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Christian Murdock/The Gazette

District 4 incumbent Yolanda Avilla, right, celebrates with her daughter Dulce Garcia on April 6 during a watch party at the Club Tilt & Grill after early results showed Avilla leading Colorado Springs City Council candidate Regina English. Garcia and her family from Hunnington Beach, Calif., surprised Avilla to spend the weekend and election day with her.

Three new Colorado Springs City Council members and three incumbents won the six district races in the April 6 election, early returns showed.

The upset came in District 2, the northern portion of the city, with retired Air Force Col. Randy Helms defeating incumbent Councilman Dave Geislinger.

“I am very proud of the campaign that we ran,” Helms said.

The other new faces are, based on early results, retired physician assistant Dave Donelson in District 1 and executive coach Nancy Henjum, in District 5, early returns showed. Both were running for open seats in highly competitive races.

Incumbents Council President Richard Skorman, Councilwoman Yolanda Avila in District 4 and Councilman Mike O’Malley will keep their seats.

The newly elected council members will join a nine-member board and help shape decisions about affordable housing, growth management, parks, wildfires, pandemic recovery and other issues over the next four years.

The new officials will be sworn in April 20, and the council will choose a president to lead them.

The balance of the council stayed largely the same with Henjum winning Jill Gaebler’s seat, who seemed similarly minded. More conservative Councilmen Don Knight and Andy Pico have been replaced with seemingly like-minded Councilmen Donelson and Mike O’Malley in District 1 and District 6, respectively.

In District 2, former Geislinger tended to be more conservative, voting against putting recreational marijuana sales to the vote and backing a plan to decrease the parkland developers designate to the city. Helms has billed himself as a fairly conservative candidate as well, focused on economic and budget issues.

The new council will be made up of four more liberal voices, four more conservative and Councilman Tom Strand, who tends to fall in the middle. City Council races are nonpartisan, and candidates are not identified with any political party on the ballot.

Skorman said he expected the new council to be collegial and work well together, and he didn’t expect extreme positions. “I feel like it’s going to be a group that will work with the mayor,” Skorman said.

Overall voter turnout for the municipal election was low, with 24% of the 310,942 registered and active voters in the city participating, data from city clerk’s office showed. In the last district election, the turnout was about 33%.

All the newly elected council members faced competitive races.

Across six races, 21 candidates were on the ballot. Here’s how they fared:

District 2, north

Helms won about 38% of the votes in early results from the City Clerk’s Office, enough to best Geislinger and two others.

Geislinger was trailing Helms with 32% of the vote, early results showed.

Helms promoted himself as a conservative candidate who would support incentives for businesses to move to the city and reduce regulations if elected.

Helms said April 6 that he knew he faced an uphill battle in the race against the incumbent, but had strong support from his fellow Air Force Academy graduates who were celebrating the early returns with him at a restaurant over wings and iced tea.

He said he expects pandemic recovery will be his top priority after he is sworn in.

“I want to get every business opened up 100%. I believe we can do that safely,” he said.

District 1, northwest

Donelson, a former Army Green Beret and retired physician assistant, led by 48%, early results from the city clerk’s office showed. He was one of four political newcomers who were competing to replace Councilman Don Knight, who was term limited from running again.

Glenn Carlson, a businessman, received 28% of the early vote.

Donelson, 57, has said he expected to prioritize funding for public safety and infrastructure if elected. He found those issues resonated the most with voters.

“Potholes and crime — those are the issues that people want to talk about,” Donelson said, in a previous interview. He said he would like to see the city manage its rapid growth responsibly, but in general, the city is doing a good job with it.

“What we need to do is manage the growth through planned annexation and expansions and infill so we don’t run into problems with water,” he said.

District 5, central

Henjum garnered 37.6% of ballots in the most competitive race, facing four other candidates. Small-business owner Mary Elizabeth Fabian had 25.2% of ballots, early results showed.

Henjum, 60, has lived in the city for 30 years and gained experience in the community working as a social worker and board president for Court-Appointed Special Advocates, a group that works with abused and neglected children in the justice system, she said. She also worked as a facilitator for the Illumination Project that helps police and residents build relationships. She would prioritize affordable housing, infrastructure — including parks, roads, and transit — and affordable and sustainable energy services, she said.

But before she tackles the issues facing the city, Henjum said she wants to foster better communication between residents and the council.

“I want people to know that their voice is important,” Henjum said. “How citizens in my district are feeling about the issues the city faces really matters to me. I think we can always do better in communication.”

District 3, southwest

Skorman led his three competitors by about 59% of ballots, early results from the city clerk’s office showed. Arthur Glynn, a retired Navy officer, was the next highest vote-getter with 18.9%, according to the early results.

“I am very excited and honored that I won and I won by a good margin. ... It’s a relief because I wanted roll my sleeves and get going again,” Skorman said.

Skorman said tackling the affordable housing crisis needs to be the top priority after the election and the city should be as “aggressive and creative” as it can be to create more housing choice. He also aimed to work on increased services for the homeless and address the threat of wildfire, possibly through a new taxing district.

Skorman would also like to see increased funding for parks and more support for businesses recovering from the pandemic, he said during the campaign.

District 4, southeast

Avila, who had received 61.8% of the vote in early returns, soundly defeated her challenger, business owner Regina English, 48, who had 38% of the vote in the two-way race.

During her campaign, the retired criminal defense investigator said she expects to continue working on infrastructure, transit and economic development.

Before she was elected to office in 2017, Avila was a community advocate who fought for transit improvements, among other issues. Avila has said she plans to continue fighting for greater frequency and connectivity of city buses.

District 6, northeast

O’Malley, 60, had garnered 62.5% of ballots compared with Garfield Johnson’s 37.5%, early returns showed. Johnson is a teacher and former Olympic hopeful in judo.

O’Malley, a U.S. Department of Transportation adviser to U.S. Northern Command, was appointed to the City Council in January.

The former Navy Reserve captain and longtime volunteer firefighter said during his campaign his top priority is ensuring the city is ready for a pending $2.6 trillion to $3 trillion federal infrastructure bill. O’Malley began talks with city staff about making sure as many road projects as possible are “shovel ready” if the funding is approved.

Reporter

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

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