Hazlehurst: Analyzing the city election’s winners and losers
(Published 2:40 p.m., April 4)
Colorado Springs voters — don’t we love ’em??!! They’re as dazzlingly unpredictable as Lady Gaga, as infuriating as a dog that won’t stop barking, and as exciting as a Tim Tebow touchdown run with three seconds left in the fourth quarter.
So, in the immediate assessment of the 2013 city election, many thoughts come to mind.
- Don Knight, Keith King, Jill Gaebler, and Joel Miller, who bounced incumbents Tim Leigh, Brandy Williams, Bernie Herpin and Angela Dougan.
- Colorado Springs Utilities, which lost a friend in Bernie Herpin but will no longer have to deal with Council gadfly Tim Leigh, the mercurial Angela Dougan or the relentlessly questioning Brandy Williams.
- Helen Collins, who spent her own money to beat establishment favorite Deborah Hendrix, community activist Dennis Moore and Gary Flakes. Collins, who ran for an at-large seat on the Douglas Bruce “reform team” two years ago, succeeded this time. Connoisseurs of local politics were particularly taken with her yard signs: “Give ’em Helen!”
- Douglas Bruce, who spent no money, backed no candidates, issued no pronouncements and made no campaign appearances. His (reputed) former GF will take a seat on the Council dais, rounding out a Council lineup that may be more conservative than any since the 1950s.
- Andres Pico, the smartest guy on the block, who eked out a narrow victory over Ed Bircham and David Moore in District 6.
- Political consultant (and former Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs adviser) Sarah Jack, who orchestrated the takedown of HBA-backed Tim Leigh. Revenge is sweet, isn’t it?
- Dave Neumann, Neumann Systems Group, and Utilities CEO Jerry Forte. Neumann successfully fended off an existential threat to his company and his livelihood, while Forte can now devote himself to running CSU, not fending off accusations.
- Go Air Force! Go Navy! Gaebler, Knight and Miller served in the Air Force, while Pico and Collins are Navy retirees.
- The business community, despite backing the wrong horses. The winners are mostly smart, business-friendly, and ready to help — you can’t ask for much more.
- Mayor Steve Bach, who lost his principal supporters on Council (Leigh and Dougan), and will have to deal with an entirely new cast of characters. Miller, Knight, Pico, Gaebler and King may not have any experience in city government, but they’ll learn fast. Look for Council to become more thoughtful, more united and quietly assertive.
- The HBA, whose endorsed candidates lost in five of six races. Given that Council’s principal function is to rule on land-use issues, the HBA’s job is to pick the likely winners. They could have done worse — they could have picked Tom Gallagher in D-3 instead of Keith King. My advice: call Sarah Jack and beg for forgiveness.
- Council pay. Forget it, all you young professionals! Go create your own jobs — don’t ask us for one.
There are some darker stories as well.
Remember that the whole purpose of creating two more district seats on Council was to give minority-heavy areas such as southeast Colorado Springs better representation? It didn’t work. In District 4, three African-Americans entered the race, garnering a total of 3,596 votes, thereby splitting the minority vote and giving a narrow victory to Helen Collins with 2,342 votes.
Too bad — that’s the way democracy works. Of greater concern is the low turnout in the district, where only 5,938 residents voted, compared with more than 16,400 in District 3.
It’s a telling signifier, and one that doesn’t bode well for the city. Neighborhoods whose residents are so disconnected and transient that only a handful vote in city elections are inherently unstable, and especially in need of competent representation. Let’s hope that Helen Collins is up to the job.
Also, how much did anonymous and not-so-anonymous issue committees spend attacking Brandy Williams? We’ll never know, but judging from the mailers, Facebook ads and radio/TV buys, it must have been tens of thousands. And although Keith King says that he had nothing to do with this barrage of nastiness, it ultimately may damage him as well.
King ran a good campaign, but his winning margin was only 800 votes. Absent negative campaigning, Williams might have won. She thinks so, as do her supporters. That residue of bitterness will not make it any easier for King to represent his district. King’s new colleagues may not be fans of such tactics, given that three of them (Knight, Miller and Pico) were targeted by similarly negative ads.
And here’s a final prediction: Doug Bruce will show up for the swearing-in ceremony, carrying a bouquet of red roses.