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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Hanks Mayoral Landslide Suggests Weakness of Tea Party Movement

Rapid City Mayor Alan Hanks won easy re-election to a second term yesterday, defeating his only challenger, Bonnie Redden, 70%–30%.

The race might be the first electoral test of the Tea Party platform in South Dakota. Redden, a fan of Dakota Voice, ran (in RCJ's Emilie Rusch's words) "on an anti-establishment platform, advocating extremely limited government, drastic cuts in city spending and the end of tax increment financing districts." She wore a pin proudly declaring herself a "right-wing nut." She's also one of the "Obama is a socialist!" criers.

Interestingly, she also campaigned on the promise to eliminate tax increment finance districts (TIFs):

She'd like go to Pierre and get TIFs erased from the books. She sees their use as "corrupt":

"When a developer wants to build something, he needs to pay for his own endeavor, out of his own pocket," Redden said. "He has no business doing it on the backs of the taxpayers and property owners in Rapid City."

The city can encourage economic development by making the business permit and license process easier -- not by luring companies like Cabela's into town with incentives.

"What we need, there will be a niche for it, and it will come," Redden said. "I will make sure there are measures in place to make it convenient and simple to get businesses started in Rapid City, but only after they come to us. It's not the city's business to pay someone to come here under any circumstance" [Emilie Rusch, "Hanks v. Redden: Stark Differences in Low-Key Mayoral Race," Rapid City Journal, 2009.05.30].

Redden also told Rapid City voters that city government should spend money on three things: police, fire, and infrastructure. "All this other stuff they waste our city money on is just that—waste," Redden told Rusch. She wanted to privatize the ambulance service, put police on horses, and cut all social programs.

Sounds very "Tea Party" to me. Rapid City and the Black Hills are a hotbed of Tea Party activity. Even I can find some things to like in what Redden said, like her suspicion of TIFs and her demand for more budget transparency.

But voters dropped her by more than a 2-to-1 margin.

So perhaps the lesson the right-wing anti-government radicals should draw from the Rapid City mayoral election can be boiled down to two words: permanent minority.

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