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Runoff votes top new Rapid City mayor's priorities in first 100 days

Jason Salamun delivers his acceptance speech to his supporters Tuesday night.
C.J. Keene
South Dakota Public Broadcasting
Jason Salamun delivers his acceptance speech to his supporters on election night.

Jason Salamun is Rapid City’s new mayor – despite receiving less than a third of the vote. Now, early in his term, the mayor is looking to increase the threshold needed to win future elections.

Salamun won the 2023 Rapid City mayoral election, defeating four other candidates. However, his tally of roughly 4,900 votes out of well over 15,000 means he received less than 32 percent of the overall vote.

This has led to questions about the process that resulted in the winner receiving so few votes. That’s why Salamun wants to bring back runoff elections.

At the most recent city Legal and Finance committee, city attorney Joel Landeen said this is a top priority of the new mayor.

“It is on the agenda today because he requested that an ordinance be drafted and put on the agenda," Landeen said. "Speaking with him, I think he thought it was something that was going to have fairly universal support based on his discussions with people. He described it to me as something we could act on and be an early victory, but certainly it’s up to the council to decide if you want to adopt it or if you want to have further discussion on it before you’re comfortable adopting it.”

Landeen said the ordinance would mandate the roles of mayor and alderman receive over 50 percent of the vote.

“It’s no secret during the previous election there was some concern because when you had four candidates running for mayor, somebody could be elected mayor with, say, 20 or 30 percent of the vote," Landeen said. "I think it highlighted the issue to a lot of people.”

The proposal drew some questions from the council. Longtime alderman Bill Evans was on the council that initially voted to remove runoffs

“I also found it strange that during this election, many of the people that really championed that change were all of a sudden against that because they thought at this time the election was not going the way they thought," Evans said. "I’m not opposed to the fact we go back to that, but we better make sure we’re not just flipping things around to accommodate the feeling-of-the-month club.”

Evans ultimately made a motion to send the ordinance to city council without a recommendation. That motion carried.

The next city council meeting is scheduled for July 17.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture