Well, darn: those of us hoping Paul TenHaken would challenge Kristi Noem in the 2022 GOP primary for governor will have to settle for the boring old status quo. Trevor Mitchell tweets that the Sioux Falls mayor held a press conference under a bridge down by the river this afternoon to announce that he’ll settle for four more years of leading 21.7% of South Dakotans. (If TenHaken wins next April’s election, and if population growth rates for the city and state remain steady, then by the time his rein ends in 2026, Sioux Falls folks will constitute 23.6% of South Dakotans.)
TenHaken plies the urban electorate with a shade of the typical denigration of the term “politician”, telling the bridge trolls that he’s “not a politician by nature” but “just a guy who loves Sioux Falls.” Come now, Paul: if by “politician” you mean the casual and misdirected image of the gladhanding self-promoter, that’s you in spades. And if by “politician” you happen to mean the original, truer, Aristotelian term for a practitioner of the art of figuring out how we should live together in community, well, from the day you translated your love of your adopted city into practical activism, you’ve been a politician.
TenHaken is launching his reëlection campaign for a municipal office seven long months before the vote, but he does not appear to be the only announced contender. TenHaken filed paperwork organizing a mayoral campaign committee on April 26, with GOP businessman, Big-Oiler, and theocrat Joel Dykstra as his chair and treasurer, but previous mayoral aspirant David Zokaites organized his mayoral campaign committee on January 6. In January Zokaites reported spending $745 of his own money on his campaign on things like his campaign website ($300) and “Books on how to run for office” ($75). On July 6, Dykstra reported collecting $52,965 for TenHaken’s campaign (including $1,000 transferred from TenHaken’s own Next Generation Leadership PAC) and spending only $927.59. TenHaken’s well-connected big-dollar donors include Mick Vanden Bosch of Brandon, who appears to be myopic eye doctor who doesn’t think doctors should have to get the coronavirus vaccine.
TenHaken was one of a handful of powerful Republicans who could have mustered the money and support necessary to mount a serious campaign to save South Dakota and the South Dakota Republican Party from Kristi Noem’s inattentive and fatally ineffective governance. His decision to remain at the helm in Sioux Falls leaves the door open for a small handful of brave Republicans to save the brand from Noem’s corruption, nepotism, and inability to advance a coherent and practical Legislative agenda.