In a wild turn of events, two progressive candidates have ousted more conservative incumbents from Aurora City Council.
If the final unofficial results hold, Aurora City Council will comprise five Democrats, four Republicans and one unaffiliated member, which marks a huge shift in the ideological makeup of the historically conservative-leaning political body.
"It’s a game-changer. If these results hold steady, the possibilities are endless on how we can re-shift our focus from prioritizing people with money to prioritizing the people of Aurora, and not just industries who might write you a big campaign check," says Allison Hiltz, one of three Democrats elected to council in 2017.
Final unofficial returns show that progressive candidate Juan Marcano has defeated the centrist incumbent Charlie Richardson by 230 votes, and progressive Alison Coombs has beaten Republican Bob Roth by 261 votes. Both margins are well outside of automatic-recount territory. According to the Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorder's Office, 1,000 ballots need to be cured by voters because of an issue with their signatures. Not all of the ballots are for the Aurora election, so the number of ballots that can actually alter the city council races is small.
Marcano and Coombs's victories mean that city council will begin prioritizing more left-leaning policies, like stricter oil and gas regulations and increasing affordable housing, Hiltz says.
"There’s been frustration over the past two years on our deference to oil and gas and development," she explains. "Now, we can actually start talking about things like an affordable-housing requirement."
The addition of two more Democrats to the council is a continuation of a leftward shift that began in 2017, when Hiltz and two other Democrats, Crystal Murillo and Nicole Johnston, won their seats. They formed a progressive bloc, but often couldn't overcome the Republicans on council.
The five progressives on council not only hold the majority, but also have a likely ally in the lone unaffiliated member, Angela Lawson. A former Republican, Lawson, an at-large member, regularly sides with the Democrats. (Fellow at-large councilmember Johnny Watson lost this election and will be replaced by Curtis Gardner, another Republican.)
Final unofficial results also show former Republican Congressman Mike Coffman as the winner of the Aurora mayoral race. Coffman eked out a win after garnering just 273 more votes than Democrat Omar Montgomery. A difference of 131 votes or less would trigger an automatic recount.
The Aurora mayor serves as the tie-breaking vote when council is split. If the five Democrats couldn't get Lawson to side with them on an issue, Coffman could break the tie, likely in favor of Republicans.
Not all decisions made by Aurora City Council are decided along partisan lines, but key votes that relate to things like oil and gas, development and the immigration detention facility in Aurora often are.
"I'm personally looking forward to having additional support on holding GEO [Group] accountable for operating in the city the way it does," Hiltz says in reference to the ICE detention facility, which is run by the private prison company. "I think we can get a bit more creative."
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