About 2% of Rapid City voters sent Sam Kooiker home and made Steve Allender mayor last night. Without rigorous polling, it’s anyone’s guess as to which issue swayed that two percent.
Clearly not swaying that 2% were allegations of Allender’s racist conduct toward American Indians. If Native voters took such allegations seriously, they didn’t show up in numbers large enough to make a difference. If white voters took such allegations seriously, they were outnumbered by those who took Allender’s denial more seriously than his destruction of evidence.
Voters and the media certainly talked about the allegations from Allender’s former Rapid City police colleague Glen Yellow Robe. Now Mayor-Elect Allender says talking about racist behavior is divisive:
Allender has said the focus on the Yellow Robe allegations was divisive, and he reiterated that concern Tuesday night while discussing what he considered to be negative campaigning by Kooiker.
“It possibly served to divide the community a little more, and that’s unfortunate,” Allender said, “but we’re starting out now and we’re looking forward, not back” [Seth Tupper, “Allender Handily Defeats Incumbent Kooiker for Rapid City Mayor,” Rapid City Journal, 2015.06.03].
That’s good rhetorical judo: you can’t talk about how I might hurt race relations, because your talk makes race relations worse. But it’s not good governance. If a mayor, candidate, or community has problems, we need to talk about them, air them out, and fix them. If a former city employee accuses his boss of fostering an oppressively racist work environment, we need to talk seriously about those accusations, not dismiss racist comments as friendly office banter and point at squirrels.