Campaign advice for city’s strong-mayor candidates

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Who’s going to be the first “strong mayor” of Colorado Springs?

With 101 days until the April 5 election, and 80 days until voters receive mail ballots, it’s likely that the next mayor is among those who have already declared their intention to run. It’s a little late for any new candidates to surface, particularly since the current contenders are frantically jostling one another in an attempt to line up money, volunteers and power endorsements.

As it stands today, serious candidates include Steve Bach, Buddy Gilmore, Dave Munger, Richard Skorman, Brian Bahr, Larry Small and Sean Paige.

Bach, Skorman, Small and Paige haven’t formally declared, but are expected to do so in early January. If all of them stay in the race, it’s unlikely that any one candidate will get a majority of votes cast, guaranteeing a runoff election between the two top vote-getters. Such an outcome will cost the taxpayers a few hundred thousand dollars, which might have been better spent on watering the parks … but never mind!

What each of the not-so-magnificent seven must do now is figure out how to finish in the top two.

Simple enough — and here’s some free advice, from one who has both reveled in the thrill of victory and endured the agony of defeat.

To Steve Bach: If Steve Schuck can sell your candidacy to the grandees of the Chamber, the Home Builders Association, the Pikes Peak Association of Realtors, and the rest of the business community, you’ll be in good shape. You’ll need the cash and the power endorsements, but you also may need to remake your power developer image. A tip — if that was your silver-gray Porsche Carrera convertible in front of a certain downtown coffee shop last week, garage it! Replace it with perhaps a second-hand SUV.

To Brian Bahr: You and Buddy Gilmore are vying for the same socially and fiscally conservative Northside voters. Gilmore may have the edge, but if you both stay you’ll split the base. Your job is to get Buddy to drop out.

To Buddy Gilmore: See the Brian Bahr note above. If you get him out of the race you’ll have a clear path to the runoff. If not, you’d better hope that Bahr and Bach stumble on the campaign trail, ceding the business community to you.

To Dave Munger: With a Skorman candidacy on the horizon, you’re in trouble. You both appeal to the same liberal/moderate constituency, but Richard’s long and exemplary record has made him plenty of friends. You need to hope that he won’t recruit the 250 volunteers and raise the $50K by Jan. 11 that he’s made a condition of his candidacy. If he does, you’re in trouble. Those lefty/moderates aren’t stupid — they’ll go with whoever has the best shot at making the runoff, and Skorman’s experience, name recognition and community involvement give him the edge.

To Sean Paige: “Mad Dog,” you’ve carved out a powerful space in local politics. Imagine Bill Clinton crossed with Ron Paul, a Chris Christy without the blubber and bluster. You’re the wild card in this race. Your job: keep everyone else in. The more fragmented the race, the more you’ll be able to overwhelm your opponents with your media-savvy skills, as well as eviscerate them in debate. A Paige vs. Skorman runoff would be supreme political theater, so run, Mad Dog, run!

To Larry Small: You’ve waited too long and talked too frankly. Any elected official who visibly enjoys tweaking the noses of the rich and powerful, and doesn’t spend his/her time in office cultivating a defined constituency has a self-imposed handicap. If you made the runoff, you might win — but getting there will be tough in a crowded field.

To Richard Skorman: Even if Dave Munger stays in the race, you’ve got a great shot at making the runoff. Once there, you’ll have to convince a majority of voters to choose a mildly progressive businessman to run the city for the next four years. That may be a tall order, but why not? Stranger things have happened.

And the strangest thing is this: the last four mayors of this city (Bob Isaac, Leon Young, Mary Lou Makepeace and Lionel Rivera) were Lebanese-American, African-American, female, and Hispanic-American.

After such diversity, it’s surprising that voters may have to choose among seven stolid middle-aged white males, all of whom will mouth identical conservative clichés. I can hardly wait for the candidate debates; seven guys, seven dark suits, seven power ties, seven American flag pins, 14 carefully polished black shoes, and seven speeches that Herbert Hoover might have made, if he’d had Ayn Rand as his speechwriter.

It’s back to the past — and we don’t even need a flux capacitor!

Hazlehurst can be reached at john.hazlehurst@csbj.com or at 719-227-5861. Watch him at 7:45 a.m. every Tuesday and Friday on Channel 3, Fox Morning Newsispanic Hispanic/American.HH