Judging by campaign contributions, the business community is highly interested in the April 4 city election. Led by Colorado Springs Forward and the Housing and Building Association, business interests have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to five city council candidates. There might have been six recipients, but one contest drew a single candidate.
Five candidates (Greg Basham, Andy Pico, Lynette Crow-Iverson, Deborah Hendrix and Chuck Fowler) appear to be running coordinated campaigns. Veteran political consultant Sarah Jack is managing four of them, and several candidates are outraising their opponents by wide margins.
Will the favored five prevail, propelled by anti-regulation and pro-growth philosophies of government? We’ll see, but meanwhile let’s take a look at the contested council races — and establish the betting lines.
District 1: Don Knight vs. Greg Basham
Knight has the name recognition, but some members of the business community believe him to be a stubborn micromanager. Greg Basham took in $14,800 from 10 contributors Feb. 15-March 1, while Knight raised $1,050 from 10 contributors in the same period. If Knight has irritated voters as much as developers, he’s in trouble. My guess: Cantankerous independence appeals to voters.
Odds: Knight 2-1, Basham 4-1.
District 2: David Geislinger (unopposed)
Off — no bets!
District 3: Chuck Fowler vs. Richard Skorman
In his 40-plus years as a business owner, city councilor and vice mayor, Skorman has probably met half the voters in District 3. What he has accomplished is extraordinary, and he’s an admirable human being — as is his opponent, Chuck Fowler. Although Fowler has been an active and engaged contributor to the community for many years, going up against Skorman in D-3 will be a challenge. Unlike other members of the favored five, Fowler may not have a financial edge over his opponent. In the Feb. 15-March 1 period, Fowler raised $21,700 from 17 contributors, while Skorman brought in $22,585 from 156 contributors.
Odds: Skorman 2-1, Fowler 4-1.
District 4: Yolanda Avila, Deborah Hendrix, Helen Collins
Four years ago, Helen Collins unexpectedly prevailed over favorite Deborah Hendrix and two other candidates. Most observers expected the smart, politically experienced Hendrix to win, but Collins won with 37 percent of the vote. Like Hendrix, Yolanda Avila is a qualified candidate, but Collins is a survivor. Hendrix led an unsuccessful campaign to recall her in 2015, and Collins has weathered an ethics probe surrounding a business deal with friend Douglas Bruce. Hendrix has the cash, Avila has appeal and Collins is the two-fisted incumbent. If neither Avila nor Hendrix can get a plurality, Collins gets another term.
Odds: Collins 2-1, Hendrix 3-1, Avila 5-1.
District 5: Lynette Crow-Iverson vs. Jill Gaebler
Incumbent Gaebler is smart, experienced, skeptical and creative. She’s a favorite of Millennials, techies and entrepreneurs — so why is she facing a really tough opponent? Conspiracy theorists might point to her opposition to The Broadmoor land swap or her support for retail marijuana, but there may be a simpler story here. Like Collins, Gaebler won a multi-candidate race with a plurality. Crow-Iverson may believe that by positioning herself to the right of Gaebler she can win a one-on-one race. And although Crow-Iverson lacks political experience, she’s highly visible as the successful entrepreneur who founded Conspire, a drug screening company. As the past chair of Colorado Springs Forward, she knows the players. Both 50, Gaebler and Iverson could be credible candidates to succeed Mayor John Suthers in six years (assuming that he seeks a second term in 2019). It’s unfortunate that one will lose — we need them both.
District 6: Andy Pico, Janak Joshi, Melanie Bernhardt, Robert Burns
Bernhardt and Burns are political novices. Joshi ran unsuccessfully for an at-large seat on council in the 1990s, and subsequently served three terms in the Colorado House of Representatives. Former legislator Larry Liston ousted him in the 2016 Republican primary. Joshi has raised $1,000 so far, compared to incumbent Andy Pico’s approximately $25,000. Pico, who also serves as president of the Utilities Board and on the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments, is a retired U.S. Navy aviator and a knowledgeable, accessible and conservative councilor. For a majority of District 6 voters, that’s likely a winning combination.
Odds: Pico 1-2, Joshi 8-1, Bernhardt 20-1, Burns 20-1.
The (almost) final analysis
Every once in a while, we ordinary folk get a glimpse of the big dogs, bounding powerfully through the tall grass. Why, for example, have the same six candidates been endorsed by The Gazette, Colorado Springs Forward and the Housing & Building Association? And what about those cunning developers?
Tune in next week.