Lloyd LaCroix is gunning for his old seat on the city council because he is frustrated with the council's conduct, including the controversy over accusations that Council Member Bill Clayton made racist comments.
LaCroix, 46, is the first person to challenge an incumbent in the upcoming June 4 city council election; he will take on Ward 4 Council Member John Roberts. The other four incumbents are so far running unopposed, though Mayor Sam Kooiker is facing a challenge from state Sen. Mark Kirkeby of Rapid City.
Clayton's controversial comments to a black television news reporter, and how Clayton handled the accusations after they came to light, fired up LaCroix, who has Native American ancestry.
"When comments like that are made out of anger, that's not something that was a misunderstanding. It's deeper set than just making a comment or a mistake," LaCroix said Friday.
LaCroix will not be challenging Clayton, who is from Ward 1 and is not up for re-election for another year, though a petition is being circulated to recall him from office. Rather, LaCroix faces Roberts, a frequent ally of Clayton's who stood by him even as others on the council demanded his resignation. If he can unseat Roberts, LaCroix hopes to contribute to a culture change at city hall.
Roberts, a first-term council member, has submitted his petition for re-election to the City Finance Office, though he has not made a formal announcement about running. Roberts represents Ward 4, which includes much of North Rapid.
LaCroix, who works in manufacturing and has lived in North Rapid for more than 40 years, lost his seat on the council in 2010 in a three-way race, coming in third after taking a stand against then-Council Member Sam Kooiker during Kooiker's censure.
LaCroix, who was council president at the time, was the only person on the ballot that year who voted to censure Kooiker, and he lost. Between 2010 and 2012, the entire city council turned over, aside from Kooiker, who became mayor.
In that 2010 election, LaCroix finished third behind Jordan Mason and John Roberts, both of whom opposed the censure of Kooiker. In a runoff election, Mason went on to win the seat. Roberts ran again the following year and won the second Ward 4 seat, which he currently holds.
LaCroix believes his stand on the censure of Kooiker was part of the reason he lost in 2010. Kooiker was censured by the council 6-3 for conduct unbecoming an elected official towards a city employee, Rapid Transit Manager Rich Sagen.
Now, LaCroix is looking to return to the Ward 4 seat he held from 2006 to 2010. In 2008, he was elected vice president of the council and president in 2009.
LaCroix said the main issue for Ward 4 is economic development, which means attracting good jobs and making sure vocational and technical schools — such as the one from which LaCroix got a diesel technician degree — offer the right training.
The last day to file petitions is Tuesday. Candidates must file 50 signatures from voters in the candidate's ward. Council members Jerry Wright, Ritchie Nordstrom and Ron Sasso have formally announced their re-election intentions, while Charity Doyle and Roberts have filed their petitions to get on the ballot.