You can always count upon Colorado Springs voters to be thoughtful yet unpredictable, eccentric but somehow centered, antic yet logical.
What did we find out when City Clerk Sarah Johnson delivered preliminary city election results Tuesday evening? Quite a lot, actually — so here are the answers to a few questions.
• Can a united business community elect its designated candidates?
Pretty much. Of the five candidates endorsed by Colorado Springs Forward, the Regional Business Alliance, the Housing and Building Association and the Pikes Peak Association of Realtors, four succeeded. But it may be that their own strengths at the ballot box were more important than business endorsements or money.
John Suthers was a slam dunk. There was no way that he wouldn’t advance to a mayoral runoff, and he nearly managed to get 50 percent. Given his sparkling resume, his deep roots in the community and the breadth and depth of his support, the business community’s support was welcome but hardly essential.
Suthers vs. Mary Lou Makepeace? For Colorado Springs voters, it might as well have been Ronald Reagan vs. Jimmy Carter.
Council at-large candidates Merv Bennett and Tom Strand also benefited from business support, as did Larry Bagley in District 2. Would they have prevailed without it? Having won elections in the recent past, Strand and Bennett were well-positioned to lead the field — but suppose that they, like at-large co-winner Bill Murray, had been forced to run shoestring campaigns?
And despite unstinting support from the business and young professional community, Jariah Walker couldn’t make the podium, trailing cheerful gadfly Murray by nearly 3,000 votes … which brings us to another question.
• Can a Democrat succeed in a citywide election?
Apparently not. Walker and Glenn Carlson, who had previously run for partisan office as honest-to-goodness Democrats, finished fourth and fifth in the at-large field. Local voters can forgive you for being a RINO (Republican in Name Only), but they won’t go for an actual Democrat. It’s reminiscent of the former Soviet Union — you’d better be a party member, even if you secretly despise the party and everything it stands for…which brings us to another question.
• What about the young professionals?
They went 0-5 in this election. Suthers, Murray, Strand, Bennett, Bagley — geezers one and all. YP Council candidates, including Walker, Carlson and Nick Lee, all went down. The two “youngish” but more conservative mayoral candidates, Amy Lathen and Joel Miller, together received 27 percent of the total vote, while the not-so-young duo of Makepeace and Suthers garnered 70 percent.
So what do you have to do to get elected if you’re younger than 50? Be Jill Gaebler, or wait until you’re 55. Which leads us to …
• What happened to the Richard Skorman coalition?
In 2011, Skorman led all mayoral candidates in the first round, getting close to 40 percent of the vote. It was widely believed that Makepeace, who served as mayor while Skorman was serving on City Council, would at least duplicate his performance.
That she failed to do so can be attributed to three factors.
First, Suthers was a far more formidable opponent than Steve Bach, who was a political novice in 2011, sometimes inarticulate and ill-prepared for the rigors of the campaign trail. Secondly, Makepeace last held office in 2003 — an eternity in the ADD world of local politics. And thirdly, she seemed bored and inattentive during the debates, resting her chin in her hands and seemingly wishing that she were somewhere else.
Suthers came within a couple of thousand votes of a majority with no runoff, which leads to one more question …
• Why doesn’t Makepeace gracefully withdraw and save the city a few bucks?
Egged on by supporters, Makepeace vowed on Tuesday night to contest the runoff. She hopes to scoop up votes from Miller and Lathen supporters. And if she withdrew, there would be a runoff between Suthers and Miller (now that would be fun!).
And speaking of fun, the happiest guy in the city Tuesday night might have been “Battlin’ Bill” Murray.
“They outspent us 10-to-1,” said the perennial Council critic who lost races in 2011 and 2013. “I hope this shows the faith that the voters have in me.”
Murray follows other self-invented city leaders like Tom Gallagher, Sallie Clark and Margaret Radford, who were not initially embraced by the power structure. Battlin’ Bill won’t be having dinner with Phil Anschutz anytime soon, but he’ll be interesting to watch … especially when he casts his vote for Council president.
King Keith, or King Merv? Your call, Bill!