Bryan Lindstrom, an Aurora high school history teacher and registered Democrat, has announced his candidacy in the race. Lindstrom, who ran for Aurora City Council in a different ward in 2019, is facing off against Steve Sundberg, Robert J. Hamilton III and Jessica Giammalvo in the Ward 2 race.
"We have no Democratic candidate, and I’ve gotten asked by community members, former students, elected officials — and I need to step up," says the 33-year-old Lindstrom, who was born and raised in Aurora. "There’s a need. Without six votes willing to solve the problems of that need, then nothing gets done."
Aurora City Council comprises representatives from the city's six wards and four at-large members. While technically non-partisan, members have split along party lines in key votes in recent years. Since the 2019 election, the council has had five Democrat or former Democrat-turned-unaffiliated members, as well as four Republican and a former Republican-turned-unaffiliated member. With Mayor Mike Coffman, a former Republican congressman, having the tie-breaking vote, many progressive and liberal agenda items, such as a minimum-wage increase, have been rejected.
Nicole Johnston, one of the left-leaning members who had been representing Ward 2, resigned in June in order to spend more time with her family; she's moving to Colorado Springs so that her kids can be closer to their father.
Since Johnston left, Aurora City Council has gotten into several deadlocks trying to fill the Ward 2 seat, unable to agree on whether to appoint Ryan Ross, a Democrat, or Sundberg, a Republican.
The Ward 2 seat is just one of the openings that could lead to big changes in November.
Dave Gruber, an outspoken Republican, decided not to run for re-election, so his at-large seat is up for grabs. Allison Hiltz, a left-leaning member, is not running again. Marsha Berzins, a Republican, is term-limited. Counting Johnson, that leaves four incumbents who will not be running again.
Crystal Murillo, a Democrat representing Ward 1, is seeking re-election to her seat. The other spots are not up this year.
Lindstrom's decision to run in Ward 2, a huge district that spans parts of east, central, north and northeast Aurora, offers hope to Democrats that they can get a majority on council — for perhaps the first time.
A history teacher at Hinkley High School, Lindstrom wants to focus on housing, among other issues.
"About 15 percent of my students deal with unstable housing, so I pour my heart and soul into my classroom teaching history, but I can’t teach our way out of poverty. I can’t teach our way out of housing insecurity, food insecurity, things like that," he says. "To build a strong community inside and outside of my classroom, I have to be where I can make decisions that move us toward those issues."
He supports a minimum-wage increase, and also strongly rejects the idea of an Aurora camping ban. Coffman wants to introduce such a ban, but so far hasn't been able to secure enough votes to secure its passage.
"I think that’s a terrible idea. We know — we’ve spent decades researching — that you don’t solve homelessness by criminalizing it. We know it costs more money to do that. It costs roughly twice as much money to police homelessness," says Lindstrom, adding that the solution to homelessness is "housing people, providing people with wraparound services, and providing a housing-first model."
A council that leans Democratic could also take a closer look at the Aurora Police Department, which has stumbled from one disaster to the next, from the death of Elijah McClain to the recent pistol-whipping video that led to the arrest of two cops.
Lindstrom supports the idea of setting up an independent monitor to watch over law enforcement in Aurora "as long as they have teeth," he says. "That’s the big thing. They need to be independent and they need to have teeth."
In 2019, Lindstrom ran against Republican incumbent Françoise Bergan in the Ward Six race, and lost.
"I ran my heart out in 2019, and I was exhausted from it," he recalls. After that, he and his wife moved in order to be nearer Hinkley High School, which happens to be in Ward 2.
Lindstrom had planned on supporting Idris Keith, a Democrat who'd already declared for the Ward 2 spot. When Keith dropped out of the race —and after Ross, the potential interim appointee, had made it clear he wasn’t going to run for the permanent seat — Lindstrom says he decided to pick up the torch.”
"I do it reluctantly, in the fact that it doesn’t have to be me," he explains. "But I’m willing for it to be me, because somebody needs to do it. And politics is tough. When you do politics the way I believe politics should be done — which is, you don’t take dirty money — it’s hard because you have to do the work, and it’s lonely. I have had time to think about it. I have had time to recuperate, and I’m very excited to do this.
"Like I said, it doesn’t have to be me, but I think my values are what are needed in this city. I think I explain those values very well."
Update: This story has been updated to add two more candidates running for Ward 2.