The 2018 Sioux Falls Mayoral Hunt

You’d think the 2016 elections were all but a foregone conclusion at this point with there being no challengers to John Thune, Kristi Noem or Chris Nelson. (Not that it isn’t, because the Democrats aren’t going to dig anyone up to beat them, if they can get candidates at all.) So, many of us who are in the business of prediction and prognostication are looking ahead to the races in 2018.

Sidestepping the overtly political races at the state level, there is another big race that’s going to be up with an open seat – the “non-partisan” Office of Sioux Falls Mayor. Democratic Mayor Mike Huether, who many people think will be convinced by his inflated ego to run for Governor, will be termed out of office leaving an open seat.

And you can tell that it’s an open seat by the number of people who are rumored to be lining up to run for the office. Already there’s talk of candidate jockeying and jostling behind the scenes taking meetings with each other, and having coffee as they subtly try to convince each other not to bother, as they’d be the better candidate.

So, who is widely rumored to be considering the job?

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;

And on the Democratic Side, we have four people rising to the top of contention:

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.

How should we look at the current field? On the Republican side, all have their own strengths. Ten Haken would be considered a breath of fresh air; the millennial candidate who could capture the fancy of those looking for a fresh face in politics. Jamison brings experience and name ID in running for the office. And – not to go out on a limb – but at first blush, Pat Costello would likely bring the strongest fundraising acumen.

On the Democrat side, there’s a lot less to get excited about. There’s not a lot of vocal sentiment for Darrin Smith to take over for Huether. In fact, his current position as Huether’s majordomo might kill his chances in the mayoral hunt.

Neither Anderson nor Erpenbach seem to bring any dynamic campaign elements to the race. And any ability of Erpenbach to tap into old Daschle donors would be countered if Hildebrand got into the race.

It’s hard to judge if Hildebrand will commit, as he has instances of talking about running but never moving past talk, such as against Stephanie Herseth. If he does move past talk, Hildebrand might be the strongest contender on the Democratic side. And he’d likely be the most polarizing, with people taking strong sides on everything from everything from his advocacy for Democrats to his personal life.

Here’s where the voting bloc in this non-partisan race who tends to go Republican needs to pay attention.

In 2010, your typical Republicans were faced with a choice of Mike Huether who pretended to run as a Republican businessman type and political gadfly Kermit Staggers. Many in the business community weren’t enamored with Staggers, questioning how he friendly he’d be to business, and voted the other way or stayed home.

And here we are five years later still lamenting the fact.

If Hildebrand is the strongest Democrat by far, and the rest of the “D” side of the equation is full of “not ready for prime-time players,” as they seem to be, Republicans need to be careful about fragmenting that bloc of voters, as that could place things more up in the air than may be comfortable.

It may force Republicans to come together as a group, and do a better job in supporting their candidate than they did 8 years ago, lest there be another 8 years of providing a stage for Democrats in Sioux Falls.

11 thoughts on “The 2018 Sioux Falls Mayoral Hunt”

  1. Jamison is the guy I would be looking at for a frontrunner. TenHaken is a bit of a novice and I just don’t see him appealing to the older voters or voters who want someone who will role up their sleeves and get to work.

    Michelle Erpenbach is the other person I would put as a frontrunner.

  2. In Whitney’s, otherwise usually dumb, story yesterday one quote of Jamison’s jumped out at me: ” But if we smell something funny, we’re beginning to understand that it’s OK to say, ‘No, we’re not going to do it that way.'”

    They’re beginning to understand? Really? Years and years of council experience between the anti Huethers, several have run for mayor or held state office and they’re beginning to understand they have a voice in how the City does things? What a completely dumb-ass statement to make.

    Pat’s dead on that we have to prevent a Democratic climber from using the mayor’s office a springboard, but, Huether won because 1) he worked his butt off on good-old, knock on doors campaining that used to be a GOP hallmark and 2) Staggers and Jamison were just worthless candidates and apparently even more worthless chair-fillers on the council.

    The talent pool looks a lot deeper with Costello and TenHaken considering runs, let’s hope some other strong contenders arise as well.

    1. I would love for you to explain yourself on how Mike Huether won for going “Door to Door and working hard.” MHS you’re forgetting what the realistic end results were in both 2010 and 2014.

      2010 Mayoral Race – Kermit Staggers hit more doors than anyone I have ever seen for a Sioux Falls elected position. When you talk about Kermit you have to talk about how many doors that guy has visited. I don’t remember the specific number but I think his campaign toughted that he hit close to 25,000 doors. Now were those doors effective? Possibly not. Huether camp along with all those other mayoral campaigns did a fantastic job of painting Kermit as Dr. No.

      2014 Mayoral Race – The Greg Jamison campaign never released their “door numbers” but its probably safe to assume he hit more doors than Mike Huether. Huether had a almost 4 to 1 cash advantage and I’m shocked that Jamison was even able to compete. If you watched any Sioux Falls TV or were just in their viewing network you could see his money advantage. However, Lets look at how the campaigns finished to look at their ground games. The final result was Huether- 56 / Jamison 44. Jamison stood against every single every single ballot issues which produced at 35 / 65. I would give Jamison some credit there for “working hard” and turning out his people.

      Huether has been successful because of his public spin. There is no denying he has done a lot for Sioux Falls. However, he has taken too much credit for programs and big ticket items and other Sioux Falls successes. Has he ever missed a ribbon cutting and WTF was he doing putting his face all over those taxpayer funded billboards? MHS if you’re going to comment and be Huether’s boy in the blog arena at least come up with some true commentary.

      1. “We’re beginning to understand that it’s OK to say no”.

        You really want to about doors knocked on when a candidate / officeholder says something that incredibly bad in the press? Especially in an article designed to make him look good? What possible defense can you have for someone elected as a conservative saying, in effect “we’ve let the liberal push around for six years now, but, maybe we’ll start standing up for ourselves”?

        My point is all the Dems consdered are entirely beatable, but, if we run another candidate capable of shooting themselves in the foot as badly as Jamison did with that line, we’re going to get beat again.

  3. I bet if Steve Hildebrand gets into the race then Chuck Brennan will challenge him. Man that would be hilarious!!

  4. If Costello runs he will hurt TenHaken.

    Jamison is in the driver seat but he better make sure the donors realize that or he will end up losing out to Costello or TenHaken. I don’t want TenHaken because he comes off as all image and not a lot of serious policy.

    It’s Jamison’s to lose.

  5. The last thing we need are 5 Republicans running who split the vote so we end up with a strong Dem and a weak Republican again.

      1. I hope they actually contrast themselves rather than all jumping on the same side of all the issues.

  6. Those are some solid names on the GOP side of the ticket, Pat. However, I think we should add two more.

    1.) City Council Member Christine Erickson
    2.) Sioux Falls resident & businessman Tony Reiss.

    Both would be good, conservative advocates for the people of Sioux Falls. Side note: I do not think that Mr. Reiss has any intention of trying to attack and damage fellow Republicans. Should one of the current members of the City Council run and a council seat open in his area, I would encourage Mr. Reiss to consider that opportunity.

    Again, good post Pat.

    1. Christine Erickson would be a strong candidate. I saw her introduce Huckabee at the Rounds event.

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