Carla Madison's death threw the District 8 race into turmoil. Eventually, 38 candidates sought her seat, with predictions that 2,500 votes would win the day. Turns out, though, that far fewer were needed.
According to "unofficial final" results, Wil Alston and Albus Brooks will compete in a June 7 runoff, even though neither managed to collect more than 800 votes.
The turnout in District 8 wasn't notably worse than in other parts of the city. Figures from the Denver Elections Division show a vote total there of 7,451. This amount falls short of the 12,440 ballots cast in the highly competitive District 5 contest, led by Steve Saunders and Mary Beth Susman, but it tops District 9's 5,686, among others.
Problem is, District 8 voters had to write in the candidate of their choice, because ballots had already been printed when Madison died. In the end, the write-in tally was 5,361, more than 2,000 fewer than the total -- meaning, presumably, that plenty of people backed the late Madison, even though officials have stressed for weeks that votes for her would not be counted. And because the write-ins that did count were divvied up among 38 people, Alston and Brooks outdistanced their competitors with just 779 and 771 votes, respectively. Madison's widower, Paul Weiss, finished third with 621.
Despite the "unofficial" tag on these totals, Brooks is moving forward with his campaign, according to spokesman George Merritt. "Albus doesn't want to waste any time," he says. "He wants to get right to work."
Merritt doesn't see the number of votes Brooks collected as puny under the circumstances. "It's asking a lot to have someone remember your name and write in it when there are 37 other candidates," he says. "It took a lot of education and a lot of support -- a lot of hard work on everybody's part."
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Fortunately, at least one of these chores looks to be off the table for the June 7 runoff. The names of both Alston and Brooks should be on the ballots.
More from our Calhoun: Wake-Up Call archive: "Carla Madison: With city councilwoman's death, Denver is a little less colorful."