Mike Huether won the Sioux Falls mayoral race yesterday. After finishing less than a percentage point behind Kermit Staggers in the main election two weeks ago, Huether beat Staggers 57% to 43% on a wave of higher than expected voter turnout (more Sioux Fallsians came out to vote in the runoff than in the first vote—what voter fatigue?). No word yet from Camp Huether on when the new mayor will conduct his first gay wedding ceremony....
I could get excited about Huether's victory. Sioux Falls friends told me that Huether appreciates the role of the city in supporting the arts and cultural events that make Sioux Falls a relatively attractive place to live, unlike Staggers, whom my friends portrayed as a cultural neanderthal.
Politically, I could look at a Democrat governing the biggest city in South Dakota as a plus. Yes, I know the mayoralty is a non-partisan office, but let's change out of our Mayberry pants: Mayor-elect Huether will directly govern a fifth of our state's population in our biggest media market. Having a Democrat in that visible position helps the party and puts one more heavy hitter in the chute for future races. Republicans do the same calculus. Deal with it.
I could also get excited about Huether's practical repudiation of local Teabagger power. His stunning Epp factor of 2.5 showed that Teabaggers don't yet have the organizational power to form a winning local majority. Staggers espoused the sort of low-tax, minimal-government positions that should have gotten the Glenn Beck masses excited. So much for "We surround them!" The tricorner hat crowd stands a chance of lucking out against multiple opponents who divide other constituencies, but they can't win a straight up, mono e mono campaign.
Now I left a few comments on some other blogs (including NotMyManMike.com, which had already deleted its comment before I hit the sack last night) that could have been construed as support for Huether. But I never came out and advocated for Huether... because for all the reasons I might be glad he won, I still can't trust him. Not yet.
Huether is the kind of politician I wish my Teabagger neighbors could beat. He's the Sioux Falls version of a Wall Street fat cat, the corporate big shot who buys an election with the fortune he made in South Dakota's usury industry. Huether comes from First Premier Bank, which has the gall to assert that charging people 79.9% interest wasn't their choice but something forced on them by credit card reform. Huether comes from an industry that thrives on deceit and wage- and labor-crushing anarcho-capitalist deregulation (see also South Dakota, Russia).
Had I the pleasure of voting in Sioux Falls yesterday, I might have had to think long an hard about where to put my graphite smudge. Kermit Staggers represents a lot of things I disagree with... but so does Mike Huether. I can often trust a Republican political science professor like Staggers (I'm thinking of you, Ken!) more than I can trust a rich corporate Democrat like Huether.
South Dakota's financial status quo stinks (more on that later). A poli-sci prof arguably has less interest in preserving that status quo than an elite product of that corporate system. Sioux Falls just elected the latter.
That's why I can't greet Huether's victory with three cheers. I hope his practical actions in office will prove me wrong... and will get those potholes filled!
Update 08:42 CDT: Mike Huether's current Facebook status: "Congratulations, Mike! Knew you could do it! So proud of you!"
Now come on, people: if I wrote on my own Facebook status, "Congratulations, Cory! I'm so proud of you!" you'd make fun of me, wouldn't you?
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