Colorado Springs City Hall

Colorado Springs City Hall. (Gazette file)

As ballots for the nonpartisan April 4 municipal election begin hitting residents' mailboxes, city officials are already preparing for the likely possibility that two candidates will head for a showdown in May as they campaign to become Colorado Springs' next mayor.

With 12 candidates in the crowded running to succeed Mayor John Suthers, who cannot run again for the office because of term limits, city officials and outside experts say a runoff election to determine Colorado Springs' next top leader is almost a guarantee. To win the mayor's seat in a general municipal election, a candidate must receive a majority of votes — or 50% of the vote, plus one vote — to avoid a runoff election between the top two vote-getters in the mayoral race, City Clerk Sarah Johnson said.

"With near certainty, there will be a runoff," said Peter Braza, professor and chair of the mathematics department at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. "In essence, the votes will be spread so thin among the 12 candidates that no one will reach, or frankly, probably even come close to 50%."

If none of the mayoral candidates earn a majority of votes in the April 4 election, the city will hold a runoff election only 42 days later on May 16, Johnson said.

In a runoff, the candidate who earns the most votes will be named mayor, she said.

Johnson's office is essentially working on two elections at the same time, she said. Her office mailed ballots for the all-mail April 4 election to voters Friday. If a runoff happens, Johnson's office is working to mail out ballots on April 21, though it has until May 1 to do so.

The provision in city code for mayoral runoff elections came after the city around 2010 rewrote its charter to adopt a voter-approved strong mayor form of government, Johnson said. Under that structure, an elected mayor — not a city manager — is Colorado Springs' full-time chief executive, with the power to enforce laws and ordinances, create a strategic plan for the city and submit to the City Council an annual budget, among others. The City Council acts as the legislative branch.

If it happens in May, this would be the third mayoral runoff election in Colorado Springs' history, Johnson said.

The first was in 2011, when Steve Bach edged out Richard Skorman, a businessman and former city councilman. Bach earned 57% of the vote in the 2011 runoff election to Skorman's 42%.

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The second time was in 2015, when Suthers was elected to his first term as mayor. That year, Suthers earned about 67.5% of the runoff election vote over the 32% challenger Mary Lou Makepeace earned. Makepeace is also a former mayor, elected as Colorado Springs' first female mayor in 1997.

In 2019, Suthers won his bid for reelection with a resounding 72.5% of the vote, so there was no runoff.

Electing a mayor by majority of votes, and not a plurality, can help ensure a leader is elected whom the majority of voters don't object to, said Professor Josh Dunn, chairman of the political science department at UCCS.

"This is a way of making certain whoever wins isn't strongly opposed by a lot of the electorate, which could happen if (the system) is just whomever gets the most votes wins," Dunn said. 

Johnson encouraged voters to cast their ballots in the April 4 election and not to wait to vote in a possible mayoral runoff, she said. On April 4, voters will choose their next mayor, will select four candidates to fill four City Council seats, and will also decide whether to extend a dedicated Trails, Open Space and Parks (TOPS) tax for another 20 years, she said.

"A lot of people will take a look at the ballot and say, 'There's too many choices. I'll just wait for the runoff.' But you don't get a choice, then, of who the top two (mayoral candidates in the runoff) are, and you don't get a chance to vote for council or the ballot issue," Johnson said.

Mayoral candidates include businesswoman and former Colorado Springs City Councilwoman and El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark; professional standup comedian and model Kallan Reece Rodebaugh; former CIA security contractor John "Tig" Tiegen; entrepreneur and former Colorado Springs Small Business Development administrator Yemi Mobolade; electrical engineering contractor Christopher Mitchell; community advocate Lawrence Joseph Martinez; El Paso County Commissioner Longinos Gonzalez Jr.; Colorado Springs City Council President Tom Strand; small-business owners Andrew Dalby and Jim Miller; former Councilman and El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn; and Councilman Wayne Williams, who also is a former secretary of state and county commissioner.

Eleven candidates are running to fill three at-large City Council seats, each for a four-year term. They are entrepreneur Jaymen Johnson; businessman and Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance founder David Leinweber; businesswoman Lynette Crow-Iverson; political newcomer Katherine "Kat" Gayle; architect and El Paso County Planning Commission chairman Brian Risley; professor Roland Rainey Jr.; business owner and entrepreneur Glenn Carlson; businessman Jay Inman; public relations professional and community volunteer Chineta Davis; chaplain and former state Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt; and entrepreneur Jane Northrup Glenn.

In the race to serve the remaining two years of the term for Council District 3, entrepreneur Michelle Renee Talarico will face Scott Hiller, the chief of geosciences for a national engineering firm.

Only voters in District 3 will get to vote in that race.


Breeanna Jent covers Colorado Springs City Hall. She has previously covered El Paso County government and worked as the editorial assistant for the Pikes Peak Newspapers. She joined their sister paper, The Gazette, in 2020.

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