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Election 2011 city council: Martin leads at-large race

By: R. SCOTT RAPPOLD
March 31, 2011
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photo - Jan Martin, at large Colorado Springs City Council candidate, celebrates as the early results show her leading the polls Tuesday, April 5, 2011 at the Blue Star.  Photo by CHRISTIAN MURDOCK, THE GAZETTE
Jan Martin, at large Colorado Springs City Council candidate, celebrates as the early results show her leading the polls Tuesday, April 5, 2011 at the Blue Star. Photo by CHRISTIAN MURDOCK, THE GAZETTE 

In early election returns, incumbent Councilwoman Jan Martin was leading the pack of at-large council candidates, with 37,962 votes, in the city elections.

Behind her were Val Snider, 28,576; Merv Bennett, 28,547 Brandy Williams, with 28,087; and Tim Leigh, 24,582.

Reform candidate and anti-tax activist Douglas Bruce was farther down the list, but one of the candidates in his “Reform Team” slate was keeping close, with 22,781, in sixth place.

Several people Tuesday night cited a “Skorman factor,” that mayoral candidate Richard Skorman brought out more left-leaning voters.

“I think the left was energized with Skorman running and I think they turned out,” said councilman Sean Paige, who was heading to defeat, in eighth place in the at-large vote.

“I wouldn’t be here if not for Richard,” said Snider.

“Residents wanted candidates who had more of a message and didn’t talk about what they were against,” he said.

Leigh echoed the sentiment though he does not see it as a sign conservative Colorado Springs is turning liberal.

“I think we’re just moderating a little bit and toning down our temper,” he said.

As to the defeat of the Reform Team, which pledged to cut spending and stop the Southern Delivery System water pipeline, Leigh said, “I think the citizens have spoken very loudly that they don’t want to go back 20 years. They want to go forward 20 years.”

Bennett said the election was not one of left versus right.

“They’re people that understand that creating a healthy environment for job development in Colorado Springs is the most critical thing in front of us,” he said of his new council colleagues. “I consider myself conservative. I’m a problem solver, not a problem identifier.”

The voters want to “move the city forward,” said Williams, who would be the youngest on the new council.

Meanwhile, in District 3, downtown and the west side, the race was much closer. Republican newcomer Lisa Czelatdko had a narrow edge over former Democratic state representative Michael Merrifield, 8,500 to 8,345.

Czelatdko claimed victory, though according to the city, there were still 9,000 ballots to be counted.

“I absolutely feel confident. I’m super excited,” she said. “I’ll be like you --- we’ll have to wait and see. Obviously, it’s been a very close race. I’m confident I will be the next D-3 city councilor.”

“That’s a lot of votes. I don’t know how many will be from district 3,” Merrifield said, when told of the outstanding votes. “I would say we still don’t know who won then.”

In District 2, northeast Colorado Springs, Angela Dougan was leading the pack of four candidates with 6,324 votes, 39.90 percent.

“I’m ready to jump in,” said Dougan. She wants to focus on regionalization of parks, building tourism and more efficient government spending.

“Our tax dollars are precious, and we have to use them the best way possible,” she said.

All were vying to serve on the first city council under the new “strong mayor” form of government.

Martin said she would see it as her job to help the six new council members ease into their jobs. Incumbents Scott Hente and Bernie Herpin will also sit on the new council.

The council will hold its first formal meeting April 19, when members will vote for a president to serve in the presiding role now held by the mayor.

Under the new system, the council is the legislative branch of government, confirming the mayor’s top appointees and department heads, as well as all ordinances and the annual budget.

The mayor will have veto power, including a line-item veto the council can override with at least six votes.

Other duties of the council under the new system include making appointments to city boards; putting tax increases on the ballot; acting as the final voice in land-use and eminent domain decision; and overseeing Colorado Springs Utilities.

Since Issue 1A also appeared to be passing, the two at-large winners with the least votes, currently Williams and Leigh, would serve only two years.

Leigh said he was fine with the abbreviated term.

“I’m happy to serve at whatever capacity the citizens have asked me to serve,” he said. years.

Reporters Dave Philipps, Barbara Cotter, Linda Navarro and John Schroyer contributed to this report.

MEET THE LIKELY NEW COUNCIL
At-large:
• Merv Bennett
• Tim Leigh
• Jan Martin (incumbent)
• Val Snider
• Brandy R. Williams
District 2 (northeast Colorado Springs):
• Angela Dougan
District 3 (downtown and west side). Note: The candidates were separated by 155 votes, and the city still had 9,000 ballots to count.
• Lisa Czelatdko (leading)

Incumbents not up for re-election Tuesday:
• Scott Hente
• Bernie Herpin

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