Is the ‘Council Curse’ Real?

Some are starting to wonder if the ‘council curse’ when it comes to mayoral elections really does exist.

I had a brief conversation with a city director before the Wednesday council meeting, we talked about the election. They brought up the ‘council curse’ and how it knocked out a lot of great candidates like Greg, Kenny and Jim and others over the years including Vernon Brown, Darrin Smith, Kermit Staggers, Pat Costello, etc.

One of the reasons I felt Stehly wouldn’t win a mayoral race is because of the ‘council curse’.

So why does this keep happening? One reason is because many people want ‘new beginnings’ with a new mayor, and not a lot of people from the old guard. I also think voters like people who are NOT from government. I get this a little, but I would like a mayor to have ‘some kind’ of government experience. Both Paul and Jo do have some experience. Probably Jo more than Paul. While Paul has helped with many successful campaigns in the past, it doesn’t hurt to be on the winning team to begin with (Republicans). Besides pushing for Jolene’s Law, Jo has also been involved with school district issues.

There has also been a ‘turnover’ of voters since the last mayoral election. Some longtime reliable voters have dropped off, and with our massive population growth, there was probably at least 4,000 new voters. The drawback of the new voters is that they tend to NOT have any historical background of city business.

A great example of this is when people talk about transparency, as if it just reared it’s head a year ago. This has been going on since Munson was mayor, and Huether perfected it. Huether even made it a campaign issue during his first term run in 2010, he vowed to be the ‘most transparent mayor ever’. Yeah, we jest now.

So who do I blame for voters getting caught up with emotion instead of policy when they vote? The candidates are somewhat to blame, but our local news media is not very good at covering the ‘controversies’. Before Lalley’s show, there was virtually no local radio station really talking about the real issues with city government. Belfrage throws softballs at the mayor, and when he talks about the meetings, it is pretty obvious he didn’t watch them himself. Our TV stations try to steer away from controversy especially when it may involve their major sponsors. While our local newspaper does a good job going a little more in depth, their readership is not so great.

We also have to share a little blame with the city for not promoting the election that well, and that blame should also lie with our local service organizations like Rotary, Chamber, etc.

Maybe the runoff will all surprise us. But either way, the next mayor won’t be a former city councilor . . . not that there is anything wrong with that.


#1 "Very Stable Genius" on 04.13.18 at 3:19 pm

I forget, but how many of these former councilors represented only a part of the town as opposed to being an at-large-councilor? That could explain part of the “curse”…. And I think it is fair to say, that of all of those mentioned, who failed, Staggers probably ran the best and only true grass roots campaign, thus, resulting in him being the only one to ever get into a run-off too.

#2 hornguy on 04.13.18 at 3:59 pm

I think there’s some validity to the notion that people want fresh blood and new faces, to be sure. But I also think it’s worth noting that your council members tend to run spectacularly bad mayoral campaigns.

There’s a huge difference in quality when it comes to Huether 2010, TenHaken, Loetscher, and then the stuff your council members try to do.

Some people want to be derogatory about the gloss and whatnot, but what these three have done is run professional-level campaigns. The candidates are well groomed. They’re articulate. They have top-notch websites. Their lit pieces look good. These are congressional campaigns in feel, they’re just scaling them down.

Meanwhile, most of your council members are running school board races masquerading as mayoral campaigns. They lack charisma. They’re dull. They’re low energy. Their websites look like high school projects.

Professionalism matters, and passion for the future always trumps experience in campaigns. Perhaps your council members will be better mayoral candidates once they figure this out.

#3 D@ily Spin on 04.13.18 at 6:02 pm

Whether he’s right or wrong, councilors tend to align with the mayor. Councilors who take a stance are more respected. A council vote should be with independence, not because Strong Mayor tells them how to vote. Stehly has always interjected when there should be other factors. Neitzert used to but he’s fallen in line with Kiley, Rolfing, and Erpenbach. Entenman let Huether Rule. Jamison and Anderson were meek followers for the controlling city cult.
Stehly’s had major impact where she’s at overcoming chauvinist attacks from Kiley and Rolfing. She could be mayor later and overcome the ancient curse.

#4 Joel Rosenthal on 04.13.18 at 7:06 pm

Just maybe former or current Councilors don’t win is because more than one of them are running.

#5 Mayor Race on 04.13.18 at 9:11 pm

Too many council members run and split the votes. I would think Jim and Greg split their voters, the citizens who actually care about having government experience. If one of them would not have ran, the top two candidates would be one of them and Tenhenken. Easily would have knocked out Letcher from the race. Same thing happened 8 years ago.

#6 Mayor Race on 04.13.18 at 9:13 pm

@daily spin – not sure what council meetings you were watching. Jamison fought against the mayor quite often. Not even close to being a follower”.

#7 James Gaspar on 04.13.18 at 9:18 pm

I don’t see how the membership organizations dropped the ball on marketing this election. Downtown Rotary held three forums with these candidates. Downtown Sioux Falls hosted them. RASE hosted them. We hosted them not only with the Chamber of Commerce, but also with the Young Professionals Network (I’m an Ambassador for the Chamber and a member of the YPN Steering Committee). I’m not sure what more you expect of the membership organizations to promote the election!

#8 l3wis on 04.13.18 at 9:28 pm

James, I appreciate your get out the vote efforts to members and all the Forums, but what I meant by that is promoting the election to ALL registered voters not just your members. I would also like to see less closed Forums by OTHER organizations. I know that the Chamber has opened those to the public. This past year was one of the worst number of closed forums I have seen in the 12 years I have been following this.

#9 Mayor Race on 04.14.18 at 12:22 pm

Exactly right @joel

#10 "Very Stable Genius" on 04.14.18 at 2:26 pm

But what does that say when two outsiders can out garner votes compared to three insiders?

I think all of this speaks to how none of these Councilors were as known or popular as they think they were. Plus, Jamison was hampered by his legislative duties and a poor campaign. Entenman “the biker” was never going to win, it was the wrong image. And Kenny would have made a great mayor, but his campaign had no visibility (“boilerplate years signs (?)) and an Anderson hadn’t run citywide since when, 1989?

A mayoral race is whole different animal than a council race too; and I think successful council candidates derive a false sense of security relative to their politicking and popularity.

As far as the theory that there were too many former Councilors running in this last election. Well, if Kenny hadn’t run most of his support would have gone to Jo and with out Jim or Greg in the race a lot of the women would have voted for Jo or Paul is my guess. These council candidates just “ain’t” what they think they are….

I think presidential politics speaks to this issue too. Harding, Kennedy, and Obama are the only federal legislators, as Senators, who assumed the presidency after coming from the legislative branch in modern times. While TR, Taft, Wilson, Coolidge, Hoover, FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush41, Clinton, Bush43, and Trump all came directly from a different background or non legislative governmental office.

#11 l3wis on 04.14.18 at 2:44 pm

Greg should have never been in the legislature, he was looking for a place to keep his behind warm and everyone could see that. He should have been actively running for mayor for two years. I told him that personally. Having your wife fill in at Forums is not good. Why not just vote for Beth?

Jo was my 2nd choice, but the only reason I preferred Greg over Jo was his experience. I also didn’t have a problem with Greg being a ‘caretaker’ mayor. We have had enough of the carnival barker over the past 8 years.

While I am still worried about the experience thing, Jo has more than Paul does in government, and she is a fast learner, and I have no doubt she can bury that learning curve.

Entenman was never going to win. I just didn’t expect him to get more votes than Greg. At one point I even had him in 5th place. I think his obvious ties to Huether, his only accomplishment being an EC that we paid for, and they hired a private PR company to handle the campaign, him serving only one term after he got what he wanted (EC and BID Tax) and his constant mention of developer and business welfare (TIF’s etc.) buried this guy. There is also all these back stories about how Jim has treated customers, employees and competitors over the years. Those stories were circulating like wild fire through the mostly working class biker community.

#12 l3wis on 04.14.18 at 2:50 pm

Oh, and he hired a wedding planner to run a 1/4 million dollar campaign who has only won two campaigns that I know of. She helped raise money for Huether’s 2nd term run and she prevailed in the West Central property tax boundary vote. Everyone else from judges to legislative candidates have lost under her supervision. I was shocked to hear Jim hired her without looking at her resume. As I understand it she also helped with two of the council races. One has lost already, and the other one may lose on May 1st. It always surprises me when people talk about their decades of business acumen experience and they hire campaign managers that couldn’t win a campaign to save their lives.

#13 "Very Stable Genius" on 04.14.18 at 2:54 pm

“It always surprises me when people talk about their decades of business acumen experience and they hire campaign managers that couldn’t win a campaign to save their lives.”

What do they often say? Oh yah, “It going to run government like a business.” (Hopefully not like you campaign, however.)

#14 Mayor Race on 04.14.18 at 9:54 pm

@very stable, can you explain “without Jim or Greg in the race a lot of the woman would have voted for Jo or Paul”

I’m not following your logic, thanks

#15 Mayor Race on 04.14.18 at 9:56 pm

Also, how did they not run their campaigns well? I believe the result of the election was a direct target of 40 and younger voters, and the church community of Paul’s who adore him.

#16 "Very Stable Genius" on 04.14.18 at 11:41 pm


I believe to a large extent the ability of JO to get former Jim and Greg votes will be dependent upon Jim and Greg female voters voting for the opportunity to make a woman their next mayor. Getting into the runoff will offer greater credibility and promise to some female voters, who didn’t have Jo as their first choice, or thought she could win, the first time around.

As far as Paul, well, he would have been their first conservative choice. I expect most of the male Greg and Jim voters will go to Paul. So if Jo wants to win, she needs to expand the core vote and talk to the female voters in the southern and western parts of town.

There are two groups which will decide this election. The turn out of the core and the women in the more affluent areas of our town. Leaving the Staggers’ votes some what bewildered, but they do vote, but they could conceivably be neutered by an organized Jo vote coming out of the core. But then the question becomes does she have the time, the money, and the organization to get that done? I think message could bring the female voter in the southern and western parts of town into play, but it will take an army to get the core vote out, however.

#17 Mayor Race on 04.15.18 at 4:58 pm

I’m a woman and I refuse to vote for Jo, she is too rehearsed and seems fake. I honestly can’t stand listening to her talk. Hoping most intelligent women feel the same way. However I’m also not happy with PT either, but he’s not nearly as bad. This reminds me of our presidential campaign… didn’t like Trump but I voted for him, Or against Clinton.

#18 "Very Stable Genius" on 04.15.18 at 8:44 pm

First of all, Jo doesn’t think that she is Batwomen, and secondly, she’s not into “Mulligans.”