Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify the status of Suzanne Jones and Cindy Carlisle.
Boulder’s six-seat city council race is heating up.
Competition for campaign funding and backing from local political organizations is growing for the Nov. 5 election, in which seats held by Mayor Suzanne Jones, Councilwomen Cindy Carlisle and Lisa Morzel are up for grabs. Morzel is term-limited, while Jones and Carlisle are opting not to run for another term.
Incumbents Bob Yates and Aaron Brockett are also gunning for re-election. A sixth seat was vacated mid-term when Jill Adler Grano resigned to work for U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse. That seat will be filled for two years to complete what would have been her full term.
Endorsements from advocacy groups have rung in for 11 of the 15 candidates, helping clarify whose support is coming from the pro-growth versus slow-growth ideologies, respectively aimed at solving the city’s housing affordability woes and preventing environmental harm and greater impacts to open space potentially tied to population hikes.
Gaps between candidates’ campaign fundraising and spending have also widened over the last several weeks, as council hopefuls appear to be moving at varied paces to get their respective messages off the ground.
Some unofficial campaign committees, formed not by candidates themselves but individuals and groups outside the race intending to do their own campaigning on candidates’ behalf, have also taken shape and begun fundraising but have done hardly any spending.
2019 Boulder City Council Candidates
- Aaron Brockett, an incumbent council member
- Andy Celani, retired owner of closed Smooth Motors used car business
- Paul Cure, vice president of Historic Boulder and co-founder of an organic farm
- Brian Dolan, owner of a classic car importing and restoration business
- Benita Duran, former assistant city manager and current redevelopment consultant
- Rachel Friend, an attorney representing asylum seekers in immigration proceedings
- Junie Joseph, a law student at the University of Colorado
- Corina Julca, who plans to respond Tuesday to a Camera inquiry on their background
- Nikki McCord, a diversity and recruitment services consultant
- Mark McIntyre, a Transportation Advisory Board member
- Gala Orba, owner of a life coaching firm who specializes in helping people make career changes
- Susan Peterson, a retired engineer and marketing executive
- Adam Swetlik, a sales and marketing employee at a Boulder honey business
- Mark Wallach, a former real estate and corporate attorney and real estate developer
- Bob Yates, an incumbent council member
(Top four vote earners to receive four-year terms, fifth and sixth winners will receive two-year terms; voters are able to vote for six or fewer candidates.)
So far, two slow-growth groups have voiced support for the same five candidates. The groups, Together4Boulder and PLAN-Boulder County, both endorsed Dolan, Julca, Peterson, Swetlik and Wallach.
“In making endorsements, PLAN-Boulder looks for candidates with views that support our organization’s mission of good governance, slow and careful growth and good planning while at the same time reducing our carbon footprint and environmental impact,” PLAN said this week in a news release.
But PLAN also noted the other 10 candidates have “many admirable qualities,” declining to make an endorsement for the final open seat because “PLAN-Boulder feels that there are many good options for filling the sixth council seat, and we are confident that the community will choose wisely.”
Together4Boulder wrote in a release that it backed the five candidates because it felt they would be best to address what it sees as excessively rapid growth in the city.
“We feel Boulder is currently on an aggressive growth trajectory fed by big money investors,” Together4Boulder stated in the release. “This type of growth threatens the welfare of the community as a whole, and undermines the essence of Boulder’s charm — the very thing that attracted this unchecked growth in the first place. We feel this is an out of balance, unsustainable, and an environmentally unsound path.”
The Coalition, a conglomerate of several local political action groups, including the pro-growth Better Boulder, also endorsed five candidates: Brockett, Duran, Friend, Joseph and McIntyre.
“There is an overwhelming desire in our community to ensure that we are harnessing diverse viewpoints to lead our community forward,” Matt Benjamin, executive director for the Coalition, stated this week in a news release. “We want a Boulder where our seniors can safely and affordably age in place, where our kids can play on open space, where social justice isn’t just a tagline, and where our schools and small businesses are thriving.”
Yates has attracted support from three of the Coalition’s partners, Better Boulder, Open Boulder and South Boulder Creek Action Group.
The Coalition release said the group advocates creating a range of “housing opportunities that will reduce traffic congestion and carbon emissions.”
A recent report by several Colorado nonprofits concluding worker in-commuting traffic would be reduced through “compact housing” options created through higher density allowance in some areas of the city has drawn skepticism from slow-growth proponents and Councilman Sam Weaver.
Open Boulder, in addition to backing Yates, vocalized support for the same five candidates as the Coalition.
“Open Boulder connects citizens of all ages to our government and nature,” Open Boulder Chair Michelle Estrella stated in a news release. “Our progressive vision includes access to open space, responsible stewardship, and an open and inclusive Boulder. These candidates really represent the best hope of Boulder becoming a more welcoming, inclusive and healthy community.”
Four candidates, Brockett, Wallach, Duran and Friend, have qualified for matching funds provided by the city on the campaign trail. Boulder’s matching funds program allows the qualified official election committees to use city money for up to 50% of the $20,740 expenditure limit for matching funds campaigns. Eligible candidates are those who apply to the program and raise 10% of the expenditure limit only from contributors who are an actual individual person.
Boulder City Clerk’s online records show Wallach remains out front in both fundraising and spending, with $9,456 in contributions, all of which qualifies for matching funds, with $4,460 in expenses.
Duran is second fundraising, with $7,170 in contributions, $6,995 of which is eligible for matching funds, with $2,965 in spending. Friend has gained $6,525 in contributions, $6,050 of which is eligible for matching funds, with $2,470 in spending. Brockett stands at $6,270 in contributions, all of which is eligible for matching funds, with $1,460 in spending.
Yates leads non-matching funds contributions, with $4,488 raised and $663 in spending. McCord, who has said she is not seeking endorsements from any advocacy groups because she feels they have divided the city’s residents, trails with $3,140 raised and $25 in spending. Orba has raised $2,923 and spent $2,849. Peterson has raised $2,258 and spent $1,908. Celani has raised $1,205 and not yet spent anything, while Swetlik is the only other candidate with more than $1,000 in contributions, at $1,150 with $102 in spending.
The remaining candidates have raised between $100 and $500 and done little spending, with Cure leading at $377 in expenditures despite only $100 in contributions.
The PLAN unofficial candidate committee has raised $1,500, but not spent any money, while Together4Boulder has raised $675 and spent $22. Coalition affiliate Boulder Progressives has raised $100 and not spent anything, while Better Boulder has raised $50, with the Coalition itself not yet having raised any money.
Although candidates have varying amounts filed with the city clerk’s office, they are not required to file a full disclosure of their funds until Sept. 24, unless they are matching funds candidates and have met the threshold to receive city funds.