Eleven hopeful candidates, three seats. Everything else being equal, that gives each of them better than 4-to-1 odds of success in the April 2 Colorado Springs City Council elections.
Those odds are pretty good, at least compared to those of winning a sheaf of $100 bills in Cripple Creek. Dream of being dealt a royal flush in video poker? Dream on — the odds are 649,740 to 1. That doesn’t mean you’ll never get one. If you’re playing jacks or better, you’ll get dealt four to the royal about every 2,777 hands. Odds of getting that elusive fifth card: 47 to 1.
Unfortunately for the 11 players, city council elections aren’t as fun, forgiving and hopeful as a slot tournament in our favorite historic mining town. You spend thousands of dollars on your campaign, and you get one draw of the cards, one spin on the slot machine, one throw of the dice. And even if the odds appear to be 3.66 to 1, the game is rigged (as our president is fond of saying). And no, if you lose it won’t be because Crooked Hillary, Shifty Schiff, Dealin’ Donald or Little Marco pulled some sleight-of-hand tricks. It’ll be because of those fickle, unreasonable, illogical, foolish and unpredictable voters who somehow left you off their ballots.
As one of those voters, I’m finding it hard to choose three from an interestingly diverse field. So let’s try to narrow it down.
Suppose you want to go along with the business/political establishment? If so, you’ll be comfortable voting for the three hopefuls endorsed by the Gazette, the Pikes Peak Association of Realtors and the Housing & Building Association — Wayne Williams, incumbent Tom Strand and Tony Gioia.
Or would you prefer three with experience serving on council? You’d choose incumbent Bill Murray, former Councilor Val Snyder and Strand. Want to shake things up by adding three newcomers? Pair the only two female candidates (Regina English and Athena Roe) with 28-year-old firebrand Dennis Spiker. What about choosing the wisest, best qualified and most community-minded slate? You’d have start with retired elementary school principal Terry Martinez, but almost all of the candidates are up to the job.
Before voters changed the Colorado Springs Charter, four councilmembers were elected at large as was the mayor, who then presided over council. He or she had a vote and a voice, but no administrative powers or duties. The April at-large elections often brought out dissatisfied voters who wanted to shake up the status quo and move the city in a new direction.
To a lesser extent, that’s still true. Yet in these prosperous times, it seems unlikely that the voters will want to throw the rascals out. Absent an unprecedented political earthquake, Mayor John Suthers seems certain of re-election.
Another interesting April subtext is the developing race for Mayor in 2023. Wayne Williams, unceremoniously booted from his job as Colorado Secretary of State in the November blue tsunami, has said that he’ll run. Tom Strand might take a shot, as might District 5 Councilor Jill Gaebler. Gaebler’s in the middle of her second term on council, but Williams and Strand have to win this race to stay in the game.
Since the recession bottomed out in 2009, we’ve had 10 years of uninterrupted growth locally and nationally. We’re overdue for a slowdown. Our economy is still highly dependent upon the military, and any refocusing of defense spending might adversely affect local businesses and military installations.
Establishment candidates haven’t always fared well in council races. In the 2015, 13-candidate election, cantankerous independent gadfly Bill Murray easily beat out establishment favorite Jariah Walker for the third seat.
So who has juice this time around? Murray, Snider, Strand, Williams, Martinez and Gordon Klingenschmitt have name recognition, but that can be a two-edged sword. Voters like to balance their choices; old and young, male and female, rookie and veteran.
Who will win: At least two of these six: Gioia, Martinez, Murray, Snider, Strand and Williams. The third spot might go to one of the not-so-sexy six, or to any of the other five candidates.
Who should win? In 2015, 88,966 voters cast a ballot. I’ll be one of them in 2019, and I hope you will be too. Our collective voice will tell us who should win — the three highest vote getters. It’s called democracy.