"My wife and I are in our mid-sixties. My wife is a cancer survivor, colon cancer," says Gruber. "We started talking, and if I had done another four years on council, it’d be another four years of focusing on that as a primary job. It’s probably time for us to go out and enjoy ourselves."
Gruber's decision not to run, which he announced early May 11 on the Peter Boyles Show, ensures that Aurora City Council will look vastly different next year. At least three of the other ten members will not be running again, either.
At-large-councilwoman Allison Hiltz, who first ran as a Democrat but is now unaffiliated, also decided not to go for a second term. She recently gave birth to her first child and plans to spend time focusing on her son, she says.
Nicole Johnston, who represents Ward II and held the mayor pro tem title for a year, also decided not to run again so that she could spend more time with her family. (She, too, ran as a Democrat but is now unaffiliated.) In fact, Johnston is resigning in June in order to move to Colorado Springs so that her kids can be closer to their father.
Marsha Berzins, a Republican who serves as the councilmember for Ward III, is term-limited. meaning that she'll be replaced by someone else in November.
Councilwoman Crystal Murillo, a Democrat who represents Ward I, is the only current member of council whose term will be up in November and has announced another run.
Hiltz, Johnston and Murillo were all elected in November 2017, adding a Democratic trio to the typically conservative council. In November 2019, Juan Marcano and Alison Coombs, who describe themselves as Democratic Socialists, upset two incumbents. Their victories resulted in a council split between five members leaning to the right and five to the left.
As a result, key votes on such contentious items as raising Aurora's minimum wage or establishing an immigrant legal defense fund have been decided by razor-thin margins, with Mayor Mike Coffman, who previously represented Aurora and surrounding areas in the U.S. Congress as a Republican, often breaking ties over the past sixteen months.
The members of council whose seats aren't up for re-election include Angela Lawson, a former Republican who is now unaffiliated; Curtis Gardner, who bills himself as libertarian-minded; and Francoise Bergan, a Republican currently serving as mayor pro tem.
In addition to Murillo, three other candidates have been campaigning for the Ward I seat. A single candidate is currently running for Johnston's Ward II seat, while two candidates are running for the Ward III seat being vacated by Berzins. Five candidates are now vying to replace Hiltz and Gruber in the at-large seats.