A year and a half ago now, I’d written about the Sioux Falls Mayoral contest, and noted a few things…
While this is a non-partisan municipal race, don’t kid yourself. It’s anything but non-partisan, and this has been exacerbated during Huether’s tenure. And the battle lines are often drawn this way with major blocs of voters falling along those lines.
On the Republican side of the coin, three major contenders stick out;
- Sioux Falls Entrepreneur Paul Ten Haken, Owner of Click Rain.
- Former Councilman Pat Costello, who currently serves as Commissioner of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.
- Current Councilor Greg Jamison, who ran for the office in 2014 against Huether.
And on the Democratic Side, we have four people rising to the top of contention:
- Sioux Falls City Councilor Kenny Anderson, Jr.
- Sioux Falls Businessman and political consultant Steve Hildebrand.
- Sioux Falls City Councilor Michelle Erpenbach
- Former City Councilor and Huether right hand man Darrin Smith.
There are other names floating around out there, but none that seem to rise to the level of being taken seriously, or they actively disavow any interest in running, such as former legislator Christine Erickson who is in her first term of office.
Read that here. As time has passed, so has the electoral calculus. Since I first wrote about it, I believe Paul Ten Haken has taken himself out of consideration, due to his business responsibilities. Greg Jamison is newly elected as a state legislator, and may find extending his tenure there to be to his advantage. Pat Costello is back in Sioux Falls, himself with new and expanded business responsibilities.
On the Dem side, No one is really talking about Hildebrandt running anymore. Erpenbach’s name comes up on occasion for the office, but Kenny Anderson’s doesn’t. Nor does Darren Smith’s.
But what I do keep hearing – and did so again tonight – is that former Republican Legislator Christine Erickson who had said “no” before might be softening her no into a “maybe.” And it might be a strong maybe at that.
Erickson had served in Pierre in the state legislature, and took a step back to be closer to home and family. But her ability to get things done, her intelligence, as well as her charisma have kept her in the spotlight, and as a go to person for statewide officials who want to share the stage with her when they’re in Sioux Falls.
Even local media curmudgeons such as Stu Whitney have sang her praises as a public official who is going places:
“She’s a refreshing new voice, and she’s got moxie,” says fellow council member and former Sioux Falls mayoral candidate Greg Jamison. “Because of her experience in the legislature, she understands the technique of debate and communication. Some of us get involved in personal issues and egos, but she sees it as issue-based and doesn’t let that stuff get out of hand.”
Erickson has made her presence felt with substance rather than bombast, standing firm on issues such as city pool rates and free summer bus rides for low-income kids. Much of her impact occurs behind the scenes and with measured dialogue rather than fire-and-brimstone exchanges.
“My style is not to be on the front page off the newspaper every day, but I’m always there to speak up when needed,” she says. “There are times when I get frustrated or angry, but I don’t think you gain a lot in the process when you’re disrespectful.”
Erickson’s issue based approach on the council has been more aspirational and less confrontational than some of her colleagues. And she’s taken the lead on such issues as reworking laws and regulations to move Sioux Falls into the future with things the rest of the country enjoys such as Uber.
There’s still a lot of ground to cover between now between and the 2018 mayoral election, but Erickson might have a winning formula to bring together the disparate groups of the Sioux Falls electorate to build the winning coalition that escaped Greg Jamison and Kermit Staggers against Democrat Mike Huether.
At the very least, the rumored willingness to give the 2018 mayoral contest consideration has re-written the calculus of how the voting in the contest might go.
And if things progress beyond that? An official entrance into the race may very well give her a leap ahead of her peers.