Two candidates are now headed for a runoff in the race for Sioux Falls mayor.
Last segment we spent some time with one of them, Paul TenHaken and now we’re talking with the other, Jolene Loetscher, who says she is confident about the May 1st runoff election.
We met up with Jolene Loetscher outside the State Theatre in downtown Sioux Falls and one of the first things I asked her was her reaction to surviving what ended up being round one of the Sioux Falls mayoral race and having to prepare for round number two. “It’s one step in the process so that part is like ‘OK we’ve made it to here’ and everything in the eight months leading up to this was purely focused on April 10th. We didn’t look out past that because we knew we had to get through that but now that we’re through that the reality is that what got us here is what’s going to get us through on May 1st.”
The final results of the primary election show Loetscher came in second behind Paul TenHaken by a margin of more than 2,900 votes.
But Loetscher tells me as she heads into the runoff election, that initial second place finish doesn’t bother her. “It is by no means scary or intimidating to me to be the second vote getter out of six and if you look historically number two in these situations always ends up number one and ends up the mayor.”
In fact in the last 24 years it’s happened three times where the second place finisher in the mayoral primary won the runoff election.
The most recent example; 2010 when Kermit Staggers placed first to a second place Mike Huether but in the runoff Huether took the victory and became Sioux Falls mayor.
And now it’s down to Loetscher and Paul TenHaken; the two youngest candidates and both newcomers to elective politics.
I asked Loetscher why she thinks they are the last two standing in this race. “I think it just speaks to generationally where we’re moving and it was fun for me to go out and I visited with precinct workers yesterday at the polls to see what they were seeing and a lot of them were saying ‘Wow I’ve seen a lot of people that have never voted before’.”
Loetscher’s own mother-in-law hadn’t voted before but came out for this election to give her daughter-in-law a boost at the polls.
And Loetscher says she believes her campaign brought in a lot of people who might not have been politically active before but are now. “I think what it speaks to is people realizing that they want to get engaged. They want to have their voice back and sometimes that connection with the voice they want..in our case….was connecting with someone who isn’t what used to be but what will be.”
Loetscher’s campaign came in fourth in fundraising.
They countered that by running an aggressive social media campaign, much of it on Facebook and much of that through the use of long form videos that had the look and feel of T-V campaign commercials. “What we do not deserve is a is a City Hall or a City Council meeting that looks like a country club mixer. We deserve a City Hall and a City Council that looks like us. That sounds like us.”
And that social media effort has paid off according to Loetscher. She shared with me some information about what those videos accomplished for her campaign in terms of engaging voters. “We cracked half-a-million video views on Facebook alone. People are consuming hours upon hours of what we’re putting out there. I think that says they care and they care about out campaign and our message is what resonates with them and that’s what’s really important.”
Loetscher announced her candidacy for Sioux Falls mayor in September of last year, promising to be a voice for those who feel like they’re not being heard by city government. “I’m Jolene Loetscher. You can also just call me Jo. And I want to be our next Mayor as we lead Sioux Falls into the future. We believe in tomorrow.”
She caught the attention of many at the end of March with her proposal to create five police precincts in Sioux Falls to be based out of existing community centers as a way to put police officers into more neighborhoods of a growing city.
But for many voters, they also focus on the fact that Loetscher is one election victory away from becoming the first female mayor in Sioux Falls history. “I was hearing from parents who were saying my daughter or my son was so excited to stay up all night and see if you’d won…my daughter said to me ‘mommy I might be mayor too someday’. And that was….it sticks with you.”
The focus in now on the next two weeks and what it will take to win the runoff election.
She says what she has done up to this point has served her well. “We’ve just got to do more of it in less time I think that’s the reality.”
Loetscher tells us over the next two weeks or so she will continue the process of reaching out to voters through social media and through in-person meet and greets.