City Hall

The city election is taking place during the pandemic.

This article was produced as part of a journalism class at Colorado College, taught by Corey Hutchins. The students are Amelia Allen, Esteban Candelaria, Jon Lamson, Arlo Metzger, Will Taylor, Frances Thyer and Peyton Wright.

As the race for six seats on the Colorado Springs City Council heats up, tens of thousands of dollars are already sloshing around the campaign coffers of the nearly two dozen candidates running in the April 6 elections. 

The campaign donations show who has broad or limited support, illuminate potential coalitions among candidates who are giving to each other, and also show how much money some are willing to shell out of their own pockets to try and win a seat in city government. 

The Feb. 15 filing deadline came after the sprawling candidate field became settled. Yard signs are already starting to dot the neighborhoods, candidates are masked-up and knocking on doors, and campaign literature is fluttering about. 

Fundraising reports like the latest one the campaigners filed this week are important for a few reasons. They can shed light on what people and interests are aligned with certain candidates, like local bigwigs, companies, and industries. They can also show how certain candidates themselves might be connected, giving the public an idea about what alliances could form on the council and potentially affect whether a new city ordinance passes or fails. The reports also can serve as a kind of campaign finance flex — a high-dollar showing could perhaps scare a challenger into dropping out of the race.

Unlike in other Front Range cities such as Aurora, Denver, and Fort Collins, a candidate for City Council in Colorado Springs can accept unlimited money. They can also hoover up cash from corporations and labor unions. 

Five years ago, the last time six seats were up for grabs, 14 candidates threw their hats in the ring. This time, 21 locals have filed to run and will be on the ballot. The race is unusual for another reason — it’s taking place during a global pandemic with social distancing guidelines limiting in-person events. 

So far in this COVID-era city campaign, some candidates have raised a bundle, and some haven’t reported raising a dime. One of them wants his supporters to give money instead to local businesses hurt by impacts of the coronavirus — “go buy a beer,” he says — and at least one council hopeful doesn’t even show up in the city’s campaign finance database. (The reason for that, says the city clerk’s office, is because to do so a candidate must have raised or spent at least $20.) 

The following information comes from public city records available online. Candidates had a Feb. 15 deadline to report their latest money-in-politics reports. They will file more reports before the April 6 election, so this is just a snapshot in time. 

The District 1 race for an open seat on council is to represent northwest Colorado Springs, stretching from Garden of the Gods to N. Union Boulevard and encompassing Rockrimmon, Mountain Shadows, and Grant Park. The winner will replace outgoing council member Don Knight.

Glenn Carlson

Glenn Carlson in District 1

Of the four contenders, 37-year-old Colorado Springs native Glenn Carlson, who owns a therapeutic massage business, snagged the most financial support from community members thus far. He raised around $3,500 from donors in Colorado Springs, Denver, and a few other states. 

Carlson’s latest Feb. 15 filings show support from three current council members. Outgoing downtown District 5 councilwoman Jill Gaebler gave him $75, for instance. Southeast District 4 incumbent Yolanda Avila, who is running for re-election, gave him $100, and at-large member Bill Murray, who is not up for re-election and will stay on council, also pitched in $100. Leslie Summey, a legislative aide in Denver who ran as a Democrat for Congress in 2014 against Republican Doug Lamborn, also gave Carlson $50.

Carlson himself contributed $3,000 worth of web and social media development work to his own campaign, his filings show. In both his Jan. 15 and Feb. 1 reports, money from people listing their occupation as retired made up roughly 30% of his haul. 

Others who have given $100 include a Department of Interior contract officer, a strategist at the IT consulting company Booz Allen Hamilton, a finance worker at Red Rock Investments, and a financial advisor at Morgan Stanley. Occupations of some of Carlson’s other donors include an educator, a server, a pastor, a police officer, a hairstylist and a physician. His campaign also took three donations from employees of Colorado Springs Utilities.

Dave Donelson, a former Green Beret and physician assistant who lives in northeast Colorado Springs, has brought in close to $22,000, much of it from his own pocket, and he’s spent just under $7,000. So far, he has pumped in $18,300 of his own money. Donelson took out two loans of $5,000 and $10,000 respectively, and wrote himself a check for $3,300, records show.

Donors in the most recent campaign finance disclosure reports filed Feb. 15 include a $1,500 donation from Jeffrey Nichols, an employee of AVI-SPL, a digital workplace services provider. Chuck and Vickie Broerman donated $100. The Broermans listed an occupation as Clerk and Recorder for El Paso County. About 60% of Donelson’s most recent contributions come from retirees. 

According to previous filing reports dating back to early January, Donelson accumulated some campaign cash from current City Councilman Bill Murray, who gave $100. One of Donelson’s most notable donors is Republican State Sen. Larry Liston, who gave $400. Janice Boggess, a retiree, gave $500. Doris Ralston, the executive director of the CS Osteopathic Foundation, gave $250. Patricia VanDenBroeke, an attorney, also chipped in $100. 

Donelson spent nearly $2,000 on services from Patriot Signage, a lawn sign company based out of Cincinnati, Ohio. He also spent over $2,500 on signs from Colorado Canyon Signs, based out of Colorado Springs. Donelson’s campaign finance reports “don’t tell much of a story,” he said on Feb. 13, adding that he has raised money from friends and family. 

Jim Mason

Jim Mason in District 1

Records show Jim Mason, the 67-year-old secretary of Colorado Springs School District 11, kick-started his campaign by taking out a loan of $2,500. In his most recent filing, Mason amassed an additional $1,260 in campaign contributions.

Six of Mason’s nine contributors didn’t name their employers and occupations on his latest report. The donations are through credit cards and checks, and Mason said they came from retirees. The two contributions with listed employers and occupations come from federal government employees. Others gave Mason signs, name tags, a logo design and a website domain name for his campaign.

So far he has spent around $2,300 of his haul on a website and at the post office.

Mike Seeger, a 30-year-old firefighter and paramedic, had no funds filed for his campaign as of Feb. 15, according to city records. He said in a recent interview that he’s working on getting his campaign off the ground.

In the District 2 race taking place in the northernmost part of Colorado Springs, current council seat holder David Geislinger, a hospital chaplain, loaned himself $3,000 and raised significantly less monetary funds than his three opponents, his campaign reports show.  

David Noblitt

David Noblitt in District 2

Challenger David Noblitt, a firefighter, had roughly $900 in campaign funds as of Feb. 15, after raising just over $7,500 and spending roughly $6,600 of it so far, more than double what each of his competitors has spent. His largest campaign contribution so far is $5,000 from the Professional Firefighters political action committee. The Colorado Springs Professional Firefighters Local 5 union gave that committee $5,000. Noblitt is a former president of that union. 

Members of the Colorado Springs community who have contributed to Noblitt’s campaign include fellow firefighters chipping in $25 and $100, an underwriter for SWBC Mortgage who gave $250, two retirees who spared $100 and $25 from another, Rich Floors owner Rich Romero gave $50, and Draper and Kramer Mortgage vice president of Residential Lending Annjanette Williams, whose donation came in at $1,000.

Noblitt has had four donors from outside of Colorado Springs, Michele Spires, an education professional in Monument who gave $200, Danny Southwell, an investigator for SLS Las Vegas, who tossed him $100. A firefighter in Seattle gave $50, and a home healthcare provider in Arvada gave $200. Noblitt has put $300 of his own money in his campaign.

As of Feb. 15, he had spent roughly $5,000 on mailers and signs, records show. 

Candidate Randy Helms, despite having no listed campaign website, has managed to bring in nearly $13,000 at this point in the race, nearly double the money of half the candidates vying for the District 2 seat. Developer Gary Erikson gave him $5,000. 

So far he’s listed 16 donors, one being himself, two donors that share the last name Helms, a few airline pilots, and nine contributors whose donations come from outside of the state.

Donors from Colorado Springs include $300 contributions from two retirees and HIFLYGHT LLC. Rhinos Sports and Spirits owner Greg Roman gave $200, UCCS dean George Reed gave $50, and Helms himself put in $200 to his campaign.

Records show Mary Helms of Idabel, Oklahoma, who is retired, gave $1,000, and Mike and Kristin Helms of Rancho Santa Fe, California, gave $1,600 in two parts. Jeff Ashby, a retiree in Jacksonville, Florida, gave $1,250. WFF Investments in Columbus, Ohio, gave $1,000.

Other out-of-state contributions include $50 from a pilot in Benton, AR, a Delta airline captain in Chicago who gave double that, a couple, whose combined listed occupation is a Delta pilot, and reside in Peachtree City, GA, gave the same. A retired couple in San Antonio sent $1,000, and an investment researcher for Mayspur Theibs Capital LLC, from Gardnerville, NV gave $500.

Helms had spent roughly $1,600 as of Feb. 15 in his campaign, and his listed expenses include $1,500 on campaign management and consulting fees from Sarah B. Jack & Associates. He said on Feb. 16 that his website is done but he has yet to publish it and expects it will be live in a couple of days.

Jay Inman, a digital architect, has given himself $10,000. Of that, he’s spent almost $3,000.

As of Feb. 15, the only other person to give money to Inman’s bid other than himself was Gordon Klingenschmitt, the former Republican lawmaker and Pray in Jesus’ Name Project chaplain, who kicked in $100. 

So far, Inman has spent a little more than $600 on 2,000 campaign flyers, roughly $2,000 on 40,000 door hangers, and almost $250 on his website, according to his spending reports. 

His district might not have a door without a hanger on it from Inman, given the average district in Colorado Springs had around 31,000 households as of 2019.

In the District 3 race, which stretches from parts of downtown to the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station and incorporates the west side and southwestern parts of the Springs, current City Council President Richard Skorman, who owns the downtown Poor Richard’s bookstore along with its cafe and toy store, had about $17,000 on hand for the race as of the Feb. 15 filing period. Records show he loaned his campaign $5,000 of his own money. 

Donors showing up as financial backers to his re-election effort in the most recent campaign finance disclosure reports filed Feb. 15 include local business owners, some self-employed folks, and retirees. David Siegel, CEO of the arts advocacy Bee Vradenburg Foundation and a winner of the 2020 Mayor’s Young Leader Awards, gave $250. 

Skorman’s campaign in previous filing periods dating back to early February include Springs luminaries such as former Mayor Steve Bach, who gave him $500, and current City Councilman Bill Murray who gave him $100. Nancy Henjum, who is running for a council seat in the downtown District 5 race, also gave Skorman $100, signaling that she supports his re-election and could be an ally of his on the council if they are both elected. 

Bach’s donation is particularly significant given he ran against Skorman for mayor about a decade ago. Skorman’s campaign manager, Teddy Weiss, said the donation signals two former political rivals uniting “for the greater good” of their hometown and shows things “don't always have to be the way that they are.”

Skorman also received $400 from the Snyder for Colorado Leadership Fund, which according to state records is tied to Democratic State Rep. Marc Snyder, the former mayor of Manitou Springs. The stated purpose of the fund is to “assist Democratic candidates for the Colorado State House and Senate by donating directly to candidates or by donating to organizations that assist Democratic candidates.”

The vice president of MedStudy, Linda Wagner, has given $500 to Skorman, as have Gary Feffer of Fountain Colony, LLC, and retirees David Dahm and Sona Benyamin. Andy Vick, director of the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region, a nonprofit arts agency, gave Skorman $50, and Wayne Fisher, owner of the Good Earth Garden Center, gave $1,000. 

The largest expenditure the small business owner’s campaign has made so far was to pay the Tejon Street-based advertising firm Sandia about $6,000. His campaign also paid $2,750 to Sally Davis for professional services, and a local Colorado Springs company, Suit Boy Apps, about $800 to design its website. He also paid $750 to a California company for “texting.”

Challenger Arthur Glynn, a former U.S. Naval aviator, loaned himself $5,000 and raised a bit more from others. Steve Durham, a former Republican lawmaker who sits on the State Board of Education, gave $200 to Glynn. Marvin Heinze, a city councilman in Coronado, California, gave about $240. Paradise Sales, an Old Colorado City gun shop, shot Glynn his highest donation of $500. Glynn himself kicked $100 into his own campaign, and other donations trickled in primarily from Colorado Springs retirees.

Judging by Glynn’s most recent expenses, filed on Feb. 12, his focus has shifted away from his online presence. Between Feb. 2 and Feb. 10, Glynn’s expenses, totaling about $160, included campaign business cards and registration for a “large sign placement.”

In prior reporting periods, Glynn’s campaign expenditures went almost entirely into website production and video storage. His largest campaign expense was a “campaign manager fee” of $500, which went to former Republican State Rep. Kit Roupe. 

Records from her filings as of Feb. 15 show Candidate Olivia Lupia, 25, the youngest candidate in the race, has raised at least $1,800, which includes about $1,400 in donations and $400 from a loan.

Conservative Women Speak and a local mortgage broker chipped in separate donations of $500. Other donations to Lupia so far include $20 from El Paso GOP Treasurer John Pitchford, who ran against Mayor John Suthers in 2019, and several from retirees.

According to Lupia’s most recent expenses, about $660 went to Super Cheap Signs for yard signs and Postcard Mania for campaign literature. Expenses from earlier reporting periods were for donation envelopes, website maintenance, setting up a PO Box, and cell phone service. Lupia has spent a total of nearly $1,200 so far, records show. 

Henry McCall, a former addiction counselor who was a council member in Oroville, California, in the 1970s and ‘80s, hadn’t filed a single financial report by Feb. 15, though he is running for a seat on the Colorado Springs City Council. 

Yolanda Avila

Yolanda Avila in District 4

In the District 4 race, taking place in the city’s southeast region, incumbent Yolanda Avila had about $16,500 on hand for her race as of Feb. 15. 

Records show Skorman, the current city council president, gave $250 for Avlia’s re-election bid. Democratic State Reps. Faith Winter, Marc Snyder, Jennifer Bacon, and Tony Exum gave Avila money, as did current Democratic Sen. Pete Lee. 

The most recent finance disclosure reports also show members of city council in Breckenridge and Aurora have given to Avila. Eagle County Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry has also donated. Stephanie Vigil, runner-up in the 2020 House of Representatives race for northern Colorado Springs, and Danielle Henry, policy advisor for the state of Colorado, both contributed. 

Three donations came from people associated with local chapters of the Sierra Club environmental group. Raphael Sassower, a psychology professor at UCCS, donated $250. Multiple Colorado College students and professors gave as well.  

According to campaign finance disclosure reports filed before Feb. 15., former Democratic State Sen. Michael Merrifield helped fund the campaign, as did ex-Manitou Springs Mayor Ken Jaray and current at-large City Councilman Bill Murray. 

Terry Martinez, who conceded the Democratic nomination for District 18 House of Representatives to Mark Snyder in 2018 and ran for an at-large city council seat in 2019, gave $100 dollars to Avila’s campaign. 

Female politicians such as Paola Paga, a senior policy consultant for the Colorado Department of Education, and Emma Pinter, a commissioner in Adams County, also gave her money, as did Julia Marvin and Suzie Brundage, who are both running for Thornton City Council. Liz Rosenbaum, a Democrat and graduate of Pikes Peak Community College, who ran unsuccessfully last year for a seat in the Colorado House of Representatives, has also donated to Avila. 

A donation of $500 came from Kathleen Ricker, former El Paso County Democratic chair. Ricker also plans to give to Carlson and Nancy Henjum, she said. Patricia Yeager, CEO of the Independence Center, and Lisa Tessarowicz, recipient of the Governor’s Citizenship Medal from John Hickenlooper’s office in 2016, also gave. So did Julie Ott, an at-large representative on the Colorado Springs District 11 school board. 

Gary Betchan, who is part of the “nones” movement, donated $100. “Betchan ... founded The Freethinkers of Colorado Springs, a group that says people's beliefs should be formed on the basis of science and logic instead of emotion, authority, tradition or dogma,” The Gazette reported. Promise Lee, who listed his employer as RWM, gave $100. Lee, of Relevant Word Ministries, is a prominent pastor in the Colorado Springs community. 

Charles Murphy, the owner of Murphy Constructors of CS, Inc., donated $1,000. Small business owners such as Richard Fiero of Atrevida Beer and Northrop Grumman and John Crandall of Old Town Bike Shop have also shown financial support for her campaign. 

Kevan Worley, who like Avila is visually impaired, has also given money. He is the Executive Director of the National Association of Blind Merchants, a division of the National Federation of the Blind. 

Challenger Regina English had raised about $500 for her campaign as of the Feb. 15 filings. 

Anthony Gioia, a candidate for the at-large seats in the 2019 city council election, donated $100 to English’s campaign. Notable donors in her financial disclosure reports filed before Feb. 15. include former Democratic congressional candidate Stephany Rose Spaulding, who teaches women’s and ethnic studies at UCCS. 

Democratic State Rep. Tony Exum, a retired Battalion Chief of the Colorado Springs Fire Department, gave $150. He also donated to Avila’s campaign. 

In an interview around the time she filed her latest reports, English said her fundraising was going slow but she believed it was about to kick off. “You can raise millions of dollars and still lose a race,” she said. “So it's not about the money.”

Nancy Henjum

Nancy Henjum, District 5

In the District 5 race, taking place northeast of downtown, Nancy Henjum, a local business owner, has raised just under $21,000 and has spent roughly $10,000.

Donors in the most recent campaign finance disclosure reports filed Feb. 15, include Kathy Loo, a former Springs city council member and Spirit of the Springs Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, who donated $1,000.

Current City Councilmember Yolanda Avila gave Henjum $100, showing the potential for an alliance on the council if they are both elected. Henjum’s donors from filing reports dating back to early February also include current City Councilman Bill Murray, who gave her $100, indicating another potential alliance. 

Henjum earned donations from a handful of teachers, including $500 from Susan Marten, the former president of the Pikes Peak Music Teachers Association, and Ellen Jones, a member of the Edina Public School Board in Minnesota.

UCCS professors Mary Hayden and Edith Greene, and Colorado College professor Jean Gumpper also gave her money, as did Megan Barry, the associate director of the Quad Innovation Partnership at Colorado College, who gave $100. 

Others in the education sector chipped in to Henjum’s campaign, including Kee Warner, a sociology professor at UCCS, Lindsay Hoover, a teacher for the International School of Uganda who gave $250, and Kitty Koch, a job coach employed by Denver Public Schools. 

Those who gave $500 include Bee Vradenburg Foundation CEO David Siegel. Retirees Gerald and Catherine White gave Henjum $500, as did Andra Brooks, an executive coach from Texas, and Shane Carew, an attorney from Seattle. 

Stephen Lorenz, a retired U.S. Air Force four-star general, also slid Henjum five-hundred big ones. 

Two other donors gave Henjum $1,000: Ruthann Kern, a retiree from Bloomington, Illinois, and Joseph Coleman, a Springs business owner who is behind multiple restaurants, including the new Stelina pizza place in the Shooks Run neighborhood. 

Henjum said in an interview on Feb. 13 that her funrdraising shows she has “met and impacted a lot of people” in her tenure as a citizen of Colorado Springs. 

As for where she’s spending money, $1,200 of Henjum’s campaign cash went to Matthew Kotlan, a local freelance videographer. Henjum also spent just over $3,000 for advertisement placement strategies from A Squared Strategies. Another $800 went to Rhodesco, a printing company located in Colorado Springs. 

Matt Zelenok, a 34-year-old real estate broker, has raised over $10,000 according to the Feb. 15 filing. The majority of the funds have come from just two large campaign contributions. One was a $5,000 check from his father, David Zelenok. The other was $5,000 from ZK Investments, the real estate investment firm Matt Zelenok founded, which listed the same address as David Zelenok. 

Records show that the campaign has spent a total of about $400 over both reporting periods to set up his website, establish a PO box, access Colorado Springs voter lists, and cover other basic expenses.

Karlie Van Arnam

Karlie Van Arnam in District 5

Karlie Van Arnam, the general manager of Pure Medical, a Colorado Springs medical cannabis company, has raised close to $5,000. She has received two sizable contributions from the cannabis industry. Pure Medical pitched in $1,000, while another $1,000 donation came from the Vail-based owner of Rocky Road Remedies, a cannabis company with two medical dispensaries in the Springs. 

Van Arnam has also brought in separate contributions of $500 from Rockstar Marble & Granite and Auto Tech Plaza, two Colorado Springs businesses. She received $1,000 from Bruce Kristoff, an excavator and owner of B&K Enterprises. She has also chipped in $650 of her own money to her campaign. 

She has spent almost $1,000 mostly on signs and banners, as well as election data from the city. 

True to his promise to not take any campaign contributions, real estate agent Justin Hermes has so far self-funded his bid. Instead of asking for money, he’s encouraging supporters to donate to local nonprofits, or to spend at businesses hurt by the pandemic. 

Justin Hermes

Justin Hermes in District 5

“I think it’s a time where the bars, restaurants, and nonprofits need money,” Hermes said in an interview. “When the bars and restaurants are getting hammered, and we’re out here asking people for money for postcards and street signs, it’s a joke. Go buy a beer and a steak.”

According to his Feb. 15 filing, he pumped in over $2,000 to his campaign, and has spent the majority of it on street signs, door hangers, and his campaign website. He says that he plans to spend no more than $6,000 on this election and wants to prove a successful campaign can be run on such a budget. 

Mary Elizabeth Fabian, a photographer and small business owner, has raised over $3,000 for her campaign, but has spent only about $50. In an interview, she spoke about the importance in investing in herself, and to this end, she has given her campaign $1,000, loaned it another $500, and bought voter reports for her campaign. The rest of her campaign funds have come from 16 donors, with an average contribution of roughly $100. 

Notably, the largest outside donor was Carrie Geitner, a Republican El Paso County Commissioner (also the wife of Republican state representative Tim Geitner), who donated $275 to Fabian’s campaign.

In the race for a seat on city council in District 6, which arches through eastern and northeastern Colorado Springs and stretches as far west as Dublin Boulevard, incumbent James Michael “Mike” O’Malley, a U.S. Department of Transportation adviser, gave about $1,100 to himself in campaign reporting periods from Jan. 15 to Feb. 1, $59 of which he spent on U.S. Postal Service fees. O’Malley also spent around $80 for a telephone and one month of service on Jan. 22, which he attributed to being for his campaign. 

At the time this report was written, the city did not have any campaign filing information for Garfield Johnson, despite his indication that he is running a race for the District 6 seat. 

Per Colorado Springs rules for campaign finances, candidates must begin to report donations after raising or spending $20 or more. A spokeswoman for the Colorado Springs City Clerk’s Office said it was possible that Garfield Johnson had not yet reached this threshold.

 

Disclosure: Colorado Springs Indy founder and chairman John Weiss, and his son, Teddy Weiss, are involved with Richard Skorman's City Council campaign. Neither is involved in Indy political endorsements nor in covering election news.

 

Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Gary Feffer's surname. We regret the error.