Native Sun News: Indian votes send Rapid City mayor into office

The following story was written and reported by Joe Budd. All content © Native Sun News.

RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA — By the time the polls closed at 7 p.m. on Tuesday June 28, all that remained was the counting.

For people all over Rapid City and the surrounding Black Hills, a lot of questions remained on how city hall would operate for the next two years. Some within the city worried that a change in mayor would derail plans that Alan Hanks had in store, while others felt a change in City Council, followed by a change in the mayor’s seat would make the city more friendly and open to new businesses.

With a narrow win, Sam Kooiker will now get that chance by besting Hanks, by only 478 votes, with over 13,000 tallied on Tuesday. Kooiker would pick up 6977 votes, at 51.8 percent, over Hanks’ 6499, or 48.2 percent.

Within Rapid City, the election highlighted how divided the city is, not as much by east and west, but those who wanted things to stay as they were, and those wanting change. One noticeable difference was how both candidates fared in their respective Wards. Kooiker, who would take Ward Two, where he was presently serving as an alderman, would win all five precincts. There was a high total of 188 votes for Hanks, to 421 votes for Kooiker.

Hanks would also fare well in the Third Ward, his traditionally strong area, but would lose precinct seven by a count of 170-234. But in all, it would prove to be a close fight, as Hanks would win 12 precincts, out of 25 in the city to speak of.

For the Native Americans within Rapid City, voting in specific areas tended to highlight this. The Lakota Homes subdivision, located within the Ward Four, Precinct Three, would have 193 votes for Hanks, while 285 votes would be counted for Kooiker. North Rapid, the section that Kooiker had mentioned regarding gerrymandering issues, would vote for Kooiker as well, with a 198-109 total.

It can also be mentioned, that in Ward Four Precinct Three, that this also includes housing units in the Mall Ridge areas, while the Ward Five, Precinct Five also include housing on the west side of the I-90 Interstate, in the Silver Street area. Another center of Native American voting, the Signal Hill-Star Village area showed up well for Kooiker, with a voting of 319-127, in the Ward Two- Precinct One area.

Noted among the numbers, were that where Kooiker would win. He would win handedly as highlighted by the 501-217 win in Ward Four, Precinct Two. Hanks’ largest win, would come in Ward Three Precinct Four, with a 551-329 vote.

Overall, Kooiker’s win highlighted the division in Rapid City, between the well-to-do living in West side and Sheridan Lake Road areas and the middle-lower class living on the East and North Side, but it also highlighted that those traditionally living in North Rapid, are now spreading out to other parts of Rapid City. Parts of West Boulevard, traditionally thought of as only for the elite and wealthy, and are now seeing houses converted into apartments for 4-6 people. This would be reflected, when Ward Five Precinct Four would have Hanks win, but by only 73 votes, a 370-297 total.

Also of notice, was that compared to the vote on June 7 and the total of voters did not drop as much as expected, seeing less than 200 people show up for the second vote. Some felt this helped add to the Hanks campaign, narrowing what had been a 1500-vote lead from the first election to the second.

But the election also showed that Kooiker’s efforts in North Rapid paid off, as voters split Wards 1, 2, 3 and 5, evenly, at 6,018 votes … only to have Kooiker’s 2-to-1 votes in Ward Four decide who the next mayor would be. For Rapid City, some still point back to a censuring by the City Council as being the turning point culminated on Tuesday. In April of 2010, Kooiker, in what many called a circus trial was censured for “conduct unbefitting an elected official.” During Kooiker’s censure, several people were brought forth to defend his freedom of speech, including Robert Doody, Executive Director of American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota.

While some thought that with the censure, Kooiker would fall out of favor and be removed during the year’s election cycle, Kooiker would not see an opponent, but several people who voted for the censure, elected not to run for re-election … others would suffer their own defeat, being replaced by candidates who felt energized by the censure and the lack of justice.

With this years’ election, a number of remaining candidates from the censure fell to the wayside, as Kroeger was defeated and the same night as Kooiker’s win, Deb Hadcock was voted out by a wide margin, leaving the council in only 16 months.

The last matter of business for the City comes from Ward Two, with Kooiker elected as Mayor, a new election to fill his seat must be undertaken…but when the full council finally is seated … it will be a brand new day in Rapid City, South Dakota.

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