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The long and bitter campaign is over. Now it's Sam's turn to lead.

Alderman Sam Kooiker won 51.8 percent of the vote in Tuesday's mayoral runoff to unseat incumbent Alan Hanks and earn two years to lead Rapid City.

Kooiker will be sworn in next Tuesday as Rapid City's next mayor.

He credited his "support from all across the city and political spectrum and all walks of life" for bringing him a victory.

Now he plans to hit the ground running.

Kooiker said he intends to start by "visiting with all departments across the city and hopefully meeting each of the city's 735 employees."

"I've already gotten to know a lot of people, but I'm sure there will be many introductions," Kooiker said. "I've made a commitment to be accessible as a leader and manager, and the people around me need to feel free to drop by and I'll listen."

Hanks, meanwhile, will be out of office after four years leading Rapid City.

"I'm very proud of the campaign we ran," Hanks said.

With voter turnout of 31.8 percent, Kooiker received 6,977 votes to Hanks' 6,499.

The 478-vote margin represented an improvement for Hanks, who trailed Kooiker in the first round of the election by 1,500 votes.

An aggressive - critics said harsh and negative - campaign over the past three weeks helped Hanks narrow that gap, but it wasn't enough to earn him a third term.

After all the months of campaigning, it was up to the voters to decide which of the two men they wanted to govern.

Kooiker voters contrasted their candidate's virtues with what they saw as Hanks' faults.

Bruce Antijunti said Kooiker was "a good man and he's trying to find the facts."

"I'm sick of the good-old-boys system," Antijunti said. "Somebody that's in it for the right reasons, is why I voted for (Kooiker)."

Many expressed discontent with Hanks' style of management, terming it secretive or chummy.

"I voted for Kooiker because I think it's time for a change and someone who will tell us what's going on and not do things behind our backs," said Cathy Winstead.

Hanks' voters, in contrast, said Rapid City was going in the right direction under the incumbent.

"I voted for Hanks because Rapid City is changing positively and unemployment is low," said Rita Black. "I just think he has a good vision for the city and has done a good job so far."

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Kooiker won 13 of the city's 25 precincts, including all five in his own Ward 2. Where he won, he won convincingly, with an average of almost 63 percent of the vote in the precincts he captured. In eight precincts, Kooiker took more than two-thirds of the vote, maxing out with 72 percent in precinct 2-5.

Hanks won the city's other 12 precincts, including six of the seven in Ward 3. But he only averaged 57 percent of the vote in his strongholds. He broke two-thirds of the vote in only two precincts, with a high of 67.9 percent in precinct 3-6.

Tuesday's election was a rematch for the two men, who also contested a runoff in 2007. In that race, Kooiker also came out on top in the first round, but Hanks came back to prevail three weeks later.

There would be no comebacks this year, despite Hanks' determined efforts to close the gap.

The two men made little secret of their dislike for each other, with Kooiker linking Hanks to terms like "cronyism" and "fraud," and Hanks accusing Kooiker of supporting "less for seniors" and "more for himself" in a campaign advertisement.

But after the race, both men expressed a desire to move on.

"The position is bigger than the candidate," said Hanks, who invited Kooiker to meet later this week to discuss the transition.

"My commitment is to serve everyone," Kooiker said. "I'll be a mayor for everyone, and there will be no levels of access."

Contact David Montgomery at 394-8329 or david.montgomery@rapidcityjournal.com

 

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