AURORA | Shrinking leads among two close city council races became reversals Nov. 7, and what appears to be a semi-final vote tally has Mike Coffman looking like Aurora’s next mayor.
A spokesperson from mayoral candidate Omar Montgomery’s campaign said he will not concede until every vote is counted.
In the latest tally, Mike Coffman leads runner-up Omar Montgomery by 273 votes.
Arapahoe and Adams counties say they have now tabulated all ballots they’ve identified as ready to count. In Arapahoe County, about 1,000 ballots that had signature or other problems have been identified. Reports from Adams County show about 600 ballots are left to be “cured.” It will be about a week before those issues are resolved. Those ballots, however, come from across the county, and not just Aurora.
In closely contested wards 4 and 5, upstart, liberal challengers appear to have won their seats. Ward 4 contender Juan Marcano leads incumbent Charlie Richardson by 230 votes, which is outside the margin of automatic recount. In Ward 5, challenger Alison Coombs appears to have taken that seat by 261 votes, besting incumbent Bob Roth. The count is also outside the margin of automatic recount.
Coombs and Marcano each said they would not claim they’ve won yet.
“For now, I’m really excited the late returns turned our way, until I see that certified check mark I’m not going to declare victory,” Marcano told the Sentinel.
Neither Richardson nor Roth immediately returned calls as of this publishing.
Arapahoe County election officials say a flood of late ballots slowed the counting process down.
The liberal candidates are Democrats, although the seats are officially non-partisan. Representatives for the liberal candidates said they expected close races would end in their favor because of a last-minute push to get out the vote.
Automatic recounts are triggered when candidates are separated by a quantity less than or equal to half of 1 percent of the total votes cast for the candidate with the most votes.
In the at-large contest, councilwoman Angela Lawson and challenger Curtis Gardner led the race for the two posts up for grabs.
In Ward 6, incumbent Francoise Bergan is comfortably ahead of Bryan Lindstrom.
A proposal to build a new Arapahoe County Jail emphatically failed with almost 70 percent of the vote opposing measure 1A.
Aurora voters appeared to mirror state voters, who soundly defeated Proposition CC and were narrowly supporting Proposition DD, according to preliminary returns. Proposition CC asked to keep excess state tax revenue. Prop DD proposes a tax on legal sports betting.
Two of three seats up for election on the Aurora Public Schools board were clearly decided for APS union-backed candidates Vicki Reinhard and Stephanie Mason. A third seat has Nichelle Ortiz winning by about 100 votes.
In Cherry Creek schools, Angela Garland was handily winning the race as of Wednesday morning.
Aurora mayor and city council
[table “149” not found /]
Voters had been tasked with electing a new Aurora mayor and deciding between a bevy of city council candidates that represent different political ideologies that could have a major impact on future city business.
Five candidates are vying for mayor: former city councilman Ryan Frazier, former Republican Congressman Mike Coffman, local NAACP president Omar Montgomery, Ward III councilwoman Marsha Berzins and former Ward II councilwoman Renie Peterson.
The race has been marked by record donations, major spending and high-profile endorsements. Mayoral and city council candidates alike, have drawn an unprecedented amount of national interest, from endorsements pro-gun control advocates to the ACLU’s educational effort that aimed to reach 25,000 voters.
“This is not just any election,” said ACLU Colorado spokeswoman Deanna Hirsch, who described the stakes in Aurora as higher than ever, especially regarding the future of the privately-owned immigration detention center and protecting the role of public defenders in court.
While the ACLU didn’t endorse any candidates, it did call on newly elected council members to support ordinances that further oversight in the detention center and, separately, measures that support public defenders.
Local issues like transportation, affordable housing and public safety were top priority for many candidates, despite the flurry of national issues and endorsements.
Groups such as Giffords, the Brady Campaign, NARAL and the Sierra Club all made endorsements in the race alongside national and local leaders, including former attorney general Eric Holder. Voters received messages from Congressmen Jason Crow, a Democrat, and Ken Buck, a Republican, showing the national importance of the race.
The race for mayor was the most expensive in city history, breaking the $1 million fundraising mark nearly a month before Election Day. Other dark money groups contributed significantly to city council races.
Ward IV[table “152” not found /]
Ward IV voters are deciding between incumbent Charlie Richardson and Juan Marcano.
Marcano is an architectural designer and community advocate who has been no stranger to city council meetings, while Richardson boasted a nearly-40-year career at the city. He retired as the city attorney in 2014, before being elected.
The race started on a contentious note when Arapahoe County Clerk Joan Lopez endorsed Marcano, a fellow Democrat. Richardson alleged during city council meetings that may have an impact on the race and give Marcano an unfair advantage in obtaining voter turnout data. Lopez, however, said her endorsement wouldn’t result in any unfair treatment.
Ward V[table “153” not found /]
Alison Coombs, a graduate of Emerge Colorado, is facing incumbent Bob Roth, who was first appointed to the seat in 2010 and then elected in 2011.
Coombs, who works in human services, was endorsed by Colorado People’s Action, which supports immigrant rights, criminal justice reform and environment protections, Colorado Black Women for Political Action, the Sierra Club, Conservation Colorado and a handful of local labor unions.
Around 250 ballots in the 255th voting precinct, which is split among two city wards, were incorrect and asked voters in Ward V to choose between two Ward IV candidates. Replacement ballots were sent out at the end of October. Returned incorrect ballots were not counted, according to the Arapahoe County clerk’s office, which sent the ballots.
Ward VI[table “154” not found /]
Incumbent Francoise Bergan, who was elected in 2015, faces Aurora Public Schools teacher Bryan Lindstrom, a first time candidate who said he almost left Aurora because of increasing cost of living.
The two candidates hail from a growing region of the city where questions of resources and affordability dominate policy conversations. Ward VI boasts some of the city’s newest housing developments, the Southlands Mall and annexations that could bring hundreds of thousands more people to the city in the future.
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Six candidates are hoping for one of the two at-large seats up for election this year. Two currently sit on the city council: Councilman Johnny Watson, who was appointed when mayor Bob LeGare was chosen to serve as mayor after the death of Steve Hogan, and councilwoman Angela Lawson, who was elected in 2015.
Candidates Martha Lugo, Curtis Gardner, Leanne Wheeler and Thomas Mayes are also vying for the seats.
Aurora Public Schools[table “159” not found /]
In an at-large race for three seats on the Aurora Public Schools board of eduction, two teacher union-backed candidates appear to have secured solid leads.
Stephanie Mason and Vicki Reinhard, two candidates supported by the Aurora Education Association union, led the pack of five candidates as of early Wednesday, according to local county clerks. Reinhard has received over 25 percent of votes cast. Mason has won over 22 percent cast.
But the race remains tight for the third and final open at-large seat. So far, Nichelle Ortiz has received 19.36 percent of the vote, just above former school board President Amber Drevon’s 18.83 percent.
Three-time board member Barbara Yamrick is in last place with more than 14 percent of the vote.
Five candidates are running for three open school board seats in Aurora Public Schools to help lead the approximately 40,000-student school system for the next four years.
The board decides everything between hiring or firing the superintendent, contracting with school lunch providers and whether charter schools can operate in the district.
Those open three seats will be vacated in November by Monica Colbert — who is not running for re-election — and Dan Jorgensen and Cathy Wildman, who have both served two four-year terms and are termed limited.
But past term limits aren’t stopping some of this year’s five candidates for the school board. Candidates Barbara Yamrick and Amber Drevon are familiar names to Aurora educators and parents.
Yamrick served two terms on the school board between 1999 and 2007, and then another term between 2013 and 2017. She lost her re-election bid two years ago.
Yamrick told the Sentinel her spending priorities would be raising teacher salaries and funding more language acquisition programs. State academic tests are administered in English, but APS has a high population of migrant and refugee students who speak English as a second language, if at all.
Drevon also sat on the school board between 2013 and 2017, but declined to run for re-election. She’s changed her mind this year, driven to reduce the student-to-teacher ratio in schools and other issues.
One of those candidates, Stephanie Mason, said her children and grandchildren have been APS students. She said she has long been involved in the Parent Teacher Student Organization at Columbia Middle School. Her top spending priority is investing generally into schools.
The other union-backed candidate is Vicki Reinhard. She’s a former special education teacher in the district who said she recently retired. She was also the vice president of the teacher union. Her spending priority is attracting and retaining high-quality teachers.
The fifth candidate in the race is Nichelle Ortiz. In a Facebook post, she said she is a parent to three APS students and a regular school volunteer for about a decade. She also said her spending priority is attracting and retaining high quality teachers.
The November school board election could change the course of the district.
APS has improved slowly but steadily as a whole in recent years, according to the Colorado Department of Education’s annual school and district ratings. Despite relatively low ratings at several schools — Aurora Central High School, North Middle School and Gateway High School — graduation rates and test scores are generally up.
Garland, Egan join Cherry Creek school board[table “155” not found /]
Angela Green Garland and Anne Egan will join the Cherry Creek School District school board, according to preliminary election data from the Arapahoe County Clerk’s office. Sitting board member Janice McDonald also appears to have won reelection.
Anne Egan and Janice McDonald ran unopposed for their respective seats and each won 100 percent of those votes cast Tuesday night.
Garland won about 77 percent of votes cast as of 9:46 p.m. Her opponent, Alioune Sogue, won about 23 percent of votes cast.
Three of five voting seats were up for grabs this November. The election, and seat changes, will in turn change the dynamic of the school board, which makes final decisions on everything from milk carton contracts to spending large amounts of taxpayer money on school construction, teacher salary and myriad initiatives.
Four residents of the district — which includes much of southern Aurora and the southeast metroplex suburbs — ran to make big decisions for the 55,000-student school district, including managing hundreds of millions of mostly taxpayer dollars.
Anne Egan said she has volunteered in the district for almost 20 years, served on a bevy of district committees and groups and graduated from the Cherry Creek leadership academy program.
Egan said three of her children have graduated from the district, and one is still a student. She said that student mental health is her priority.
Angela Garland, who won the only competitive election in the district, has four children that are students in the district. In a district questionnaire, she said she volunteers on the district Foundation Board, a fundraising entity. She said she has also served on the District Accountability Committee and Leadership Cherry Creek program.
Garland said “each of these ‘appointments’ have provided me with a degree of insight, compassion and empathy for all the complexities within our school district with the most important being our students.”
Alioune Sogue challenged Garland for the District C seat. He’s an environmental engineer and leader of the Colorado African Organization. The nonprofit has provided resources to over 80 percent of immigrants and refugees resettled in the state since 2004, he said in the district questionnaire
Incumbent Janice McDonald won reelection to the District B seat. She was originally elected in 2015 and will serve another four years.
Replacing the Arapahoe Count Jail 1A[table “150” not found /]
People arrested in Arapahoe County will continue to be booked into the 33-year-old jail on South Potomac Street for the foreseeable future, voters decided Tuesday.
By more than a 2-to-1 margin, Arapahoe County voters rejected a proposed property tax increase that would have funded the construction of a new jail beside the Denver Broncos training facility in Centennial, according to data tabulated by the Arapahoe County Clerk’s Office.
More than 67 percent of voters had voted against the measure as of Wednesday morning, according to the local clerk’s office.
The Arapahoe County Board of Commissioners unanimously decided to pursue the ballot question, which sought to increase property taxes by an average of $5.66 a month to pay for a roughly $464 million jail over the course of 30 years, in late August. A panel of approximately two dozen citizens had studied the state of the current jail and listened to proposals for how to deal with the site for more than a year.
Opponents of the measure had advocated for enhanced criminal justice reform at the state legislature instead of the construction of a new 1,612-bed detention facility.
“The defeat of 1A sends a clear message to county officials that they believe Arapahoe County needs more than just a new jail,” Juston Cooper, director of the opposition campaign and deputy director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, said in a statement. “Any future jail construction proposals should be part of a more comprehensive plan that places just as much emphasis on keeping people out of jail as it does on keeping people in jail. We welcome the opportunity to work alongside county leaders and other stakeholders, including 1A supporters and opponents, to develop real, long-term solutions for Arapahoe County.”
Cooper’s group raised nearly $45,000 in in-kind donations during the campaign season, according to records filed with the Secretary of State’s Office. Proponents had netted more than $100,000 in cash donations, mostly from construction and engineering firms, by Election Day.
Arapahoe County Sheriff Tyler Brown lamented the loss, saying the jail’s strained infrastructure will remain insufficient for the roughly 1,100 people who are detained there in 68-square-foot cells at any given time.
“The voters made their voices heard during this election process, but that still doesn’t negate the need that we have at the current facility,” Brown said. “It still doesn’t fix our plumbing, it doesn’t fix our electrical. It’s not a modern facility that can better serve the inmate population here in Arapahoe County … we’ll be back because we still need a modern facility and because we still need a safe facility.”
Assaults by inmates against other inmates and staff members have swelled in recent years, according to Arapahoe County data.
Like Brown, the county commissioners also hinted at further efforts to rectify the current jail.
“While we are disappointed in the outcome of this ballot measure, the Board of County Commissioners respects the will of Arapahoe County’s voters,” members of the five-member board said in a joint statement. “Without a solution to address our aging infrastructure, Arapahoe County will need to consider all options – in partnership with the sheriff’s office and stakeholders – to best meet the public safety needs of our community within the constraints of our budget.”
This summer, Brown said future efforts could include issuing certificates of participation, which are often viewed as a means of circumventing stipulations outlined in the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or pursuing another ballot measure.
In the meantime, Cooper said state legislators are working to reduce inmate populations across Colorado. In Arapahoe County, more than 70 percent of the jail’s population is merely awaiting time in front of a judge and has not been convicted of any crime, according to officials with the sheriff’s office.
“While it was well-intended, it would have been a big step in the wrong direction,” Cooper said in a statement. “State lawmakers are working to reduce Colorado’s over-reliance on the criminal justice system, and there is strong public support for promoting prevention and treatment as alternatives to incarceration.”
Gov. Jared Polis and Attorney General Phil Weiser, both of whom are Democrats, each asked for state lawmakers to sign off on several million dollars for potential criminal justice reforms in the proposed state budget released last week.
State lawmakers will be tasked with approving the proposed budget during the upcoming 2020 legislative session.
n clause in the law prevents the jail from technically violating state statute, Line said.
State Ballot Questions: Props CC and DD[table “150” not found /]
Colorado voters overwhelmingly rejected a ballot measure Tuesday asking if the state could keep tax revenue that otherwise would be refunded under limits set by the state constitution.
Voters in Aurora mirrored the mood of statewide voters on the questions.
Democrats who control the statehouse had referred the measure, called Proposition CC, to the ballot. It asked if the state could keep revenue in those years when it has a surplus and is required to return that money to taxpayers.
The revenue would have been allocated to transportation and transit, K-12 schools and higher education. Preliminary results showed the measure losing by a double-digit margin.
Voters also were deciding whether to legalize sports betting in Colorado and tax it for water conservation. Early results suggested a close race.
The Democratic-led 2019 Legislature referred both tax measures to the ballot — but unlike sports betting, Democrats and Republicans staked opposite positions on the surplus revenue proposal.
The campaign reflected longstanding philosophical differences over the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, a constitutional amendment that requires voters to approve new taxes or revenue retention measures.
Democrats blame TABOR’s revenue restrictions for chronic underinvestment in Colorado’s schools, roads and universities.
Republicans credit TABOR for keeping taxes low on the private sector, allowing it to fuel the state’s economic growth.
Proposition CC asked voters if the state could keep revenue in those years when it has a surplus and is required to return that money to taxpayers. Any excess revenue would be allocated to transportation and transit, K-12 schools and higher education.
Many local municipalities have adopted similar measures to fund their school districts and public safety.
TABOR also sets an annual state income limit that can trigger tax refunds based on a formula that involves population and inflation. Critics said that prevents Colorado from taking advantage of good economic times to fund schools and transportation.
Legislative leaders from both parties endorsed Proposition DD, saying it was time to bring sports betting out of the dark and tax it for water needs.
The proposal called for a 10% flat tax on net sports betting proceeds. Parent companies operating the state’s 33 casinos could seek licenses for onsite betting as well as online and sports gambling apps.
Enabling legislation passed this year would allow the Colorado Water Conservation Board to use the tax revenue — estimated at $11 million in fiscal year 2020-21 — for grants that further the goals of a state water plan launched under former Gov. John Hickenlooper.
The plan is a living document setting long-term goals to meet the needs of a growing population, agriculture, outdoor recreation and obligations to Southwestern states that rely on the Colorado River.
The state has yet to find a way to meet the water plan’s estimated price tag of $100 million a year. But the sports betting proposal harvested a coalition of environmentalists and farming groups supporting it.
Legal sports betting has grown since New Jersey won a U.S. Supreme Court case in 2018 allowing all 50 states to offer it. But most states that moved quickly to do so have seen limited tax revenue.
An Associated Press analysis shows that seven states that reported on sports betting revenue for the fiscal year that ended in June generated a total $74 million in state taxes — a drop in the bucket for state budgets.
Reasons varied, from slow rollouts to the unavailability in some places of mobile betting.