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Paul TenHaken to serve 4 more years as mayor after challenger Taneeza Islam concedes

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Trevor J. Mitchell
 

| Sioux Falls Argus Leader

 Paul TenHaken will remain the mayor of Sioux Falls for another four years.

The incumbent mayor took 73.06% of the vote in the three-way race, defeating challengers Taneeza Islam and David Zokaites and securing a second term without the need for a runoff election.

It’s the second time TenHaken has won by the largest margin of victory since the city moved to a strong-mayor form of government in 1995, breaking the record he set in 2018 when he got 62.7% of the vote over Jolene Loetscher in a runoff election.

Islam’s campaign garnered 24.57% of the vote, with Zokaites walking away with 1.9%.

The victory is in line with a history of success for sitting mayors in Sioux Falls. In the strong-mayor era each of the city’s four mayors have been re-elected to a second term.

At his watch party Tuesday night, TenHaken said the voters had “sent a pretty strong message that they think Sioux Falls is on the right track,” calling the vote totals “humbling.”

Still, he said, there was a lot of work to be done, and while Tuesday night was for celebrating, Wednesday morning work would be back on the list.

Asked what he’d say to his challengers, TenHaken didn’t speak to Islam or Zokaites specifically, but said he would “tip his hat to anyone who wants to put themselves out there, raise money (and) be judged in the public eye.”

“Tonight, we are just going to celebrate,” TenHaken said at the event. “And I want to say from the bottom of my heart, thanks for trusting me with the leadership of Sioux Falls. It means more to me than you realize.” 

For someone who’d just lost an election, Islam took it surprisingly well. She conceded the race to TenHaken before all votes were in.

“When I came around the corner and saw the crowd at Swamp Daddy’s, I was so overwhelmed with excitement and joy, because part of why I ran was to engage communities that have never been engaged before,” Islam said shortly after conceding. “And the crowd that showed up here — the diversity, the ages — was a true testament to that. And I’m really proud of that work, and we’re just gonna keep going on from here.”

Islam said it was too early to decide whether she’d be taking another run at Sioux Falls politics, whether a council seat in two years or another shot at the mayoral race in 2026.

“I am just taking it day by day,” Islam said. “I haven’t thought ahead to what that looks like.”

She still serves as the executive director of South Dakota Voices for Peace, she pointed out, and knew that no matter what, she wanted to continue making an impact there.

She’d like to remain a voice in city politics, though, speaking about people who’d reached out to her and said, “they never thought a city like Sioux Falls would have a candidate like me, you know, whatever that means to that person.”

Zokaites said while he strives to “forget old wrongs,” he was “unable to congratulate TenHaken because he condones bribery the ethics board reported, he protects practices that violate civil rights, he approved an overpriced parking ramp scam, and he fights the peoples’ mandate for medical cannabis by imposing excessive regulations.”

This content was originally published here.

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