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Yolanda Avila headed to surprise win in Colorado Springs District 4

April 4, 2017 Updated: April 5, 2017 at 9:39 am
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photo - Yolanda Avila, right, is congratulated by Barb Van Hoy as early results show Avila leading in the race for City Council District 4 in the 2017 Municipal Election Tuesday, April 4, 2017. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette
Yolanda Avila, right, is congratulated by Barb Van Hoy as early results show Avila leading in the race for City Council District 4 in the 2017 Municipal Election Tuesday, April 4, 2017. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette 

A City Council newcomer with longtime roots in southeast Colorado Springs appeared poised for victory Tuesday evening in the three-way race for District 4.

Yolanda L. Avila had garnered 2,340 votes - 41 percent of ballots and likely enough to unseat first-term incumbent Helen Collins.

"I really connected with my community," said Avila, crowded by supporters at her campaign party. "I saw them at the doors; I talked to them on the phone."

Deborah L. Hendrix was in second with 1,781 votes, or 31 percent of the vote. Collins was last with 1,618 votes, or 28 percent of the unofficial preliminary results.

ELECTION HIGHLIGHTS

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Avila, a legally blind Colorado College graduate, lost an at-large bid two years ago. Still, she knows the council's chambers well - having often attended City Council meetings with her guide dog, Puma, by her side.

Avila has lived most of her life in southeast Colorado Springs, save for a 21-year hiatus in California.

Her family still lives in the same southeast Colorado Springs house her parents purchased in 1967, and Avila lives a half-mile from there.

An advocate for improved mass transportation and services for the disabled, Avila said she relied on 200 volunteers to garner support.

Her first order of business: "Make sure we get our fair share of city resources."

Meanwhile, Hendrix appeared headed for the same fate as her previous campaign for the District 4 seat.

Hendrix lost to Collins during the 2013 race and led an unsuccessful recall effort against her in 2015.

Hendrix overwhelmed her opponents in fundraising - raking in more than twice as many donations as her closest challenger. She brought in $49,361 from at least 58 supporters as of March 26, the most recent campaign finance filing deadline. She relied heavily on endorsements from the Housing & Building Association of Colorado Springs and Colorado Springs Forward to pad her campaign's coffers.

Avila raised $18,838 from about 155 donors, and Collins raised $4,627 from about 30 donors.

"I believe that if it was meant to be, it would have happened," Hendrix said. "If it's not, then the voters have spoken."

A Gazette call to Collins shortly after the initial vote announcement was not returned.

Voter turnout again dramatically trailed other districts.

Only about 5,700 votes were cast in the three-way race - failing to eclipse even District 2's uncontested race, where 7,059 votes were cast for lone candidate David Geislinger. Other races garnered more than 14,000 votes.

It mimicked turnout results in the 2013 City Council election, which saw less than half as many voters in District 4 cast ballets as in other races.

Even so, Avila said the support she received was of a special brand - that of personal relationships cultivated over decades.

"It's like a family," she said of District 4. "My heart is completely in it."

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Gazette reporter Rich Laden contributed to this report.

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