Potential candidates for city council, mayor and 2 school boards testing the waters for Election 2023

A voter drops their ballot into the ballot box, Nov. 1, 2021 at the Aurora Municipal Center. Photo by PHILIP B. POSTON/Sentinel Colorado

AURORA | It’s not until Nov. 7 that Aurora voters will have the chance to choose representatives for the city council and school boards, setting the political tone and direction in A-town for the next four years .

But possible, probably and certain candidates are already lining up, campaigning or posturing for a ballot months away.

At least three local ballot questions are likely to make it on the ballot this fall that would amend Aurora’s charter to remove limits on lateral hiring for police and firefighters, peg the number of senior police leadership positions to the city’s population and allow the chief of police to block promotions.

Those questions are being brought forward by Aurora’s public safety agencies with the blessing of Aurora’s city council.

Mayor Mike Coffman is reportedly behind another campaign to ask voters to change the role of the city’s mayor, giving that person the power to veto legislation and directly manage city staffers.

Coffman is also running for a second term as mayor this fall, facing progressive Councilmember Juan Marcano as well as Democrat Rob Andrews. Democrats are hoping to capture a majority on the council this year after losing ground in 2021, while conservatives hope to maintain or expand their majority.

The Aurora City Council races are non-partisan, yet partisan politics are a regular feature of the workings of the group.

Earlier this year, Democrats running for city council offices announced they would run as a bloc. That has since changed with at least some Democrats pulling away from the campaigning cohort. Rev. Thomas Mayes, running for city council at large, said he was reconsidering running with the group. 

Arapahoe County voters will also have the opportunity to select new board members in both Aurora Public Schools and the Cherry Creek School District, where three board seats are open in each district.

The most recent school board election cycle in 2021 was dominated by discussion of COVID-19 policy and culture war issues such as the alleged teaching of critical race theory in schools, but locally, Republicans failed to make gains in either district by capitalizing on those issues.

It’s currently unclear whether school board races will have as much national attention this time around. Locally, major issues include youth mental health needs, declining enrollment in K-12 schools, calls for increases in teacher and staff pay as the cost of living continues to rise and the ongoing academic recovery from the pandemic years.

In 2021, incumbent Kelly Bates won another term on the Cherry Creek School Board, and newcomer Kristin Allen joined the dais, replacing term-limited president Karen Fisher.

This election cycle the seats of Angela Garland, Anne Egan and Janice McDonald are up for election. McDonald is term-limited, Garland and Egan are running for re-election.

Three other people have also declared an intention to run per the Colorado Secretary of State’s website, although candidates can’t request from the district, needed to get on the ballot, until August.

None of the three board members whose terms are up in Aurora Public Schools have said that they plan to run again, another signal of the current chaotic state of the board there.

In 2021 now-president Debbie Gerkin was elected to a second term and board members Anne Keke, Tramaine Duncan and Michael Carter were voted into office. Since then the board has struggled to reach consensus on a number of issues, including on a controversial vote last year to close a number of district schools with declining enrollment.

A number of school board members also clashed with former Superintendent Rico Munn, who in December announced that he would be stepping down early. Michael Giles, an assistant superintendent in Cherry Creek Schools, will be taking over the lead APS role in July.

Munn filed a formal complaint against the board alleging that two of its Black members, Stephanie Mason and Duncan, had called his racial identity into question and said he was not doing enough to support Black employees. An independent investigator found the allegations credible; at press time, the board reportedly will not take further action, but board members have not made public comment.

The seats of Stephanie Mason, Nichelle Ortiz and Vicki Reinhard are up this year. So far, none of the three have said they plan to run again or filed with the Secretary of State’s office, setting the stage for a district with a new superintendent and a very different board in just a handful of months. Three people have registered with the Secretary of State so far.

There are two statewide ballot questions approved so far. State lawmakers referred questions regarding the reducing of property taxes as well as a measure that seeks to funnel different state funding sources into universal preschool programs. There are a bevy of potential ballot questions still undetermined. 

Although the Election Day is Nov. 7, the election is an all-mail-ballot contest, and ballots are sent to registered voters, generally by mid-October.

Aurora City Council members prepare to discuss a controversial proposed ban on homeless people camping in the city during a Feb. 28, 2022 city council meeting. Photo by PHILIP B. POSTON/Sentinel Colorado

Aurora mayor and city council seats

Rob Andrews, Mayor

Andrews was born in Colorado Springs and was once a pro-football player for the Calgary Stampeders in the Canadian Football League who went on to work for the re-election of former President Barack Obama.

Rob Lee Andrews

After running for Colorado Springs City Council in 2009, he shifted his focus to social entrepreneurship and went on to become the president and CEO of the Denver-based nonprofit CommunityWorks.

According to Andrews’ campaign website, he hopes to promote public safety and build trust between Aurora residents and the police department by investing in community policing programs.

Other priorities mentioned on his website include promoting affordable housing and housing solutions that are specifically tailored to Aurora’s homeless residents as well as focusing on job preparation and placement services.

He is a registered Democrat.

Mike Coffman, Mayor

Coffman was elected to the mayor’s office in 2019, the latest chapter in a political career that has taken the longtime Aurora resident from the statehouse to the halls of Congress.

Mayor Mike Coffman at an April 6, 2022 press conference a. PHILIP. B. POSTON/Sentinel Colorado

Coffman previously founded a property management company in Aurora and served in the U.S. Marine Corps. In 2008, he left his position as Colorado’s Secretary of State to replace Tom Tancredo in the U.S. House of Representatives. Coffman served in Congress until 2018, when he was defeated by Democrat Jason Crow.

As mayor, Coffman’s priorities have included reducing street homelessness, which led him to introduce a ban on camping and policy outline last year. In a news release, he said he also hopes to focus on public safety in his next term, reducing crime by adequately funding the city’s police department.

He also wrote that he wants to increase the city’s inventory of affordable housing by at least 3% each year with the help of funds made available through Colorado’s Proposition 123.

Coffman is a registered Republican.

Juan Marcano, Mayor

Marcano has served on the City Council since 2019, representing Ward IV in west Aurora.

Aurora City Councilmember Juan Marcano is running for Mayor of Aurora.

The child of Puerto Rican immigrants, Marcano was raised in Texas and worked as an architectural designer before stepping back to focus on his elected role. He has promoted a housing-first policy for addressing homelessness as well as progressive solutions to rising housing costs, frequently butting heads with the council’s conservative majority over social issues.

Marcano’s plans if elected mayor include addressing crime through community outreach and strengthening partnerships with school districts, according to his website. He also hopes to promote conservation by discouraging development sprawl and creating walkable and accessible neighborhood centers.

Marcano says he would also advocate for the arts, living wages and accessibility for residents with disabilities.

He is a registered Democrat and is affiliated with the Democratic Socialists of America.

Scott Liva, Mayor

Liva moved to Aurora in 2015 and has previously worked in utilities and property management, according to past information shared with the Sentinel.

While no campaign website could be found for Liva, he has registered with the office of Aurora’s city clerk to accept campaign contributions.

Liva is a registered Libertarian and in past elections advocated for limited government, gun rights and restructuring the city’s police department.

He ran for the Ward I city council seat held by Crystal Murillo in 2021 and tried unsuccessfully to unseat Arapahoe County Sheriff Tyler Brown last year.

Kirk Manzanares, Mayor

Manzanares has registered with the office of Aurora’s city clerk to accept campaign contributions. No other information about Manzanares’ campaign was available at press time.

Stephanie Hancock, Ward IV,
central Aurora

Hancock brings years of experience in the business and arts communities, having co-founded 5280 Artist Co-Op and serving as president of the Aurora Cultural Arts District.

Stephanie Hancock is running for Aurora City Council.

She is a graduate of Texas Southern University and a U.S. Air Force veteran, and she has lived in Aurora for more than 30 years. On her campaign website, Hancock says she wants to promote public safety by building on laws passed by the city council that enhance penalties for car theft and shoplifting.

She also says that she wants to encourage the growth of Aurora’s business community and that laws passed by Colorado’s General Assembly have made housing in Aurora less affordable.

Hancock is a Republican. Last year, she ran to unseat Democrat Iman Jodeh in Colorado House of Representatives District 41 but was unsuccessful.

Angela Lawson, Ward V,
southwest Aurora

Lawson is running for a third term on Aurora’s City Council, this year as a voice for Aurora’s southwest ward rather than an at-large representative.

Angela Lawson is running for re-election for Aurora City Council.

She has lived in Aurora’s Ward V for more than two decades and holds master’s degrees in social science, public administration and public policy. Lawson previously worked in the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, where she oversaw the Elections Division’s lobbyist registration program.

Lawson’s priorities for her third term would include making sure Aurora’s public safety resources keep up with the city’s growing population and implementing traffic calming measures to improve safety in the ward.

She says she will also encourage economic development by streamlining the permitting and design processes for businesses and working with the Aurora Urban Renewal Authority to repurpose old retail space.

Lawson’s voter registration shows she is unaffiliated with any political party, though she often votes along with other conservatives on the council.

Chris Rhodes, Ward V, southwest Aurora

Rhodes, a union organizer, seeks a seat on the council to participate in what Democrats hope will be a new, progressive majority come November.

Chris Rhodes is running for Aurora City Council.

He describes coming from a working-class background on his campaign website and says his time in Aurora has been spent unionizing the lowest-paying jobs for United Airlines at Denver International Airport and organizing in Aurora around economic justice issues. He holds a degree in social studies education from Purdue University.

Rhodes advocates for including affordable housing in all future developments and using government-owned land for public housing projects in Aurora. He argues that affordable housing is a key part of addressing crime along with co-response teams that free up police from having to respond to mental health crises and other non-law-enforcement tasks.

To address homelessness, Rhodes says he would support immediately rolling back the city’s camping ban and providing housing and other services to the city’s unhoused residents.

Rhodes is registered as a Democrat.

Francoise Bergan, Ward VI, southeast Aurora

Bergan is running for a third term on the council, representing the ward that encompasses the southeast part of the city.

Francoise Bergan is running for re-election for Aurora City Council.

She previously worked in management and consulting. She said her tenure on council reflects her advocacy for the city’s new southeast Aurora recreation center, efforts to combat street racing and support of new parks and trails in her ward.

Bergan was appointed by the council to serve as mayor pro tem in 2021 and 2022. Other achievements highlighted by Bergan include her support of legislation to increase the consequences for theft and cracking down on illegal marijuana grow houses, as well as supporting the ban against homeless camping.

She says she also supports the city conserving its limited water supply by adding storage, investing in water recapture technology, conserving water and regulating growth.

Bergan is registered as a Republican.

Brian Matise, Ward VI, southeast Aurora

Matise is a retired attorney and an Aurora resident of more than 20 years challenging Bergan for the Ward VI seat this fall.

Brian Matise is running for Aurora City Council.

Matise specialized in commercial litigation, product liability mass tort litigation and class actions. He is also an expert in special districts and has sued several metropolitan districts on behalf of homeowners.

On his campaign website, Matise argues that the police department should rebuild trust with the community by focusing on a neighborhood-based approach where mental health workers and other specially-trained officers can respond to calls about people in crisis.

He also denounces the city’s use of financing tools such as regional improvement authorities and certificates of participation to fund capital projects and says the city’s tolerance of sprawling development has contributed to housing prices and traffic.

Matise is registered as a Democrat.

Perry Deeds, Ward VI, southeast Aurora

Deeds has registered with the office of Aurora’s city clerk to accept campaign contributions. No other information about Deeds’ campaign was available at press time.

Jon Gray, Ward IV, central Aurora

Gray was born in Denver and attended Englewood High School, going on to obtain degrees in sociology and business management from Mesa State College and Metropolitan State University of Denver.

He worked in the nonprofit sector with underprivileged youth and continued his work with children as an Aurora Public Schools teacher for several years before moving into his current role in the finance division of the Arapahoe County Department of Human Services.

Gray’s plans, if elected, include addressing crime rates by fostering trust between community members and police, according to his campaign website.

The website also states that he will pursue cooperation with the county, nonprofits and private organizations to address poverty, environmental problems, homelessness and healthcare gaps, in part by promoting affordable housing and food programs for families.

Gray’s campaign website describes him as a Democrat.

Alison Coombs, At-Large

Coombs hopes to trade her Ward V seat for an at-large position this fall. She was elected in 2019, defeating Republican incumbent Bob Roth, and she works as a program manager at a residence for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She is the first openly LGBTQ+ person to serve on Aurora’s City Council.

Alison Coombs is running for re-election on Aurora City Council.

During her first term, Coombs has sponsored legislation to increase minimum wages in the city, provide funding for affordable housing and establish resident committees for civic engagement and environmental sustainability.

According to her campaign website, she hopes to encourage the development of mixed-use, mixed-income neighborhoods that support multiple modes of transportation.

She also wants to promote affordable housing in part through land banking and requiring sellers of new for-sale homes to only sell to owner-occupants for the first 90 days of the property being on the market.

She is registered as a Democrat.

Thomas Mayes, At-Large

Mayes, pastor of Living Waters Christian Center Church in Aurora, is running again for a seat on Aurora’s City Council.

He has been an active part of the Aurora community for many years, including serving as a community liaison for the Aurora Police Department following the 2012 theater shooting and as part of the Community Advisory Council currently involved in the implementation of APD’s consent decree.

Mayes does not appear to have a campaign website, but he announced earlier this year he would be running on the 2023 Democratic slate. He ran unsuccessfully for an at-large seat in 2019.

Curtis Gardner, At-Large

Gardner is running for re-election to the at-large seat that he was first elected to in 2019.

Curtis Gardner is running for re-election to the Aurora City Council.

He has lived in Aurora most of his life. Gardner holds a master’s degree in finance and worked at a local credit union for 14 years before accepting his current job as a local government liaison in the solid waste industry.

He wrote in a release announcing his candidacy that the council needs to focus on investing in essential services like road maintenance and law enforcement while avoiding partisan conflict on the dais.

On his website, Gardner advocates for seeking out economic development opportunities, ensuring that the city’s public safety agencies have adequate resources and making sure the city’s recreation and quality of life facilities keep up with Aurora’s growing population.

Gardner is registered as a Republican.

Jono Scott, At-Large

Scott also plans on returning to the Aurora political stage this fall to run for a seat on Aurora’s city council. 

Jono Scott is running for Aurora City Council.

The pastor and director of a local food bank has lived in Aurora for more than 30 years and holds a master’s degree in religious education as well as an undergraduate degree in biblical studies.

He described himself as a “constitutional American” and said on his website that he would support public safety, economic development and housing affordability while opposing new taxes.

He also said that he would try to reduce crime rates by expanding penalties for violating the law and support small businesses by eliminating unnecessary regulations.

He is a registered Republican and ran unsuccessfully for the Ward III seat in 2021.

Cherry Creek school board

Angela Garland

Garland was first elected to the school board in 2019. Currently one of two Black members on the five-person board, Garland has spoken about the importance of diversity and equity throughout her board term and has also been a strong proponent of the work the district is doing to increase its mental health resources. Garland is the mother of four children and before being elected was heavily involved in the district as a volunteer with the Cherry Creek Foundation, the District Accountability Committee and other district groups and had a career working in nonprofits and social services. She lives in Centennial. As of June 1 she had a balance of about $1,000, according to campaign finance records.

Christian Caldwell

Caldwell lives in Aurora and is the president and CEO of My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper Colorado, an organization that works to improve outcomes for young people of color. According to his LinkedIn profile, he was employed by CCSD for four years as a technology specialist. He has not spent any money, according to campaign finance records.

A. Scott Graves

Little information is currently available for Graves, who is a co-founder and financial consultant at Alignment Financial Advisors in Aurora. According to his LinkedIn profile, Graves was a music teacher at a number of schools in Colorado and in Texas for six years as well as a former Boy Scout Scoutmaster and Cubmaster. He has not spent any money, according to campaign finance records.

Anne Egan

Egan lives in Greenwood Village and has been representing Cherry Creek’s Director District A since 2019, when she was appointed to the seat after running unopposed. Egan cited mental health as a priority during her first campaign and has been a longtime volunteer in the district, where her four children all went to school. She was also formerly an education policy advisor to Colorado governor Roy Romer. As of June 1, she had a balance of about $26,500, according to campaign finance records.

Ruthie Knowles

Little information is currently available for Knowles, who is a data analyst at National Jewish Health. She has not spent any money, according to campaign finance reports.

Aurora Public Schools board

Danielle Tomwing

After an unsuccessful run in 2021, Vanguard Classical Schools board chair Danielle Tomwing is making another bid for the APS school board. A native of Trinidad and Tobago, she has lived in Aurora since 2010, according to her
campaign website. She has two daughters who attend the charter school

Vanguard Classical Schools West, according to the board website. She has a career in IT and spent four years working on an ocean liner. Her campaign website lists her priorities as diversity and equity, building community centered schools and safety, including mental well-being. During her previous campaign, she was endorsed by state representative Naquetta Ricks, Pastor Thomas Mayes and the Colorado League of Charter Schools. As of April, she had a balance of about $2,000, according to campaign finance records.

Maria Saucedo 

Military veteran and retired teacher Maria Saucedo is running for APS school board on a platform of fiscal responsibility, school safety and diversity and inclusion, according to her campaign website. Born in Mexico, Saucedo was raised in Illinois and has lived in Colorado since 1988. She enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve to pay for college, according to her website, where she served in a number of positions before retiring in 2015. In 1992 she began working for Denver Public School, and retired in 2016 after serving as a teacher, teacher leader and assistant principal. She has two children. To date, Saucedo has not filed any financial records with the Secretary of State’s office.

Aspen Chin

Little information is currently available for Chin, who lives in Aurora and runs the nonprofit The Lounge, which provides support and mentorship to local youth. She has not spent any money, according to campaign finance records.

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1 Comment

  1. Wow. Thanks. Maybe this time around the candidates will be asked specifically how they intend to implement their ideas.

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