One. Only one.
In the city election that wrapped up Tuesday, a single progressive candidate was elected to City Council. Of course, Colorado Springs voters showed up in greater numbers for Jan Martin than any other council aspirant. But many were left wondering why only one?
As much as Martins win reflects her own merits a squeaky-clean campaign built on small donations, honest and deserved name recognition, and a (for once) believable promise to listen to the citizens the victory also can be taken as a referendum. City leaders should not have replaced Councilor Richard Skorman with uninspiring, ultra-right Bernie Herpin last year after Skorman left to work at U.S. Sen. Ken Salazars regional office.
That choice has now come back to bite the other Councilors. And they know it. Martin does too.
From what I hear, many citizens are ready for a change in local government, Martin said on Tuesday.
But perhaps it is the ghost of Skorman that left the city in this only one predicament. Colorado Springs, it seems, is accustomed to progressives in small, symbolic doses. If Martin did indeed replace Skorman, as one incumbent councilor postulated, does that mean theres no room for another fresh voice? Is there only one pair of moderate-to-liberal shoes to fill?
Tom Harold, the other open-minded and self-described progressive candidate, came in sixth place, below Herpin. Harolds defeat, while surprising, could be explained by a number of factors lack of name recognition not the least of them.
I didnt try to hide my views, Harold said on Tuesday evening after the results were in. Sometimes people arent ready for a change. Maybe they arent ready for a true progressive.
With the exception of Martins lead, the election results signified as much. Incumbents Randy Purvis, Larry Small, and Tom Gallagher will all enjoy another term on council. Which could mean that people are satisfied, if not complacent, with the citys current leaders. As Purvis said on Tuesday evening, I am not sure the status quo was all that bad. By most counts the status quo was pretty good.
But if we consider the elections playing field, this seasons results illustrate varied political tendencies in Colorado Springs. Lets mull over the candidates. There were the progressives (Jan Martin and Tom Harold), the stalwart father knows best crowd (Larry Small, Randy Purvis and Bernie Herpin), and what the staff at the Independent came to refer to as the kick the bastards out group (Tom Gallagher, Bob Null, Greg Timm and Dave Martin).
Contemplated in that light, Colorado Springs chose councilors from three distinct factions factions that suggest disparate feelings about leadership. Some want cultural change, others want lackluster maintenance, and more than a few want unyielding, bullheaded questioning.
Tom Gallagher is, of course, the conundrum of the day. He ran a Teflon campaign; slammed with bad press, he still won a handy second place. He received thousands of campaign dollars from his employers, the Morley family developers, even as he asserted himself as a man of the people. And he claimed to have fresh ideas, though he is an incumbent. The titular maverick of the bunch, Gallagher might prod the City Council forward. Or he could capitulate to the Morleys desires, sparking divisive, rather than practical debate.
Im hoping everyone puts politics behind us, Gallagher said on Tuesday. Lets get the job done. Lets behave as adults do. I am willing to.
But in truth, the real outsider, the genuine Maverick, is Jan Martin. Her success, not Gallaghers, should jump-start the current council, should keep the father knows best group on its toes. Like her predecessor Skorman, Martin risks being on the losing end of council votes that could change this towns traditionalist reputation. But she also might force gently force a shift for council as a whole.
I think women are consensus-builders, she said on election night. But then she added, I certainly will speak out for issues I believe in.
Her supporters hope so. And theyll hold her to that.