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Rapid City Mayoral Race: RCJ, Tsitrian, Ecoffey Back Kooiker; Adelstein Prefers Allender

If Rapid Creek doesn’t wash the ballot boxes away, Rapid City voters will pick their mayor for the next two years today. How are the media voting?

The Rapid City Journal issued a wimpy Sunday-edition endorsement of incumbent Mayor Sam Kooiker. RCJ mentions allegations of racism and anti-Second Amendment inklings against challenger Steve Allender without trying to get to the bottom of those allegations. (On the Second Amendment, those allegations are absurd; Allender dings extremists on both sides of gun issues and takes a practical view of the need for certain firearms in civilian hands even has he acknowledges the Second Amendment) RCJ likewise fails to weigh the argument offered by Allender that Mayor Kooiker is hindering business. RCJ weakly defaults to mere “experience” and tells readers to vote for Kooiker, even though Allender can argue that he has 29 years of experience working for Rapid City compared to Kooiker’s 13 years.

Rapid City blogger John Tsitrian is as ambivalent as the RCJ. Tsitrian says he’ll vote for Kooiker, but he’s not telling anyone else to do so. He’s gotten the sense that Kooiker is “more into consolidating power and the cronyism that goes with it than delivering the best government he can.” Yet, like RCJ, Tsitrian rejects Allender for a lack of specifics on economic development… or, as Tsitrian more colorfully calls it, dodgeball:

…Allender has proposed no specific measures that he would bring to bear on manufacturers with the intent of getting them to expand or locate here in Rapid City. In his ChiefsView blog of a couple of weeks ago, Allender just says, “I intend to be involved in finding the areas where improvement is needed and to work with others to make that improvement.” 

This comes across as world-class dodge-ball to me because Allender is effectively saying he doesn’t have a clue but intends to figure it out after being elected by getting together with people that, unlike him, know something about the subject.  Same goes for his critique of the City’s permitting process, much discussed here, but with no clear identification of its problems or its fixes, just a frequent comment to the effect that we first have to admit there’s a problem and that he’d unclog city hall and “evaluate existing processes” in the hope of giving Rapid Citians more value for their dollar.” As with his hectoring of Kooiker’s handling of manufacturing growth, Allender gives us vagueness and no indication that he understands the problem he claims to exist. More dodge-ball. I need better than that to consider him for mayor [John Tsitrian, “I’ll Vote for Kooiker, But I’m Not Endorsing Him,” The Constant Commoner, 2015.05.31].

Mayor Sam Kooiker, Rapid City, South Dakota
Mayor Sam Kooiker, Rapid City, South Dakota

Tsitrian mentions the combat between Kooiker and Allender on race relations only glancingly, saying Mayor Kooiker’s criticism of councilors Charity Doyle and Bill Clayton for “well-known biases” is a ding on Kooiker. RCJ dismisses the discussion of race relations as a distraction from “other topics that are more in line with the mayor’s duties, which is to run an efficient and effective city that provides economic opportunities and strives to improve the quality of residents’ lives.” Hmm… I would think an honest discussion of race relations would have a lot to do with what a mayoral candidate would do to improve the quality of all residents’ lives.

Lakota Country Times editor Brandon Ecoffey thinks race relations is a voting issue. He says Rapid City’s Native American voters have a greater stake in this city election than previous elections because of what he sees as a stark difference between Kooiker and Allender on race relations. Ecoffey says Mayor Kooiker’s agenda “contains the model way of incorporating minority populations into city government,” while Allender’s approach to race relations “would have fit in with the Ferguson, Missouri police department.”

Conservative Christian exclusivist Gordon Howie peers into town from the ranchero and says he’d vote for Kooiker if he could. Howie offers no specific reason for his vote, but alongside conservative Rip Ryness’s Facebook assault on Allender, Howie’s gentle pitch reminds us that Kooiker has some in with the radical conservative crowd on which Allender has not apparently capitalized.

Steve Allender, experienced civil servant
Steve Allender, experienced civil servant

The most vigorous voice for Allender online is former State Senator Stan Adelstein. In a Friday post, Adelstein praises Allender for his leadership experience. He praises Allender for telling voters where he stands on the school opt-out issue (Allender is voting yes, with sadness, on that issue today), then in the next breath praises Allender for not telling voters where he stood on the Civic Center remodel before that March vote. Adelstein blasts the radical South Dakota Gun Owners’ misrepresentation of Allender’s support for the Second Amendment.

Adelstein then whacks Kooiker with detailed critiques of the mayor’s management skills and honesty. Among signs of bad management, Adelstein cites high turnover among department heads, big projects not advancing, money wasted on the failed Civic Center proposal, partisan politicking in county commission races, and botched handling of the appointment of a new chief to replace Allender in 2014. On honesty, Adelstein alleges that Kooiker has turned from seeming integrity during his first couple years as mayor to misrepresentation of Allender’s positions and his own positions to cling to his office.

We should know before bedtime tonight whose priorities in evaluating the candidates prevail.


  1. larry kurtz 2015-06-02 20:29

    Early and Absentee voting ballots cast: 3,541 Mayor of Rapid City: (I) Sam Kooiker: 1,377 44.31% Steve Allender: 1,731 55.69%— Caroline Patrickis (@Cpatrickis) June 3, 2015

  2. Lynn 2015-06-02 20:41

    Early Results in Mitchell School Board 3 year term Lacey Musick, with 1,863 votes, and Neil Putnam, with 1,828 votes, defeated Tara Volesky, who had 915.

    School Board 1 year term Kevin Kenkel, with 1,302 votes, defeated Steve Sibson, with 839 votes, and Twyla Mah, who finished with 497 votes

  3. Roger Cornelius 2015-06-02 21:15

    Hey Lynn,

    That is way good news to hear!

    Mitchell voters did the right thing to let Sibson and Volesky they think the two of them are just goofy.

  4. Lynn 2015-06-02 21:32


    Mitchell has been spared.

  5. Roger Cornelius 2015-06-02 21:59


    I wouldn’t resist going over to Sibson’s website and expressing my glee at his and Tara’s loss.

    Yes, Mitchell has been spared.

  6. Roger Cornelius 2015-06-02 22:49

    It should come as no surprise to anyone that Rapid City elected a racist mayor.

  7. tara volesky 2015-06-03 08:51

    Hey, when 76% of the people don’t vote, what do you expect. lol. At least we got a new Mayor. Jerry Toomey will be a great leader.

  8. The King 2015-06-03 09:02

    Allender will be a good mayor for Rapid City. Apparently Kooiker played the role of the victim one too many times for the people of Rapid City.

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-03 09:58

    Should I be alarmed that Steve Sibson can come in second in a three-way race?

  10. Lynn 2015-06-03 10:10


    “Should I be alarmed that Steve Sibson can come in second in a three-way race?”

    Absolutely not! The higher the office he runs for with a wider range of voters the margin will increase with his defeat. His positions and past statements both offline and online are way too extreme for the electorate.

  11. Rod Hall 2015-06-03 10:46

    For those of you who do not know anything about the Mitchell school system, Sibson and Volesky are the only candidates that tried to discuss the issues. The taxpayers had a permanent $700,000 opt-out forced upon them. The school swimming pool was filled with gravel and concrete without any public discussion. A new football stadium was built for $3 million without a public vote, A new Longfellow school ($12 million ?) was built before the previous school it replaced was paid for, again this without a public vote. Now a 1240 seat $20 million (including interest) Fine Arts building is being built without a public vote. The Supt. says the Board met with the Contractor to effect cost reductions but THERE ARE NO MINUTES OF ANY OF THOSE MEETINGS. If you want
    copies of minutes I had to get them from the Supt. rather than the Business Manager.

    Now the next big step is to build a NEW HIGH SCHOOL BLDG and tear down the present building. Does Sioux Falls plan to destroy Lincoln because it too, is about 50 years old?

    Mitchell has high taxes and teachers are paid poorly. One way Mitchell Schools save money is that for over forty years the Mitchell School Board, by lack of concern, has denied the classified workers participation in South Dakota Retirement System, one of the best in the nation!

    The other candidates say they are “For education!”

  12. Rod Hall 2015-06-03 10:48

    I would like to read comments that follow.

  13. larry kurtz 2015-06-03 11:09

    “Watch what we do, not what we say,” was the famous advice Nixon’s first Attorney General, John Mitchell, gave the press at the onset of the Nixon presidency in 1969.

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