As the clock ticks closer to the city’s November municipal elections, 12 candidates in four races have filed paperwork declaring they’ll run for a spot on the city council.
It’s a diverse crew of candidates, including a former Congressional staffer for now-Mayor Mike Coffman, the widow of former Mayor Steve Hogan, at least two self-described progressives, several veterans of prior unsuccessful campaigns and one sitting council member — Ward I’s Crystal Murillo — who is seeking reelection.
Here’s the full list of official candidates as of early April:
Five candidates are running for two at-large seats on the city council, which represent the entire city.
Two at-large spots will be open in November: current at-large lawmaker Allison Hiltz is not seeking re-election, opening up her seat; and Councilmember Dave Gruber is also up for re-election. Gruber told the Sentinel April 6 he was still considering whether to defend his seat.
Among the five candidates, the two candidates with the most votes will win the seats in November. They are:
- Danielle Jurinsky, an Aurora native who graduated from Overland High School. She said she’s an Air Force veteran and a real estate agent who owns two restaurant and bar businesses in Aurora, Steel Tips Bar and J.J.’s Place. Jurinsky is currently a member of the city’s Citizens’ Budget Advisory Committee. She says on her website that she empathizes with local business owners “who are too often targeted by politicians with burdensome regulations and tax increases.” She told the Sentinel that, politically, she “leans more to the right.”
- Dustin Zvonek, a political consultant with roots in Colorado conservative political circles. Zvonek worked under then-Congressman Mike Coffman, a Republican, before he became mayor in 2019. Like Jurinsky, Zvonek also sits on the city’s Citizens’ Budget Advisory committee. Zvonek has worked in several leadership roles at Americans for Prosperity, the conservative political group formed by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch. During the 2019 statewide election cycle he led Unite for Colorado, a 501(c)4 “social welfare” organization funding conservatives running for state office. According to his website, Zvonek’s top issues are: addressing crime and rebuilding community relations with police; promoting economic growth and opposing “job killing policies”; and improving roads.
- John Ronquillo, an assistant professor of nonprofit and public management at CU Denver’s School of Public Affairs. Ronquillo ran as a Democrat for Aurora’s state House District 40 last year but lost in a primary to now-Rep. Naquetta Ricks. He sits on several civic boards, including: the Colorado COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project’s Advisory Council, the board of Hispanic community organization Servicios de La Raza, and the Arapahoe County Foundation’s board of directors, a fundraising arm of county government. Ronquillo is endorsed by outgoing at-large Councilmember Allison Hiltz.
- Adam Fung, a first-generation American and progressive Democrat who emphasizes his family history, housing and workers’ rights in his campaign. Fung settled in Aurora in 2012. He says on his website he’s worked as a “dishwasher, server, cashier, letter carrier, cable technician, and now an essential worker in a grocery store.” Fung’s policy stances include: building more affordable housing and “ensuring that developers are doing their part to solve this crisis”; reforming the Aurora Police Department, which he says brought “deep shame upon our city”; and establishing a “living wage” for so-called essential workers.
- Becky Hogan, the widow of former Mayor Steve Hogan, who has long been involved in Aurora civic issues. Hogan, 62, is a registered Republican and a former small business owner. She said she serves as the Chair of Korean Committee-Aurora Sister Cities International and sits on the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission. She’s worked with a slew of Aurora businesses and nonprofit organizations, from cultural events to food banks and vaccination clinics. Hogan stresses “unity” among Aurorans and “collaboration” in her campaign. She says on her website Aurora’s political climate is too divisive.
Ward I encompasses northwest Aurora and the Anschutz Medical Campus. In ward races, voters pick only one candidate:
- Crystal Murillo, who was elected to hold the seat in 2017 when she was 23. She is a progressive Democrat. Murillo recently co-sponsored and cast votes supporting proposals to raise the minimum wage and establish protections for undocumented residents, both of which narrowly failed. She has supported police reform efforts, including a successful push to ban so-called no-knock search warrants in Aurora last year. Murillo has also recently supported campaign finance reforms, new lobbying ordinances, affordable housing, a “social equity” marijuana delivery plan and repealing the longstanding ban on certain pit bull dog breeds. She is a graduate of Emerge Colorado, an organization training Democratic women to run for office.
- Scott Liva, who says he’s a former small business owner and now the director of engineering for a property management company. Liva says he’s focused on “defending civil liberties and civil rights for Aurora citizens” in his campaign Facebook page. Liva is a registered Libertarian. On his Facebook page, Liva posted photos of himself at Denver racial justice protests during the summer of 2020 holding a sign that says “Defund Police.”
- Christopher Bella, who does not have a campaign website, affiliated social media or publicly available contact information.
- Bill Gondrez, who says he’s a veteran and Aurora Public Schools teacher at Kenton Elementary. According to his campaign website, he’s previously worked overseeing election judges in Adams County and retired after more than a decade of working on the Anschutz Medical Campus as a radiology assistant. He’s long worked with the City of Aurora, including five years serving on the Citzens’ Advisory Budget Committee and other boards and elsewhere organizing street clean-ups in Ward I. He is the president of the Northwest Aurora Neighborhood Organization, he says. His top priorities are developing more “workforce housing” by incentivizing developers; investing in homelessness services; expanding police and community partnerships; and using city grants to support Aurora businesses.
- Idris Keith, currently the only registered candidate for the city’s geographically-largest ward, which extends from north Aurora east to Murphy Creek and new plains communities. Nicole Johnston, who currently holds the seat, is not running for reelection. Keith is a lawyer and former Democratic candidate for an Arapahoe County Commission seat in November 2020. He says on his website he’s worked as a probation officer, a consultant and as a business attorney. Keith also serves on Aurora’s Citizens’ Advisory Budget Committee. His top priorities are generating investment in Aurora neighborhoods; easing traffic; and working with police to combat crime.
Ward III includes the city center, Aurora city hall and shopping centers. Two candidates are running to replace longtime representative Marsha Berzins, who is term-limited.
- Martha Lugo says she’s lived in Aurora for more than 20 years, when she moved from Texas to Colorado to work as a probation officer. She currently works as a bilingual polygraph examiner, according to her LinkedIn page. Lugo calls herself a “leftist” and “progressive” on her campaign website. This is Lugo’s third time running for city council. In 2017, she lost to Berzins in a Ward III race. In 2019, she ran unsuccessfully for an at-large seat.
- Jono Scott, who grew up in Aurora. He’s the longtime pastor of Woodside Baptist Church in Denver. Scott says he’s the director of Kingdom Giving Food Bank and he also served on the Citizens’ Advisory Budget Committee. He holds an undergraduate degree in Biblical Studies and a master’s degree in Religious Education, according to his website. Scott’s top issues include addressing a “skyrocketing crime rate”, job creation and paring down Aurora’s major transportation spending deficit.
To get on the local ballot, candidates must submit petitions to the city. For ward candidates, 50 signatures are required. For at-large members, 100 signatures are required.
To become a candidate for city council, candidates must be: At least 21 years old, a U.S. citizen, an Aurora resident for at least one year prior to the election and ward candidates must have lived in that ward for at least one year.
People convicted of felonies are not permitted to run for the Aurora City Council per the city charter. That decades-old rule is so far barring Candice Bailey, an activist and civic leader, from running for an at-large seat.
Editor’s note: This story was updated April 7 to include that Scott Liva is a registered Libertarian.