To my knowledge, Ward 1 Councilman Ron Weifenbach has not yet turned in his nominating petitions for his quest for the mayor's office. I have no reason to believe he won't however.
So, let's talk about Ron. I like him. He's shown no fear while on the city council and he's among two councilpersons who digs a little deeper than just nodding his head in agreement with department heads. I look forward to what he has to say.
But, what does Weifenbach's candidacy do to change the dynamic of what was a 3-way race? The Journal speculates that a run-off is almost assured now. Many think he is too similar to Ward 2 Alderman Sam Kooiker, who was first to announce his candidacy.
Peter Wernicke, a Rapid City pipe structural analyst is also in the race along with incumbent mayor Alan Hanks.
So how does the equation work for a run-off? Only Win and Place get to be in the run-off (if there is one). Show and 4th go home.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that Wernicke won't be a significant factor. He has zero name recognition. Maybe he has a huge war chest, but he's going to really need one, as well as a well-oiled campaign machine.
So if we assume it has to be about name recognition and money, then Alan Hanks is the guy with the target on his back. Hanks will be well-funded by a deeply-entrenched good 'ol boy network led by Rapid City's quintessential rich guy, Stan Adelstein. He'll be able to afford the highly skilled and ruthless team of Jody Severson (Hanks' secretary, Trudy, is Jody's wife) and Jody's friend and former business partner, the very shrewd Mr. Bill Fleming. Politically folks, that's a Duke or a Kansas, and under normal circumstances that team would make the mayor the Number 1 Seed.
Now a fat bankroll and friends on the A-list of Rapid City's "elite" doesn't always translate into re-election, or even a place in a run-off. Ask Jim Shaw.
Sam Kooiker probably won't spend as much money as Hanks, but don't sell him short. Some of Rapid City's monied people like Kooiker. And a whole bunch of people like him enough to give $5, $10 or $25. A whole bunch. After his last race for mayor, voters got a good look at him and he has as much name recognition as Hanks. He is so popular in his own ward that nobody dared run against him in his last bid for re-election to the council. Kooiker is a populist. People from the far right to the far left like him. Hanks made an issue of that with the now infamous Adelstein-Severson-Fleming "Wing-nut" brochure which declared that nobody could trust Kooiker because people on the far right support him. It might be noted here that Hanks recently endorsed the re-election of Deb Hadcock because Rapid City needs someone on the far right.
Enter Ron Weifenbach, a popular councilman from Ward 1. He's a walking, talking puzzle. Who knows how much money he'll be able to gather? I've only had a few conversations with Weifenbach, but I've had enough to know that he did not enter this race without careful consideration. He's a bright guy. He must know he doesn't have the name recognition that Kooiker and Hanks enjoy. The conventional wisdom says he's banking on Kooiker and Hanks bludgeoning each other to the point where voters get sick of hearing anything either has to say. (Remember the Kirby & Barnett Show, starring Mike Rounds?) I think that if it is Weifenbach's intention to pull a "Mike Rounds" in the mayoral election, he does so at his peril.
By the same token, if Kooiker and Hanks succumb to advice telling them to "go negative" they do so at their peril.
I believe it is possible for any of the top 3 to win without a runoff. I don't think it is likely, however. The candidate with the least likelihood for an outright win (in my opinion as of right now) is the incumbent. (I could change my mind in the next five minutes.) I also believe that Hanks will be the most likely to go negative and I believe he'll do it quickly. He's shown his colors before. The "push" poll conducted some time back was a clear indication of his intentions for this race, and it fooled nobody. And, just as Doug Hamilton's wad of cash didn't help Jim Shaw, Stan Adelstein's cash won't help Hanks if he goes negative.
That said, there is additional wisdom out there that says Weifenbach and Kooiker are too much alike and Weifenbach's candidacy hurts Kooiker. "The math" probably favors this concept. But, if so, Weifenbach doesn't have enough name recognition to beat Kooiker, so you could assume a Hanks-Kooiker run-off in that scenario.
Another scenario has both Weifenbach and Kooiker hammering Hanks into a third-place finish, leaving a Weifenbach and Kooiker runoff that I believe (right now) that Kooiker will win.
I've been trying to build a scenario where a Weifenbach-Hanks runoff was the result of the general election. But I can't find the math leading to that sum.
Now the other matter to consider is if Weifenbach comes in a close third, who does he support in a runoff. I have to believe most of Weifenbach's support would go to Kooiker, regardless of whether or not he actually endorses one over the other.
In any event, the only way I see Weifenbach winning, is if he wins outright. And, he'll need help from dumb campaign moves by both Hanks and Kooiker for that to happen.