Steve Allender comes off as a jerk in this morning’s Rapid City Journal.

It’s been a long and interesting campaign for Mayor of Rapid City this year. Early on, I think conventional wisdom was that Mayor Sam Kooiker might have a tough go of it this time around. I’d talked to people that thought that “Sam fatigue” had set in, as it does for many multiple term officials, and that Steve Allender was an attractive alternative.

What a difference a few months make.

Sam has always been known as a hard working campaigner who has faced tough and well-funded competition. And this election hasn’t been any different. But the last month has seen a slow motion imploding of the Allender effort, and in it’s latest effort this morning, we have a double-barreled helping of Allender coming off as a jerk.

Allender’s slow motion implosion has come partially as being the victim of his past, as well as events taking place. At the same time we had a high profile firing of a Rapid City nurse for some pointed, and quite racist statements against Native Americans made on you tubeRapid City residents were widely reminded of Allender’s involvement in a lawsuit having been accused of such highbrow humor with a Native American police officer as asking him if his sandwich was a “slab of lab.”

As noted, it became part of the debate over who should lead the community of Rapid City, which over the course of the last six months has been roiled with accusations of racism. Coming on the heels of the hospital incident, reminder’s of Allender’s past have not helped him.

But is isn’t all circumstance. Some of his problems are quite unforced errors.

This morning, residents were served up a double dose of what they could expect from an Allender mayoral administration who has been trying to shed his past, claiming it was in his past. Except it didn’t portray him in any light that he should want to be portrayed:

It’s the end of an hour-long interview, and Steve Allender has been rigidly formal, sharing his belief that he is the kind of strong, proven leader who as mayor can move Rapid City forward and improve how government works.

But suddenly, some of his dry, pointed humor seeps out. He slips into an impromptu impersonation of Mayor Sam Kooiker, his opponent in the June 2 Rapid City mayoral election, who Allender feels has run a dirty, personality-based rather than issue-based campaign. So, in a moment he clearly saw as more humorous than heartfelt, he mocks the mayor’s propensity for sappy-sounding public statements like “I love people” and “I love serving people.”


Allender, a 53-year-old retired police chief in Rapid City, is in his living room with a reporter and photographer. From the kitchen, the candidate’s wife, Shirley, hears him launch the attack and calls out a sharp, “Steve!” in admonishment.

He laughs and changes the subject, but the moment aligns with an emerging portrait that’s been revealed by the spotlight of his sudden entre into politics: There’s only one version of Steve Allender, and he says what’s on his mind, both in pursuit of positive change in the city and while leading its top law enforcement agency, but also for the sake of a laugh or to make a point on controversial topics.

Read that here. And part two of his downhill snowballing to unlikeability:


Allender’s advertisement appears to intentionally misspell & mock Kooiker’s name to a much less flattering “Kookier,” as if to imply he’s unbalanced, a comment at the level of an elementary school insult.   Between his mocking Kooiker in the article, and mocking him in the advertisement, Steve Allender comes off as a jerk in this morning’s Rapid City Journal.

I’m sure I’m repeating it for the umpteenth time, but one of the things I was taught long ago in political campaigning is that people decide to vote for you in stages. First, you have to get them to know you. Then, you have to get them to like you. And finally, then you have to earn their trust. Then, a candidate will have earned the voter’s affirmative nod on election day.

Most candidates don’t get past the “know” stage. But, in this case, having been police chief, he’s going to enjoy a high name id. The problem Allender faces is that whether intentional or not, he’s done nothing to dispel the fact that far too often, he sounds like a dick, as opposed to someone you want to put in charge of your safety, your government departments, and how your taxes are spent.

Mayor Sam Kooiker knows how to roll with the punches, and get a few jabs in on his own when he’s in the heat of a political race. But, no one would ever accuse him of racial humor, belittling people, or openly mocking them to try to win an election. He just gets out and works hard.

Allender had an opportunity to take the high road by campaigning and outworking Kooiker, but instead went down a path that… well, I’ve never seen a winning campaign make fun of the other person’s name and mock the opponent’s sentiment.  As things roll into the last week of the election, I’m not hearing from anyone that they expect Allender to win.

Not that Kooiker is expected to give his victory speech yet.  I suspect he’s going to talk about what he wants to do with a new term, and keep going door to door. And not mocking his opponent.

In fact, he may not have to mention him at all at this point.

14 thoughts on “Steve Allender comes off as a jerk in this morning’s Rapid City Journal.”

  1. They first need to meet you, then like you and finally trust you. You nailed it PP. Nice article.

  2. I agree ho comes off as a jerk.

    I don’t think the “Kookier” misspelling on the flier is intentional though. Here’s why: That flier is not attacking or disparaging Kooiker. It is quoting Sam saying positive things about Allender. It would be a little odd to quote Sam as liking Allender, yet slam him at the same time.

    1. It may not have been intentional… but why was it correct in the rest of the ad, then? If it wasn’t intentional, then it was a big, and bad campaign flub because all it does it reinforce a poor impression of him.

      If this was early in the campaign, it might be able to be salvaged, but this late…. the error might be too difficult for the campaign to salvage.

      1. I’m going to guess that Allender and a few others in Rapid City can’t stand Kooiker and think this is funny and probably say it all the time privately among themselves.

        Kooiker has his baggage and reasons why people don’t like him and many of those are that he says and does some controversial things. He alienates some wings of the community.

        I personally like Kooiker and would vote for him if he was in my city.

        Rapid City politics are about as dirty as it gets in SD. The factions are very ideologically and economically different. The two sides do not love or even like each other.

  3. Could Allender actually do worse than Kirkeby ? Is that possible ? And, how the heck is someone “retired” at 53 ?? That about 10 years too quick for anyone to be retired from anything, except maybe professional sports. Does that mean he’s already sucking the public tit with a big pension while doing nothing ?

  4. It’s really too bad and almost embarassing that a city the size of Rapid City doesn’t have better candidates running for mayor.

  5. like him or not, kookier has surprised people by keeping his famous grandstanding to a minimum, and by aggressively attending to the city’s infrastructure needs. voters notice that. it will be interesting to see how the city digs out from the hole it voted itself into on the civic center special election. or whether the school opt out will be a simple no or hell-no.

  6. Kookier has continued playing the role of the victim, and Allender has given him ample ammunition to augment the role playing. I wonder if the five previous mayors will come out for Allender like they did when they unified against the $180M Civic Center expansion that Kookier supported? There could be a few Monday morning surprises……..

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