16 people running for 5 open spots in Aurora City Council race

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AURORA | The slate of candidates vying to serve on the next iteration of the Aurora City Council has been solidified, according to the municipal clerk’s office. 

A total of 16 people turned in the required paperwork and signatures to city officials by the requisite Aug. 31 deadline, according to a memo released by City Clerk Kadee Rodriguez. 

The upcoming election cycle has grand implications for the city’s lawmaking organ, which has been frequently deadlocked on issues since former Ward II Councilperson Nicole Johnston resigned from her post to take another job earlier this year. The ideological 5-5 split of the current council has resulted in marathon sessions that have pushed circuitous voting rounds past 2 a.m. 

Only one incumbent will be on the November ballot: Crystal Murillo, who is jockeying to defend her position representing north Aurora’s Ward I. Current at-large members Dave Gruber and Allison Hiltz are not seeking re-election, Johnston’s post in Ward II remains vacant — technically violating the city charter due to disagreement among council members — and Marsha Berzins of Ward III is term-limited. 

The final docket of candidates has remained relatively unchanged since paperwork was first filed with city clerks earlier this year. In the three ward races, the candidate with the most votes wins. In the bid for the pair of at-large seats up for grabs, the two candidates with the most votes will earn a spot on the dais. 

In Ward I, Bill Gondrez, a retired elementary school teacher, and Scott Liva, who works for a property management company, are challenging Murillo for the seat she’s held since 2017. Another candidate who initially expressed interest in the position, Christopher Bella, did not make the official ballot. 

The Ward II race has netted four candidates: Jessica Giammalvo, Robert Hamilton III, Bryan Lindstrom and Steve Sundberg, all of whom except Lindstrom sought to fill the seat when Johnston stepped down. Liberal council members repeatedly thwarted Sundberg’s bid for the interim seat, favoring activist Ryan Ross, who said he never intended to run for the full, four-year term in the fall. 

Sundberg is the longtime owner of a local sports bar, Giammalvo is an engineer, Hamilton works in finance, and Lindstrom is a high school history teacher. Attorney Idris Keith, who originally said he would run in the contest, has removed his name from contention. 

In Ward III, which covers much of the central portion of the city, Ruben Medina, a self-described community organizer who currently works for the city overseeing a pair of recreation centers, is pitted against Jono Scott, the longtime pastor of Woodside Baptist Church in Denver and the director of Kingdom Giving Food Bank. Martha Lugo, a former probation officer who has unsuccessfully run for council posts in the past, is no longer in the race. 

The city’s at-large contests have magnetized seven candidates eyeing the two open seats: Danielle Jurinsky, Dustin Zvonek, John Ronquillo, Adam Fung, Becky Hogan, Candice Bailey and Hanna Bogale.

Jurinsky is a real estate agent and business owner, Zvonek is a conservative political consultant who has previously worked for Mayor Mike Coffman, Ronquillo is an assistant professor at the University of Colorado’s Denver campus, Fung has said he works as “an essential worker at a grocery store,” Hogan is a former business owner and the widow of former Mayor Steve Hogan, and Bailey is an activist who recently served on the city’s police community task force. Additional information on Bogale, who is listed as a “standalone candidate” and has yet to form a financial committee with the city, could not immediately be confirmed. 

Both Bogale and Bailey threw their hats into the race in the past month. Bailey’s bid drew attention earlier this summer when she sued the city over a standing rule that barred her from running due to a decades-old felony conviction. Though a judge has yet to rule on Bailey’s suit, city officials agreed to let her run and current council members have moved forward with rule changes to allow people with felony convictions to run in the city in the future.  

The at-large race has already magnetized triple-digit fundraising totals, according to routine campaign finance reports filed with the city in early August. 

The general election will take place on Nov. 2. 

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