The race for Colorado Springs mayor is on, and two well-known political figures are first out of the gate with intentions of becoming the city's next CEO.
On Tuesday, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers said he is in the race for mayor. Suthers, 62, had been mulling the option for months. He met with Mayor Steve Bach six months ago to let him know that he was eyeing the mayor's seat.
Suthers' announcement comes after El Paso County Commissioner Amy Lathen, 46, announced on Labor Day that she intends to run for mayor, a position that pays an annual salary of $96,000.
Meanwhile, Bach said through a city spokeswoman Tuesday that he is focused on preparing the 2015 budget, which is due to the City Council in October, and he has not made a decision on whether he will seek re-election.
In August, Bach told a group of Republicans during a breakfast meeting that he was 99 percent sure he did not want a second four-year term as mayor. Later that day, he told The Gazette he would make a decision in the fall about running for a second term.
Bach was elected in a runoff election as the city's first strong mayor in 2011, after voters in 2010 changed the city's charter from a council-manager to a council- mayor form of government. Under the new form of government, the mayor is the city's chief executive and the head of the city government and the job is full time.
Suthers said he's in the race no matter what Bach decides. He grew up in Colorado Springs, and he's watched it grow from 40,000 people to 440,000, he said. He supports the City for Champions proposal and said he will vote in favor of the regional stormwater initiative scheduled for the November ballot. The city, Suthers said, is in desperate need of what he called "collaborative leadership."
"I have, as others have, seen the city lose traction," he said. "We are somewhat stalled."
Suthers described himself as someone who is decisive and works well with others. He was twice elected district attorney of the 4th Judicial District and he's managed the state's Department of Corrections, which has 6,000 employees and a half-billion-dollar budget.
Suthers was appointed attorney general in 2005 to fill the seat of Ken Salazar, who was elected to the U.S. Senate. He won the seat in 2006 and 2010.
"I will thank him (Bach) for taking on the difficult task of being the first strong mayor," Suthers said. "This is a new world for the mayor. Having said that, there is no question in my mind that there could be some huge improvements in the mayor's office to promote communication and perhaps move us forward on a variety of issues."
Lathen said she anticipated Suthers' announcement and is unwavering in her quest for the office. She will soon roll out her position on city and regional issues, but a key point is a call for a cultural change in communication and among city elected officials, she said. Suthers and Lathen, both Republicans, could find themselves vying for the same voters, leaving the field wide open for a Democrat, said council member Jan Martin.
"It's a real opportunity for someone," Martin said. "It's not going to be me."
Richard Skorman, an independent who ran for mayor against Bach, said he won't try again. But if the past is any indication, Martin said, there could be a half-dozen or more candidates for mayor. In 2011, nine people ran for the seat.
"It's going to be fascinating," she said. "Let's hope the field keeps filling with good people."