Mayor Alan Hanks doubled his number of precincts won and nearly split the city’s 25 voting precincts with challenger Sam Kooiker in Tuesday’s run-off.
But his margin of victory in those winning precincts did not compare with Kooiker’s, and the incumbent came up short in his bid for a third term.
Given three weeks after taking a thumping in the June 7 mayoral election, Hanks cut that deficit by two-thirds Tuesday night. He won 12 precincts, twice as many as the six he captured earlier in the month.
But where Kooiker won, he won convincingly.
In the 13 precincts Kooiker won, he received an average of 62.7 percent of the vote, compared to Hanks’ tally of 56.9 percent in the 12 precincts he captured.
In Ward 2, which Kooiker has represented for almost a decade, he won by 40 percentage points – a cushion of 680 votes out of just 1,738 cast.
That’s more votes than Hanks picked up in his strongest ward, Ward 3, where he won by 15 percentage points.
Kooiker also won Ward 4 by a 2-to-1 margin, beating Hanks by 478 votes, which matched his overall margin of victory. The two political adversaries split wards 1, 2, 3, and 5 – both captured 6,018 votes of the total.
Jody Severson, a political consultant who worked on Hanks’ campaign, said Kooiker’s supporters were more energized overall.
“That’s definitely true in the first round,” Severson said. “It’s also true in the second round, but not as much.”
Don Frankenfeld, a Kooiker supporter, felt the same.
“I think Kooiker voters felt more intensely about their person than Hanks voters did about theirs,” Frankenfeld said.
Even a rival of the two candidates noticed.
Alderman Ron Weifenbach, who finished third in the June 7 vote, said in his campaigning he encountered a lot of fervent Kooiker supporters.
“A lot of people said they couldn’t wait to vote because they couldn’t wait to have their voices heard about that censure,” Weifenbach said. Kooiker was censured by the city council in 2010 for conduct unbefitting an elected official.
Fifteen percent of the voters on June 7 chose either Weifenbach or small-businessman Peter Wernicke. Hanks and Kooiker supporters knew those available votes could decide the runoff.
Frankenfeld expected most of them to vote for Kooiker.
“Their natural home was Sam Kooiker,” Frankenfeld said. “Most of the people who voted for Ron would be people who were sympathetic to the issues that Weifenbach and Kooiker have jointly raised and similarly unsympathetic to Hanks.”
But that doesn’t appear to be what happened.
“I think mine were split,” Weifenbach said of his supporters. “A few more of them went to Alan’s side than went to Sam’s.”
Weifenbach said his supporters from the business community were concerned Kooiker might be bad for business.
“I think they found some safe haven in continuing to vote for Alan,” Weifenbach said.
Severson seemed to agree.
“Alan got at least his fair share of them,” Severson said.
One thing many didn’t do was stay home.
Overall turnout was down less than 200 voters from the first round – something Severson called remarkable, and bad news for Hanks’ chances.
Hanks’ base of support was in areas with traditionally high turnout – all 12 precincts he won were among the 14 precincts with the highest voting rates.
Kooiker, in contrast, was popular in areas with lower turnout. The fact that voting rates didn’t fall in places like Ward 2 meant many Kooiker voters came out to vote a second time instead of staying home.
Among the lingering lessons from Tuesday’s runoff is that of a polarized city. Nineteen of the 25 precincts were won by more than 10 percentage points, and 11 precincts had a margin of victory of more than 30 points.
“You have two sides, each of which are very energized for their candidate,” Severson said. “That indicates a degree of polarity and division.”
“If we had a homogenous city, you’d expect roughly the same proportions from one district to the next,” Frankenfeld said. “The fact that some precincts were in the neighborhood of 70 percent for Hanks and other precincts in the same setting were in the neighborhood of 70 percent for Sam says something about a divided city.”
Kooiker, speaking after his victory Tuesday night, said addressing that division would be one of his priorities.
“It doesn’t matter if you voted for me, contributed money, or volunteered,” Kooiker said. “I’ll be the mayor for everyone.”
Contact David Montgomery at 394-8329 or firstname.lastname@example.org