Rapid City Mayor Sam Kooiker lobbed a "cranberry" at challenger Mark Kirkeby during Thursday night's candidate forum.

Kooiker and Kirkeby were the final speakers during a forum sponsored by the Family Heritage Alliance Action.

While discussing their differences, Kooiker outlined the city's contentious relationship with a local hookah lounge that resulted in the revocation of the lounge's malt beverage and wine licenses. Synthetic substances were seized — although no charges were filed — and one person was charged with selling alcohol to a minor.

"My opponent will say they are a legal business," Kooiker said. "At this point, they aren’t allowing alcohol and supposedly aren’t allowing synthetic drugs, but what so enthralls my opponent about this business that he will hold a political rally there this coming Sunday night?

"And, if you go," Kooiker added, "you will have a good understanding of the character differences in this race, and you’ll come out smelling like a cranberry."

The mayor made a similar comment after a visit to the business more than a year ago.

Kirkeby, a state senator, reminded Kooiker that he supported the city and the mayor during the 2013 legislative session with legislation to help determine whether hookah should be treated as smoke under the state smoking ban.

“It’s also a complement ... to the character and the leadership qualities that we have," Kirkeby said. "In referencing that business, I certainly did support the city council, more particularly the mayor, out of courtesy during this legislative session to try to define what smoke meant."

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Kirkeby thanked Kooiker for putting in a "plug" for his event on Sunday.

There are differences between the candidates, Kirkeby agreed. "I certainly have not thrown a single stone during this campaign, nor will I," Kirkeby said.

Kirkeby's only vision is to oppose his, Kooiker said.

"I'm the only candidate in this race that's offered a vision," Kooiker said. "And, that is to continue to address our streets and utilities needs, continue to cut red tape and continue to focus on economic development."

Contact Andrea J. Cook at 394-8423 or andrea.cook@rapidcityjournal.com

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