Conservative firebrand, former state representative and lightning rod for controversy Gordon Klingenschmitt announced Friday that he will run for an at-large seat on the Colorado Springs City Council.
“My main concern is that our city has gone to the left, especially with regard to over-taxation,” Klingenschmitt said.
“This is Colorado Springs. We are a conservative town. This is not Boulder.”
A former Navy chaplain and internet televangelist, Klingenschmitt served one term in Colorado’s House, representing District 15 on Colorado Springs’ east side from 2015 to 2017. He lost a 2016 bid for a state Senate seat in District 12, which was won by Republican Bob Gardner, and toyed with the idea of running for state Rep. Tony Exum’s District 17 seat representing southeast Colorado Springs.
An at-large seat on the council piqued Klingenschmitt’s interest, he said, because it offers a chance to combat waste within the government, reduce taxation and shift the council — a nonpartisan group — further right.
“If we elected three conservatives, and every citizen voted for the three most conservative people, we could at least get a 5-4 majority on council,” he said.
If elected, Klingenschmitt said his first priority would be working to reduce Colorado Springs’ sales tax, which sits at 8.25 percent, to “at least” match Denver’s 7.65 percent rate.
Another issue, Klingenschmitt said, is the recently approved stormwater fees that property owners must pay. Homeowners are now billed $5 each month while nonresidential property owners are charged $30 each month.
The fees were resurrected after a push by Mayor John Suthers to establish a dedicated funding source for 71 projects to mitigate floodwaters and pollutants that might harm downstream communities.
The fees are expected to raise about $17 million a year for the city, but Klingenschmitt said churches and nonprofits, such as his own Pray in Jesus Name Ministries, should be exempt.
“Charities and churches should not be paying thousands of dollars when we already give away our money to the poor,” he said.
If those organizations are made exempt from stormwater fees, Klingenschmitt said the city’s lost revenue can be made up by reducing waste within its operations.
Some savings could come from eliminating the annual stipend of $6,250 that council members receive, Klingenschmitt said.
“For 100 years it was a voluntary position,” he said.
Many others have argued that the low stipend — compared with the $113,490 salary for El Paso County commissioners — prevents those who are not already retired or independently wealthy from holding a seat on the council.
Klingenschmitt said he plans to hold fast to his conservative values if elected, despite what others argue.
“I miss the days when we had, say, 8-1 votes and somebody said no,” he said. “I expect to be a ‘no’ vote on most of (the council’s) frivolous spending bills.”
Even in the statehouse, Klingenschmitt was no stranger to standing alone or controversy. He accused then-President Barack Obama of being possessed by demons and claimed then-U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, who is gay, wanted to “join ISIS in beheading Christians.” He later walked back that remark and said it wasn’t serious.
Of those who file for an at-large seat, all three of which are up for grabs, voters will only be able to select their top three candidates.
At-large incumbents Tom Strand and Bill Murray have said they plan to seek re-election, while the third, Merv Bennett, is term-limited.
Klingenschmitt, Strand and Murray will be joined on the ballot by former at-large Councilman Val Snider, who served from 2011 to 2015, and Tony Gioia, an Army veteran and former county planning commissioner.
Terry Martinez, former Will Rogers Elementary School principal, said he is “getting a team together” for a possible bid.
Another high-profile Republican could be on the ballot as well. Outgoing Secretary of State Wayne Williams told The Gazette he also is considering a bid.
Candidates can’t officially file until early January and each must submit 100 valid signatures of Colorado Springs voters.