Big money and deep community ties proved an effective combination as Richard Skorman and Steve Bach muscled their way Tuesday into a runoff to become Colorado Springs’ first strong mayor.
(See the results box for results as of 10:28 p.m. Tuesday)
Skorman, a downtown businessman and former city councilman, and Bach, a longtime commercial real estate broker, were the top two vote-getters in a field of seven, according to early returns. Final election results are expected mid-afternoon today, after City Clerk Kathryn Young announced she was sending her election workers home for the night with 10,000 votes still to be counted.
Since no candidate received a majority vote in early returns, Skorman and Bach will likely face each other in a runoff in another all-mail ballot election May 17.
“I’m completely excited and honored to be the frontrunner at this point,” Skorman said as the first set of results came in.
“Now there’s a campaign ahead of us to distinguish ourselves.”
Bach said he was feeling “energized” and “excited” about the results.
“Richard Skorman and I just talked,” Bach said about 9:30 p.m.
“He’s a gentleman, and I believe I am, and we’ll run these next six weeks, he and I, just talking about our differing perspectives on how to move our community forward,” he said. “That’s what this should be about, is the issues, not about personalities.”
With about 10,000 votes still to be counted, turnout in this year’s election is expected to total nearly 84,000.
That exceeds the 2003 turnout of 81,719 as the highest since at least 1995, according to reports on the city clerk’s website.
The nearly 84,000 votes represent a turnout of more than 55 percent of 151,412 eligible voters.
Councilman Tom Gallagher, who was heading toward a fourth-place finish, predicted the race would get “ugly” in the weeks ahead.
“It’s going to be an ugly six weeks full of 527s and attack ads,” he said, referring to special interest groups expected to exert themselves in the campaign. “He who at the end looks least like a sleaze ball will win.”
Skorman told supporters that he would be a positive voice for the city.
“We have another six weeks — not that long,” Skorman said. “We’re going to hit the ground running. We made lots of plans for this. And we’re going to win this thing.”
Skorman, who raised nearly $255,000 and still has about $40,000 left in the bank, said he expects to run TV ads but focus on talking to voters directly over the phone and in door-to-door campaigning in the weeks ahead.
“This is a battle that’s going to be won by our ground game,” Skorman said during his victory speech.
Bach raised $195,000 and has about $14,000 cash on hand.
He said he and his wife, Suzi, will walk neighborhoods to find out what’s important to citizens. They’ll also call voters and use social networking tools such as Twitter and Facebook to connect with voters.
Bach said his message of transforming city government “so it works for everyone again” without raising taxes resonated with voters. So did his pledge to create stable, good-paying jobs, he said.
“I think people just felt comfortable that I represent a fresh approach,” he said.
Homebuilder Brian Bahr, who was in China on Tuesday finalizing the adoption of two little girls, finished third with about 15 percent of the vote. His campaign manager, Kyle Fisk, conceded about 8:30 p.m.
“We ran a great race, and we came up a little bit short,” Fisk said.
Dave Munger, who finished in fifth place, said it was vital for the next mayor to “value two-way communication with the public.”
“While the election did not turn out the way I would have liked, I am privileged to have been part of this process and to have participated in this historic and important election,” he said in a statement.
“I wish Richard Skorman and Steve Bach good luck as they continue their journey.”