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Turnout lags as campaign dollars pile up in Tuesday's Colorado Springs council races

April 1, 2017 Updated: April 3, 2017 at 7:35 am
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More than $800,000 has been raised for candidates in the Colorado Springs City Council election Tuesday, for jobs that will pay the six victors an annual salary of $6,250. That averages more than $100,000 in campaign money per council seat.

The largest amount by far was by Colorado Citizens Protecting our Constitution, which through Friday reported raising $259,000 in "dark money." The term refers to the nonprofit not having to report who its donors are under an IRS exemption.

The contributions were from the final campaign finance reports before Tuesday's election. Another round is due May 5.

Colorado Citizens Protecting our Constitution has spent money in four district races - 3, 4, 5 and 6.

In District 3, CCPOC mailers have promoted Chuck Fowler and disparaged Richard Skorman. In District 5, its mailers boost challenger Lynette Crow-Iverson and criticize Council President Pro Tem Jill Gaebler.

In the District 6 contest, the group has backed Councilman Andres G. Pico's re-election.

It also has paid for pamphlets and automated phone calls in districts 4, 5 and possibly others.

CCPOC is backing most of the same candidates who have been endorsed by and received contributions from developers, the Housing & Building Association and Colorado Springs Forward, a political policy group promoting economic development.

Other candidates also have raised significant campaign funds, relying instead on smaller, individual contributions.

Skorman raised the most of all council candidates - $77,285 from at least 483 donors.

Most HBA-backed contenders are right behind him.

Crow-Iverson has $70,548, from about 77 donors. Fowler has $66,395, from about 74 backers. Greg Basham has $49,950 from at least 35 people in his District 1 run against Councilman Don Knight. Deborah L. Hendrix, a challenger in District 4, has received $49,361 from at least 58 supporters. And Pico has $32,460 from about 40 donors.

Gaebler bests Pico in fundraising with $43,175 from at least 330 donors. And Yolanda L. Avila raised $18,838 from about 155 donors for the District 4 seat.

While the dollars are piling high in the council contests, votes aren't.

Only 56,148 of about 263,000 ballots mailed to voters had been returned as of mid-Friday, City Clerk Sarah Johnson reported.

That amounts to a turnout of 22 percent, but voters have till 7 p.m. Tuesday to deliver their ballots. The 2015 election for half as many positions - mayor and two at-large council members - had nearly 40 percent turnout.

Voters in District 1, the city's northwest sector, had turned in the most ballots at midday Friday: 11,964 in the Knight-vs.-Basham contest.

District 3 voters, living in the Broadmoor area, west side and southern downtown, were next with 11,889 ballots in the race between Skorman and Fowler.

And 11,027 voters had submitted ballots in the heated contest between Gaebler and Crow-Iverson, one of whom will represent the city's center, including the Old North End.

Voters in northernmost District 2 - where David Geislinger is unopposed - had sent in 9,335 ballots, compared with 4,290 from District 4, which has historically low turnout.

Councilwoman Helen Collins, Avila and Hendrix are vying for that seat to represent southeast Colorado Springs.

District 6 in the east has the most candidates: Melanie Bernhardt, Pico, Robert M. Burns and former state Rep. Janak Joshi; 7,643 ballots had been submitted from there.

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