UPDATE: This story has been updated with campaign finance reports from candidates for City Council and mayor.
Voter turnout in this crucial city election — which will determine the next mayor and four new City Council members — is miserable.
As of March 30, only 16.16 percent, or 50,397 of the 311,902 ballots mailed, had been returned. Data shows that citizens have become increasingly disengaged in the city election, which the League of Women Voters of the Pikes Peak Region and other agencies say is a good reason to move the election to November.
Let’s look at past city election turnouts in April:
2021: 26.87 percent, 83,551 of 310,942 ballots cast
2019: 37.11 percent, 98,384 of 265,084 ballots cast
2017: 31.71 percent, 83,358 of 262,854 ballots cast
2015: 39.04 percent, 88,966 of 227,911 ballots cast
2013: 39.49 percent, 82,240 of 208,259 ballots cast
Even as more people have become eligible to vote, fewer are actually voting. But there’s still time. Voting continues until 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 4.
Do not mail your ballot — it will arrive too late. Find a drop box or take it to the City Clerk’s Office at 30 S. Nevada Ave.
Although the mayor’s race and Council races are nonpartisan, a committee spending money without giving detailed accounts of its source of cash is trying to make the election about political parties.
We wrote about a poll on March 21 that was testing messages in the mayor’s race, and now whoever conducted that poll is trying to pit political parties against one another.
“Alert, Colorado Springs conservatives,” the flier says. “New polling shows leftwing Yemi Mobolade advancing to the Runoff Election for Mayor; Wayne Williams is the ONLY candidate who can beat him in the next round.”
It also states, “CONSERVATIVES: STOP THE DEMOCRATS and VOTE WAYNE WILLIAMS for Mayor by April 4th.”
The flier makes use of our March 21 online story, citing the headline: “From the campaign trail: Poll seeks input on three mayoral candidates.” Those were Williams, Mobolade and Sallie Clark.
The likely funder of the piece, and likely the poll itself, is an outfit called Citizens for Responsible Leadership, which has financially backed television spots featuring Mayor John Suthers stumping for Williams and his picks for City Council, although its latest campaign finance report doesn’t report spending money on a poll.
The committee reported receiving $292,487 as of March 31, all but $2,487 from Defend Colorado, a nonprofit set up in 2018. The money is being spent by political operative Daniel Cole, who runs a political consulting firm and also is in charge of the “vote yes” campaign for the Trails, Open Space and Parks tax extension, as well as Citizens For Protecting Our Water. The other $2,487 came from the water committee.
That water committee has funded broadcast ads touting Williams and bashing Clark. The water committee reports raising $240,100 and spending $224,623 as of its March 31 report. It raised $200,000 from Defend Colorado and in the latest report filed March 31, it reported receiving $40,100 from Citizens for Responsible Leadership.
The region’s biggest developer, David Jenkins, owner of Norwood Development, sent an email Feb. 25 to an undisclosed list of recipients urging campaign contributions for Williams and his other choices (the same as those of Suthers) and saying an independent expenditure committee would be formed to which donations would be kept “totally confidential.”
Those behind the partisan pitch also are behind negative ads funded by Citizens For Protecting Our Water that accuse Clark of “carrying water for her big donors” and being “in the pocket of those who want to dry out Colorado Springs’ water.”
It’s no secret that Clark has received $335,000 in campaign money from two landowners who want their property annexed into the city, which might be very difficult under a new water rule enacted by Council with Williams help, which some observers say gives Jenkins a monopoly on land that can be developed within the city limits. Jenkins owns most of the 20,000-acre Banning Lewis Ranch on the city’s east side.
But it’s worth noting that unlike those Clark donors — The O’Neil Group and Ron Johnson, both of whom are listed on Clark’s campaign finance reports — the total amount Jenkins and Norwood might have given to Williams is shielded from the public through Defend Colorado, which doesn’t report specific donors. Same goes for an outfit called Colorado Springs Forward. A campaign finance report filed with the state in October by Defend Colorado shows it had given, as of that time, $1.3 million to the Defend Colorado Independent Expenditure Committee.
Speaking of campaign money, in 2021, Richard Skorman spent roughly $70,000 to capture his second term representing City Council District 3 against three challengers. That was thought to be something of a record high back then for a City Council race.
No more. Businesswoman Lynette Crow-Iverson, who’s seeking at at-large Council seat, has raked in $88,157, according to her report due March 31 for the period from March 11 to March 26. She’s spent $83,323.
The biggest single contribution came from the business nonprofit Colorado Springs Forward, which gave her $25,000. Crow-Iverson has been on the board of Colorado Springs Forward since 2015, and the nonprofit doesn’t report specific sources of its money.
CSF also gave $15,000 to catering company owner Michelle Talarico, who’s seeking the District 3 seat after Skorman’s appointed replacement Stephannie Fortune decided not to run. (Skorman resigned in late 2021 to focus on his businesses.) Talarico has raised $69,420 and spent $34,754. Her opponent Scott Hiller reported raising $12,055 and spending $10,343.
Architect Brian Risley, also running for one of the three open at-large seats, has raised a total of $70,840, his report shows, which includes a $10,000 donation from The O’Neil Group. He’s spent $58,729.
Outdoor business owner David Leinweber reported raising a total of $91,820 and spending $55,117. CSF gave him $25,000 in the last cycle.
What do Talarico, Crow-Iverson, Leinweber and Risley have in common? They’re supported by Suthers, who’s featured in television ads paid for by a committee that’s supported by Defend Colorado, which doesn’t report specific donors, telling viewers to vote for them.
At-large hopeful Roland Rainey Jr. reported raising $28,919 in his March 31 report; he’s spent $24,423 and has reported winning endorsements from El Paso County Sheriff Joe Roybal and District Attorney Michael Allen.
Glenn Carlson has raised $24,659 and spent $14,852.
In the mayor’s race, Sallie Clark has raised $611,796 and spent $483,159.
Wayne Williams has collected a total of $621,340 and spent $540,417, his March 31 report shows. He collected upwards of $55,000 from various development interests, including another $10,000 from the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs (which already gave him $50,000 previously) and another $10,000 from CSF. CSF has given Williams a total of $265,000 in his run for mayor, 43 percent of his total, and voters can’t know the source of that money.
Bear in mind that two committees that operate with dark money, has pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into promoting Williams for mayor and Suthers’ slate for City Council.
The latests report from businessman Yemi Mobolade, viewed as a front runner, shows he’s raised $421, 971 and spent
$366,170. In the last cycle, he received a $10,000 donation from The O’Neil Group.
County Commissioner Longinos Gonzalez Jr. shows he’s raised $199,572 and spent $114,897.
Another businessman running for mayor is Andrew Dalby, who reported in his March 31 report he’s raised $406,954 and spent $344,291.
Other candidates for mayor and Council have raised lesser amounts or their reports had not yet been posted to the city’s website as of our deadline.
As for campaign committees, Integrity Matters has raised $13,455 and spent $3,213.
Colorado Springs For Ethical Government, which opposes Williams, has raised $300,000 and spent all but $11,711.
Citizens for Colorado Springs Outdoors, the committee promoting the Trails, Open Space and Parks tax extension, has raised $102,825 as of its March 31 report and spent all but $12,371.
"As the only candidate to have served at the Federal level, I’m proud to endorse Sallie Clark as the right choice; at the right time; as our next Mayor of Colorado Springs." — Former City Councilor Don Knight
Mayoral candidate announced two more endorsements — from sitting Councilor Bill Murray and former Councilor Don Knight.
“Sallie Clark’s leadership, entrepreneurial skills, and dedication to our citizens and neighborhoods make her the ideal candidate for Mayor,” Murray said in a release. “She will work to support our parks, ensure that evacuation plans are transparent, and we plan for future utility and water resources. As a strong mayor, Ms. Clark has both the ability and concern for our communities to ensure our voices are heard and is the best choice for Mayor of Colorado Springs. Take the time to read her positions and story. I will be voting for Sallie Clark. Please join me!”
“While on Colorado Springs City Council, my #1 priority was to protect the character and safety of your neighborhood from overdevelopment. In working with Sallie Clark over the years, I know she has and will continue to do the same.” Knight said. “She sees what our community can be and follows through. Sallie and her husband established a business in 1986 near Old Colorado City, saving a now beautiful Victorian house from demolition and restoring three turn of the century homes. She began her step into public service as an advocate to save Fire Station 3 on the historic Westside to keep response times low and has continued her support of both fire and law enforcement in elected office. As a Councilmember, I also learned the importance of having a Mayor with national level experience to help keep the history, scenic beauty and culture of the Pikes Peak region. As the only candidate to have served at the Federal level, I’m proud to endorse Sallie Clark as the right choice; at the right time; as our next Mayor of Colorado Springs.” He was referring to Clark’s stint as president of the National Association of Counties while she served as an El Paso County commissioner.