The sign on Fannie Mae Duncan’s legendary Colorado Avenue establishment was simple and to the point: “Everybody Welcome.”
Get ready for an “everybody welcome” election in April, when six seats on our powerful, ill-paid, and mildly fractious council will be up for grabs.
It’s easy to run. You don’t have to persuade the suspicious grandees and primary voters of either political party that you deserve to be nominated for office. All you have to do is collect the signatures of 100 registered voters in your council district, hand them to the city clerk for verification, and you’re on the ballot.
The candidates are already lining up. Some have announced while others are coyly telling only close friends and members of the local media that yep, they’re definitely probably maybe almost certainly running, while others are maintaining a discreet silence.
Here’s the lineup so far.
- District 1 (Northwest) – Incumbent Tim Leigh has announced. A formal campaign kickoff is scheduled for early January.
- District 2 (North-northeast) – Incumbent Angela Dougan has announced.
- District 3 (Southwest) – No formal announcements yet, but both incumbent Brandy Williams and former County Commissioner Jim Bensberg will run. Incumbent Lisa Czelatdko, who currently represents the district, has told friends and colleagues that she won’t run for re-election. But, as one of her colleagues said, “Who knows? She can always change her mind.”
- District 4 (Southeast) – No announced or rumored candidates.
- District 5 (Central and east central) – Folks, we’ve got a horse race! Incumbent Bernie Herpin, non-profit exec Jill Gaebler and D-11 board member Al Loma have declared. Political outsiders expect that former CONO board chair Dave Munger might jump into the race, and add to the confusion.
- District 6 (East northeast ) – David Moore, the pastor of the Gospel of Graceland Church, has announced. A political newcomer, Moore has lived in Colorado Springs since 2009. He’s an army veteran who recently retired from the Postal Service, where he worked as a senior manager.
- District 5 is clearly the most interesting race at this point. Geographically, it’s the smallest district and, with a population of 70,654, it’s also the most populous. It includes the North End, Patty Jewett, and Shooks Run neighborhoods and stretches from I-25 to Powers. With at least three formidable candidates, it’ll be anybody’s race. The deep-pocketed donors who like to coalesce around a single candidate will have a dilemma on their hands.
Will they go with Gaebler, who has the kind of resume that local pols can only dream of? Former Air Force officer, mom, non-profit exec, charter school founder and 4:04 marathoner (two minutes slower than Paul Ryan’s actual time, for the record). And did I mention that she’s a woman in her early 40s? That’s precisely the demographic that Republicans need to cultivate.
Consider the amiable Bernie Herpin who has been an energetic, intelligent, and effective member of council. He’s admirably independent, and consistently available to constituents and the media. In normal times, Herpin would have no serious opposition – but these aren’t normal times.
Dave Munger has an exemplary record of service to this community. He’s put in thousands of hours of “butt time,” attending meeting and serving on committees for the benefit of his neighborhood and his community. He’s probably better informed on the issues facing council than are most present (and past) councilmembers.
Similarly, Al Loma knows local government, having been a member of the D-11 school board for three years.
All four are politically savvy – and they know that the clock is ticking. The big dogs (e.g., the Pikes Peak Association of Realtors, the Housing and Building Association, the Regional Business Association) aren’t going to wait around.
“We’ll be interviewing candidates soon,” said HBA Chief Executive Officer Renee Zentz.
That means this week.
So if you’re thinking about running, stop thinking – run! Mayor Steve Bach isn’t going to call and offer his support – you’ll have to do something to deserve it.
And here’s a little advice from someone who has been there. Running for office is like your first parachute jump.
Once you commit, changing your mind is, shall we say, awkward.