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Mayoral hopeful denies being racist at debate in Rapid City

Former police chief Steve Allender is running for mayor of Rapid City, South Dakota. Photo from Facebook

The former police chief in Rapid City, South Dakota, defended his reputation at a mayoral debate hosted by The Native Sun News on Friday.

Steve Allender was on the defensive after the paper published a story last week about the racial taunts endured by Glen Yellow Robe, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and a former police officer in Rapid City. Yellow Robe's discrimination lawsuit was dismissed in 2012 but Allender admitted that he made inappropriate comments on the job.

"I'm not a racist. But I'm not a perfect human being," Allender said during the debate, KELO reported. "You know, I've said things in my life like everyone else that I wish I wouldn't have said."

Mayor Sam Kooiker is running for re-election. Photo from Facebook

Incumbent Mayor Sam Kooiker, who is running for re-election, seized on the controversy and said his rival isn't fit to serve in the city's top executive position. Native Americans represent 12.4 percent of the population in Rapid City, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and events like the annual Lakota Nation Invitational bring thousands of Native people and their dollars to the community.

"I've made it very clear that I believe that someone who has a history of making racial slurs, particularly in a work environment as supervisor on the clock, is disqualified from city positions," Kooiker said at the debate, KELO reported.

Race relations have always been a big issue in South Dakota's second-largest city. But media attention to the issue intensified earlier this year when a group of children from the Pine Ridge Reservation were subjected to racial taunts at a hockey game in January.

The mayoral election takes place June 2.

Get the Story:
Race Relations A Focus In Mayoral Election (South Dakota Public Radio 5/11)
Rapid City Mayoral Candidates Debate (KELO 5/8)
Mayoral candidates debate on race relations (KEVN 5/8)
Human relations focal point of mayoral debate (KOTA 5/8)
Election day for the next mayor of Rapid City grows closer (NewsCenter1 5/8)

Related Stories:
Native Sun News: Retired police officer speaks out on racism (5/7)
Native Sun News: Former police chief runs for mayor in Rapid City (4/15)
Native Sun News: Candidates to debate on tribal college campus (4/15)
Native Sun News: 'First Nations' park in Rapid City takes shape (04/06)
Native Sun News: Businesses show support for LNI tournament (03/27)
Lakota Country Times: Lakota Nation Invitational stays in Rapid (03/26)
Native Sun News: Mayor of Rapid City addresses race relations (3/26)
Native Sun News: Tribe seeks boycott of Rapid City newspaper (03/24)

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