Colorado voter turnout for Tuesday’s election was low, about 35 percent. Since several of our local elections are very close, we may not know the final results for a while because November 10 is the last day to cure discrepancies and tally military and overseas ballots, and November 29 is the last day to for county clerks to compile and total returns and order recounts.
In several mayoral races – Longmont and Loveland – the decisions on who will serve as your elected leaders were made by a few hundred people or less. I always say local elections are more important than national ones. If only more voters had turned out this year, the outcome could have been very different.
To learn my thoughts on the outcomes of some of our biggest or most interesting local elections and what they mean, keep reading.
Regional Government Director
The New City Council: It appears that Mark Wallach, Tara Winer, Michael Cristy, Matt Benjamin, and Nicole Speer have won in the Boulder City Council race. Mark Wallach was the only incumbent. The other four replace Sam Weaver, Mirabai Nagle, Mary Young, and Adam Swetlik. These five will join Aaron Brockett, Junie Joseph, Rachel Friend, and Bob Yates after they are sworn in on November 16.
I am not an expert on politics in Boulder. However, judging by who won and their endorsements, the new Council may be slightly less no-growth than the previous Council. Voter turnout in Boulder was higher than in other Northern Colorado cities.
Question 300 (Bedrooms are for People): This citizen initiative asked voters to increase occupancy to the number of legal bedrooms plus one person. But a significant number of voters (57.85 percent) said no to this question. Were the voters concerned about how this would affect neighborhood character? Occupancy has been a controversial issue in many Northern Colorado communities and Boulder is no different. Would more people be able to afford to live in Boulder if 300 had passed? I don’t think so.
Question 302 (CU South Annexation): This question was placed on the ballot by a citizen group called Save South Boulder and was supported by PLAN-Boulder. It would’ve required voters to approve the details of the annexation agreement for the 308-acre parcel into the City of Boulder. It failed by a sizeable margin with 57.68 percent of the voters opposed.
Unfortunately, this is not the end of the controversy since Save South Boulder is working to put the annexation approved by the City Council in September to a vote in 2022. The annexation agreement includes flood mitigation, including a dam and retention pond on South Boulder Creek plus approximately 1,100 housing units for the University of Colorado. If the annexation goes according to plan, it could free up housing units for non-university residents as well as provide flood mitigation that will be partially paid by CU as well as more open space for Boulder residents. My guess is that voters thought the benefits of the annexation are worth it, spite of the arguments put forth by Save South Boulder and PLAN-Boulder.
Note: The Boulder-Longmont Association of REALTORS® (BLAR) has traditionally not endorsed candidates or ballot issues in Boulder or other Boulder County municipalities.
City Council Race: The voter turnout in Longmont was low. The population of Longmont is roughly 94,445 but only 18,957 people elected a new mayor. Joan Peck appears to be the new mayor, having bested fellow City Councilor Tim Waters by 199 votes (as of Nov 3 at 11:13 pm).
The two at-large seats were won by Aren Rodriguez (21.874 percent) and newcomer Shiquita Yarbrough (22.19 percent) narrowly edging out former councilor Sean McCoy who received 19.59 percent of the votes. Marcia Martin had no opponent and receives another four-year term.
Peck, Rodriguez, Yarbrough, and Martin will join incumbent Tim Waters who remains on Council until 2023, as well as Susie Hidalgo-Fahring. A special election will decide who fills Peck or Water’s seat, depending on the final outcome of the race.
The majority of the City Council remains unfriendly to our industry. BLAR endorsed Waters and Martin as well as Tallis Salamatian and Jeremy Johnson for the 2 at-large seats. Shiquita Yarbrough was endorsed by two of the Boulder County Commissioners as well as the Sierra Club.
Public Safety Tax: 66 percent of voters approved a .27 percent sales tax for public safety equipment and services. The measure has no sunset date, so this is a permanent tax increase. Apparently, voters agreed with the creation of the tax to pay for police and fire department needs.
Transportation Measure Fails: 58 percent of Louisville voters opposed Ballot Measure 2A, which would have paid for trails and underpasses and trails by allowing the City to bond and assess up to 5.450 mills of property tax. My guess is that voters were uncomfortable with a potential property tax increase. If 2A had only asked for permission to bond, it would’ve been a different story.
Marsh Wins Third Term: Jacki Marsh beat Don Overcash by 287 votes for a third term as Loveland’s mayor. Patrick McFall beat incumbent and Marsh ally Rob Molloy and Lenard Park for the Ward 1 seat. Newcomer Dana Foley (37.3 percent) beat incumbent Kathi Wright (34.5 percent) and Doug Luithly (28 percent) in Ward 2.
Did the smear campaign mounted by Troy Krenning and friends make a difference, even though his committee spent no money? It’s hard to say but Marsh ally Luithily took enough votes to deny Wright another term. Incumbent Steve Olson held on to his Ward 3 seat with 48.7 percent of the votes, over Vi Wickam (27.9 percent) and Penn Street (18.5 percent). The race in Ward 4 is still too close to call. Jon Mallo currently holds a 12-vote lead over Caitlin Wyrick.
LBAR [Loveland Berthoud Association of REATLORS®] supported Don Overcash for Mayor, Kathi Wright in Ward 2, Steve Olson in Ward 3, and Jon Mallo in Ward 4. Regardless of the final outcome, Loveland’s nine-person City Council is still business and real estate-friendly. Only 22,260 voters determined the winner in the mayoral race, even though Loveland has 57,674 registered voters.
Marsh complained about individuals and groups who spent large amounts of money, but campaign funding by candidates or independent expenditures made little difference in the outcome. “That makes me angry to my bones. I can’t express it any other way. It’s just wrong. It’s morally wrong,” she said. For example, Overcash outspent Marsh by a huge margin and Wright’s campaign spent more than both of her opponents.
City Council Race Results: John Gates easily overcame challengers John Gauthiere and Jim Ethridge in the mayor’s race. Gauthiere, a former Water Department employee, is one of the leading proponents for Ballot Measures 2G and 2H.
Incumbent councilor Brett Payton beat Lavonna Longwell by 7.6 percentage points and Paul Wood by 11.8 percentage points for the at-large seat. Former City of Greeley staffer Deborah DeBoutez was victorious over Louisa Andersen and Sean Short in Ward 2. With no challenger, Johnny Olson won the seat representing Ward 3.
GARA’s [Greeley Area REALTOR® Association] endorsed candidates were successful except for Louisa Andersen (Ward 2). Greeley’s City Council will remain relatively conservative and real estate-friendly.
Ballot Measure Results: Voters overwhelmingly extended the Keep Greeley Moving transportation tax, with nearly 80 percent in favor of the measure (2F). Apparently, voters are satisfied with the way the City has utilized funding for KGM so far.
The two citizen-initiated water ballot measures (2G and 2H) were soundly defeated with about 80 percent of voters opposed to both questions. If they had passed, Greeley would have been the only city in Colorado in which voters would have been required to approve water purchases and leases. Citizens for Securing Greeley’s Charter did a good job educating voters about the problematic nature of the water measures.
GARA supported Ballot Measure 2F and opposed 2G and 2H.
Voters Say No: Voters did not approve any of the three state ballot measures on November 2. 56 percent of the voters opposed Amendment 78, which would have required the legislature to approve the use of all custodial funds. I’ve yet to see any compelling analysis on Amendment 78. Were voters wary of another amendment to the constitution? Were they unconvinced that the legislature could do a better job of allocating custodial funds? Or, was this just not a “sexy” issue?
Proposition 119, which would have increased state sales taxes on recreational marijuana from 15 to 20 percent, lost by nearly 13 percentage points. Colorado voters traditionally oppose sales tax increases for transportation and schools. However, in the past voters have supported so-called sin taxes, including repeated increases on marijuana, as well as tobacco and gambling.
Boards of education and teachers’ unions opposed the measure even though it had bi-partisan support. Were some voters concerned about the creation of another appointed board to oversee the program? CAR [Colorado Association of REALTORS®] supported 119 and made a hefty donation to the proponents’ campaign.
Finally, Proposition 120 also failed by nearly 14 percentage points, which I found to be a relief. The measure, advocated by the same guy who came up with Amendment 78, would’ve reduced property taxes on multi-family and lodging properties. It was confusing because the language was approved before the legislature passed a bill to make Prop 120 less enticing to voters. My fear was that voters would not read their blue book and assume the measure would reduce single-family property taxes. Then they would feel duped, which would lead to more voter cynicism and apathy in the future.
None of the three measures were controversial enough to generate a media feeding frenzy. They were all complicated as well. In the end, voters usually vote no if something is too confusing. I think all three of these questions fit that description.