Tim Leigh’s six – month candidacy for mayor seemed to reaffirm much of what is best about Colorado Springs.
Here was a guy who came to the Springs from Grand Forks a quarter of a century ago. He fell in love with the city, raised a family, built a successful business, made many friends and decided to run for office.
His was the kind of inspired amateurism that led a successful Denver businessman to run for Mayor a few years ago. John Hickenlooper bucked much of the power elite, and won. Tim, on the other hand, dropped out before the race really began.
Part of it was related to the demands of running a commercial real estate business in these times. Real estate guys can make a lot of money in good times, but these aren’t good times. As Steve Schuck found out 20 years ago when he embarked on a quixotic quest for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, it’s not a good idea to spend time politicking when the real estate business is enduring one of its periodic meltdowns.
But Tim’s decision may have been influenced by other considerations.
In Colorado Springs, real power is concentrated. That power has never been fully on display in a local election, because our present form of government so disperses power that no single individual can do much harm, or much good. It doesn’t matter who’s mayor, as long as the majority of council is composed of risk-averse, compliant conservatives.
Our local power structure has at most a few dozen members. They’re not cigar-chomping power brokers, or corrupt politicians, or ruthless, or reclusive businessmen who have enriched themselves through shady deals.
They’re standup people who have devoted themselves to making the community a better place for decades, and are willing to spend their own money to advance that community.
But the ‘strong mayor’ amendment changes everything. If it passes, the big boys (and girls) will quickly coalesce around a single candidate, perhaps someone whose name has yet to be mentioned. He/she will be electable, predictable, and disinclined to do anything rash or exciting. He/she won’t rock the boat, but will move slowly ahead. And above all, he/she will understand, respect and support the local power structure.
That could never be Tim. He’s the guy about whom the famous line in “Who Moved my Cheese?” might have been written: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”
Tim’s not afraid, but he’s no fool. He’ll probably run for an at-large seat on council and help heal our city as best he can. As he wrote in his e-mail withdrawing from the race,
“We’ve been a city of commissions abd studies; now we must become a city of doers.”
So who’s the designated mayor?
I don’t know and neither does the power structure.
If McInnis is elected governor come November, that takes Sallie Clark out of the running, since she’ll either be his running mate or in line for a cabinet post.
Vice mayor Larry Small might run, but he might be too crankily independent for their taste. If either Dave Munger or Buddy Gilmore manage to establish themselves as clear frontrunners by November, the power structure may swing toward either.
And meanwhile, here are some straws in the wind.
Ashley Walters, who worked with Congressman Doug Lamborn, has joined the Gilmore campaign. That would suggest that Buddy’s positioning himself on the right side of the political spectrum – and, as we all know, in Colorado Springs the right side is the right side!
Meanwhile, Dave Munger’s campaign is attracting interest from certain skilled political operatives (you know who you are, Bob and Sarah!) who have run many a successful city-wide campaign. And rumor hath it that lawyer/lobbyist Steve Durham is considering a run.
Durham served a term in the state legislature in the 70’s, but his resume may be fatally marred by his role as campaign manager for a certain individual’s mayoral run during 1997.
So disastrous was the campaign, and so overwhelming the defeat, that the erstwhile candidate disappeared into the ill-paid obscurity of journalism.
The horror! The horror!