Sioux Falls voters have narrowed their choices for mayor down to two: Paul TenHaken and Jolene Loetscher. Those two candidates won 34% and 25%, respectively, of the city vote yesterday, triggering a May Day runoff.
Sioux Falls voters favored the two youngest candidates in the race, and poll workers got the impression that more young people showed up to vote. That youth tilt could bode well for younger candidates looking to upset the establishment in Legislative races and for Billie Sutton in his bid to become South Dakota’s youngest governor. Also encouraging is the fact that, as of five days before the election, Loetscher had spent only 28% of what TenHaken did, and that both of them had spent less than Jim Entenman, who came in third. Loetscher’s campaign shows that lower-budget campaigning can beat big money.
Loetscher and TenHaken beat three former city councilors, suggesting that voters this year may lean toward newcomers; however, Sioux Falls voters picked political newcomer Mike Huether as mayor in 2010, so let’s not leap to a general conclusion.
We should also note that turnout was the lowest in a Sioux Falls mayoral election since 1994. Municipal politics, at least, isn’t inspiring a surge in participation. Maybe more young people came out to vote than usual, but it appears more of them and every other group chose not to participate.
Were I a Sioux Fallsian, my choice would be simple: sensible, progressive, politically more self-made Loetscher versus Republican Party insider TenHaken. Former young Sioux Falls mayor Rick Knobe endorsed her. Loetscher scored one of LEAD South Dakota’s first endorsements for supporting their values of inclusion, civility, action, social justice, and empowerment. When TenHaken tried to rally conservative pushback against Loetscher’s commitment to diversity in last week’s big KSFY debate, Loetscher didn’t back down from her commitment to diversity or from her Women’s Day March statement that “What we do not deserve is a City Hall or a City Council meeting that looks like a Country Club mixer. We deserve a City Hall and a City Council that looks like us. That sounds like us.”
Besides, Loetscher made a living literally shoveling poop. Any candidate who gives me the chance to say poop in a complimentary fashion takes a step up in my esteem.
Loetscher now gets three weeks to show she can marshal 63% of yesterday’s not-TenHaken votes to her side on May 1.