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Mike Rounds
Mike Rounds official photo.JPG
31st Governor of South Dakota
In office
January 7, 2003 – January 8, 2011
Lieutenant Dennis Daugaard
Preceded by Bill Janklow
Succeeded by Dennis Daugaard
Member of the South Dakota Senate
from the 24th district
In office
January 3, 1991 – January 3, 2001
Preceded by Jacquie Kelley
Succeeded by Patricia de Hueck
Personal details
Born Marion Michael Rounds
(1954-10-24) October 24, 1954 (age 59)
Huron, South Dakota, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Jean Rounds
Alma mater South Dakota State University
Religion Roman Catholicism

Marion Michael "Mike" Rounds (born October 24, 1954) is an American politician and member of the Republican Party. Rounds served as the 31st Governor of South Dakota from 2003 to 2011, having previously served in the South Dakota Senate from 1991 to 2001.

Rounds currently serves as a member of the Governors' Council at the Bipartisan Policy Center.[1] On November 29, 2012, Rounds announced that in 2014 he would run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Democrat Tim Johnson, who is retiring.

Early life, education, and business career[edit]

Rounds, the eldest of eleven siblings, was born in Huron, South Dakota, and has lived in the state capital of Pierre since he was three years old. He was named for an uncle, Marion Rounds, who was killed in the Pacific theater during the Second World War. 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' 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.

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.[citation needed]

South Dakota Senate[edit]


Rounds represented District 24,[2] which was based in Pierre. In 1990, Rounds defeated incumbent state Senator Jacqueline Kelley, 53%-47%. He won re-election in 1992 (60%), 1994 (77%), 1996 (66%), and 1998 (75%). Rounds was barred from seeking re-election in 2000 by legislative term limits, which South Dakota voters had passed in 1994.[citation needed]


He represented Hughes, Lyman, Stanley, and Sully counties.

In 1993, Rounds became Senate Minority Whip. In 1995, Rounds was selected by his peers to be Senate Majority Leader.[3] 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.[citation needed]

Committee assignments[edit]

  • Commerce
  • Education
  • Legislative Procedure
  • Local Government
  • Retirement Laws
  • State Affairs
  • Taxation[4][5][6][7]

Governor of South Dakota[edit]


Rounds' 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 Lieutenant Governor Steve T. Kirby quickly became candidates. Rounds declared his candidacy late, in December 2001 and was out-raised and outspent ten-to-one by each of his opponents.[citation needed]

However, the contest between Kirby and Barnett soon became very negative and dirty. Barnett attacked Kirby for not investing in companies based in South Dakota and for his involvement with Collagenesis, a company which removed skin from donated human cadavers and processed them for use. It became the subject of a massive scandal when it was revealed that the company was using the skins for much more lucrative cosmetic surgery like lip and penis enhancements while burn victims "lie waiting in hospitals as nurses scour the country for skin to cover their wounds, even though skin is in plentiful supply for plastic surgeons".[8] Kirby invested in the company after the scandal broke and Barnett attacked him for it in television advertisements.[9] However, the advertisements backfired because "the claims were so outlandish, that people thought for sure that they were exaggerated or completely fabricated."[10]

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.

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

His 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.[citation needed]


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. 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 J. 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.[citation needed]

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 served as the 2008 Chair of the Midwestern Governors Association.

Research centers

Rounds's 2010 Initiative established 10 research centers at state-supported universities. In the first four years of the program, the state's first five research centers generated an estimated $59 million in federal and private funding, with an estimated $110 million economic impact for the state.[11]


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.[12] 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, the day of Rounds' re-election.[13]

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 most popular governors.[14] Following the abortion ban, again according to a SurveyUSA poll, Rounds' approval rating dropped 14% to 58%; his approval rebounded to 70% after the ban was repealed.[15]

EB-5 Visa Program

During Rounds' administration the state offered green cards to foreign investors in exchange for investments in a new South Dakota beef packing plant and other economic investments through the EB-5 Visa program established by the federal government in 1990.[16][17] After the beef packing plant went bankrupt, questions emerged regarding the nature of the investments and the foreign investors. Some investors received neither their EB-5 visas nor the money back from their failed investments, with no indication as to where their money went.[18]

2014 U.S. Senate election[edit]

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.

Rounds launched a Senate campaign for 2014 in November 2012[19] for the seat being vacated by Johnson's retirement.[20] Rounds won the June 2014 Republican primary, defeating four other candidates.[21] Early polls showed Rounds leading by a 2-1 margin against Democratic opponent Rick Weiland.[22] However, polls in October showed a closer three-way race between Rounds, Weiland, and independent former Senator Larry Pressler.[23] Independent conservative former state legislator Gordon Howie is also in the race.[24]

Personal life[edit]

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 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.

In May 2011, Rounds was conferred upon with an honorary doctorate for public service from his alma mater, South Dakota State University.[25]


  1. ^ [1] Governors' Council, Bipartisan Policy Center
  2. ^ http://www.mitchellrepublic.com/event/article/id/72997
  3. ^ "Project Vote Smart - The Voter's Self Defense System". Project Vote Smart. Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  4. ^ http://legis.state.sd.us/sessions/1997/mem.htm
  5. ^ http://legis.state.sd.us/sessions/1998/mem.htm
  6. ^ http://legis.state.sd.us/sessions/1999/mem.htm
  7. ^ http://legis.state.sd.us/sessions/2000/mem.htm
  8. ^ Moulitsas, Markos (26 February 2008). "GOP’s flesh-eating zombie candidate". The Hill. Retrieved 1 April 2013. 
  9. ^ "Collagenesis". Youtube. 5 November 2006. Retrieved 1 April 2013. 
  10. ^ "SD-Sen: 2002 ad against Flesh Eating Zombie". Daily Kos. 28 February 2008. Retrieved 1 April 2013. 
  11. ^ Alan Van Ormer (August 1, 2009). "South Dakota research centers aid economic development". Prairie Business Magazine. 
  12. ^ "South Dakota voters reject abortion ban". Argus Leader. November 7, 2006. 
  13. ^ Associated Press (November 8, 2006). "South Dakota Nixes Abortion Ban; Michigan Voters OK Anti-Affirmative Action Initiative". FOX News.com. 
  14. ^ "Approval Ratings for all 50 Governors as of 1/19/2006". Survey USA. January 19, 2006. 
  15. ^ "Poll:Do you approve or disapprove of the job Mike Rounds is doing as Governor?". Survey USA. 
  16. ^ "Questions Go Beyond Beef". Argus Leader. November 3, 2013. Retrieved June 20, 2014. 
  17. ^ "Six months of Argus Leader EB-5 coverage". Argus Leader. April 22, 2014. Retrieved June 20, 2014. 
  18. ^ "Chinese investors in failed S.D. beef plant may be biggest losers, receiving no visa or refund". Rapid City Journal. April 6, 2014. Retrieved June 20, 2014. 
  19. ^ Weiner, Rachel. "Mike Rounds is running for Senate". The Washington Post. Retrieved 21 May 2013. 
  20. ^ Weiner, Rachel. "South Dakota Sen. Tim Johnson announces retirement". The Washington Post. Retrieved 21 May 2013. 
  21. ^ "Mike Rounds, Rick Weiland win South Dakota nods". Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  22. ^ "Poll shows Rounds leads Weiland by a 2-1 margin". The Daily Republic. Retrieved 23 July 2013. 
  23. ^ Blake, Aaron (8 October 2014). "There’s something very interesting happening in South Dakota". Washington Post. Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  24. ^ Jaffe, Alexandra (3 April 2014). "Second independent running for SD Senate". The Hill. Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  25. ^ http://www.sdstate.edu/academic/faculty/facultyawards/honorarydegree/upload/List-of-HONORARY-DEGREES.pdf

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Bill Janklow
Republican nominee for Governor of South Dakota
2002, 2006
Succeeded by
Dennis Daugaard
Preceded by
Joel Dykstra
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from South Dakota
(Class 2)

Most recent
Political offices
Preceded by
Bill Janklow
Governor of South Dakota
Succeeded by
Dennis Daugaard