By now, surprises have given way to nausea in this Colorado Springs mayoral race. We've watched as Richard Skorman and Steve Bach have slogged their way through the runoff, with any semblance of a high-road campaign long since having disintegrated.
This battle has turned sour, plagued by regrettable mistakes on one side (Skorman) and by unanswered questions on the other (Bach).
Perhaps it was naïve to think that Skorman vs. Bach might provide the city's voters with an inspiring, enlightening series of face-to-face meetings. That hope faded within hours of the first election on April 5, as the first repulsive telephone push-poll gave us a preview of the relentless, heavily funded anti-Skorman tactics that would become so pervasive over the next six weeks.
Yet, Skorman never took advantage of being attacked and mislabeled. And he committed a costly error of his own, trying to paint Bach as a developer because of apparent voter disdain toward those who believe growth solves every problem.
Bach turned that grenade into a game-changer, flashing his real-estate broker credentials of the past 20-plus years, and making Skorman look reckless and desperate. Meanwhile, Jeff Crank dipped into his Americans for Prosperity war chest and pulled out $100,000 (if not more) to blanket the local TV airwaves with "Skorman is liberal and will raise your taxes" venom.
And despite all the outrage from the 2010 election against that kind of outside interference, with no way to know the real source of such money, it didn't strike the aging "Fossils for Bach" contingent as distasteful in this election. They stayed loyal to Bach, even when the candidate himself began spewing more of the same intolerant manure that has shredded Colorado Springs' image over the past two decades.
Shame on them. Shame on this city. The voters fall for the ruse that a new form of strong-mayor government alone will make Colorado Springs great again, and then they appear to be embracing a candidate whose programmed answer to any negative question is either "That's a fabrication" or avoiding a direct interview.
So now we're left with so much uncertainty, so many unaddressed issues:
• His first wife, describing in gruesome detail how Bach allegedly abused her physically. Now, in a news story on p. 14, we have a friend who backs up Marian Volk's account for the record. And yet, to most voters, Bach gets away with simply dismissing it as a lie.
• His second divorce, more than a decade later, included his father-in-law Jules Watson paying him nearly $1 million after having to get a restraining order to stop Bach from seizing control of the Watson family development company. Bach still hasn't agreed to a requested interview to talk about those matters.
• Bach owned a townhome in southwest Colorado Springs that was foreclosed in 1990, and he never since has owned a home in his own name. It's all in the name of companies or an "irrevocable trust."
• Bach has said that he "co-founded" the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp. Various other accounts suggest that while he might have been part of the initial effort, Bach was never mentioned as a leader. The big names then, in the early 1970s, were David Sunderland, Bruce Shepard and Steve Schuck (developers all). By comparison, Bach was their younger waterboy.
• Just last Sunday, a Gazette profile characterized Bach as playing a major role in stopping the U.S. Olympic Committee from leaving Colorado Springs in the early 1990s. Obviously the Bach campaign, and longtime Bach friend Schuck, had much to do with crafting that piece of revisionist history.
It's not true. Never was the Springs in danger of losing the USOC in that time frame. El Pomar Foundation CEO Bill Hybl was serving as USOC president in 1991-92, and as a much-respected legal counsel before that; he never would have let it happen. Bach was involved only with a civic group that pushed some projects to make the USOC feel more appreciated. That's all.
All of these questions and more have piled up against Bach during the past six weeks. Meanwhile, Skorman's sins appear to be that (a) he hasn't confronted Bach publicly with any of those details; (b) he didn't use any of the public events during the runoff to force the issue of negative ads; (c) he hasn't done enough to discredit the labels slapped on him and make himself a sympathetic figure; and (d) he called Bach a developer, which was true in the 1970s but not so much since, though Bach still speaks that language well.
You would have figured that sensible voters would see all that, weigh it against Skorman's résumé, and choose accordingly. Bach, the self-described facilitator, vs. Skorman, the widely respected visionary. How hard is that?
But it hasn't happened. Instead, it looks like Skorman has fallen short of creating fresh energy and excitement during the runoff. His message is solid, and his candor refreshing. But his charisma has been lacking, he hasn't re-educated voters enough on the often-small differences between "moderate" and "conservative," and he has had little if any presence in the northern parts of town.
And so, it now appears, only a late crush of votes — mostly from younger voters, such as those who organized and took part in the final forum Monday night — might stop Bach from being the next mayor of Colorado Springs.
But if that happens, this won't feel like the election that Steve Bach won. It'll feel much more like the runoff that Richard Skorman lost.
There's still time to vote
Yes, you can still vote in the mayoral runoff election.
If you mail your ballot, it will need to arrive (not be postmarked, but delivered) before 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 17. Otherwise, you can drop off your ballot. Locations are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday, Friday and Monday. On the official election day of Tuesday, May 17, they'll accept ballots from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Locations are: city clerk's office, 30 S. Nevada Ave., #101; Colorado Springs Senior Center, 1514 N. Hancock Ave.; Fire Station No. 8, 3737 Airport Road; Fire Station No. 17, 3750 Tutt Blvd.; Fire Station No. 19, 2490 Research Pkwy.; Fire Station No. 20, 6755 Rangewood Drive; and Gold Hill Police Substation, 955 W. Moreno Ave.
Inactive voters (classified that way if they did not vote in the November 2010 election) can still go to the city clerk's office, reactivate their status and pick up a runoff ballot during regular business hours through Tuesday.
Inactive voters whose name or address changed since they last voted must start the activation process by making necessary changes to their registration at an El Paso County elections office. Find those locations online at car.elpasoco.com/election.
— J. Adrian Stanley