Campaign Season Looming for 2015 elections

ElectionCampaign Season Looming for 2015 elections

Rick Langenberg

Nope, it won’t rival the slug match of last November for Teller sheriff and other hot races.

But campaign 2015 will soon get underway with a slew of pivotal elections in Cripple Creek, Victor and Manitou Springs and the two Teller school districts on Nov. 3. In addition, voters could decide the fate of several key ballot questions that will play a big role in determining the future political and fiscal landscape of parts of the region.

Last week marked the deadline for filing paper work for local government entities, school and special districts in declaring their intent to be on the ballot and in making agreements with the Teller and El Paso clerk offices. The actual ballots must be finalized by Sept. 4, meaning that

August will serve as the prime month for candidates who want to enter the various political horse races.

Candidates for nearly 20 elected positions locally can soon start circulating petitions. Contenders for city and school district seats must obtain a limited amount of autographs from registered voters between Aug. 5 and Aug. 28.

Showdowns in Cripple Creek and Victor

Key upcoming elections include the showdown for mayor in Cripple Creek and for two council slots.

Bruce Brown, the current incumbent, can run for a second and final term. However, he hasn’t indicated if he will seek this position again. If Brown enters the race and wins, he would become one of the longest-serving mayors in recent years in Cripple Creek. Brown was first appointed mayor in 2009, following the resignation of Dan Baader. He then handily won the seat in the 2011 municipal election.

Besides the seat of mayor, voters will pick both a Ward Four and Ward Five representative. These seats are currently held by long-time resident Terry Wahrer and local business owner Chris Hazlett.

The town certainly isn’t lacking in issues with big concerns still persisting over the community’s fiscal health, and ways to strengthen the economy. The town government has worked closely with the struggling gaming industry, which recently started offering 24/7 cocktail service as part of a major media blitz and a way to attract more customers. City leaders are hoping that the industry will rebound this year, after getting clobbered by Hwy. 24 flood-related closures for several years and a 2014 downtown construction project. At the same, time infrastructure is a big topic, with the completion of a $5 million main street facelift aimed at revitalizing the downtown. Even with this effort, the town has a number of unfinished projects and laundry list of needed repairs. Plus, the town is engaging in innovative ways to offer better transportation to and from Cripple Creek.

In Victor, the main focus hinges on several proposed ballot issues, formerly announced at last week’s council meeting. These include a proposition that would change the seats of city clerk and treasurer into appointed positions. They currently are voted on by the citizens and are subjected to term limit restrictions that only permit a person to hold an elected seat for eight consecutive years.

Another ballot question would do away with term limits themselves for elected positions. That type of proposition has fared better in recent years, when it is restricted to smaller towns that face challenges in finding people to run for elected seats.

On a county-wide basis, the idea of term limits, though, has been quite popular. A previous county effort to do away with term limits for key elected positions was badly defeated.

Victor voters also will cast tallies on two council positions. One of the incumbent council members, Valdean Petri, who holds one of these seats, can’t run due to term limits. In Victor, the revitalization of the downtown through its Main Street program still reigns as a major issue. And with new owners of the Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mining Company, much attention will focus on ways to work with CC&V, a major contributor to the town’s economy.

Manitou Springs voters, meanwhile, will pick a new mayor and decide the fate of four council seats. Voters there will also decide on several ballot propositions, including a marijuana tax refund question. These ballot questions could be finalized this week.

And for the school board seats, three positions are open on the RE-1 Cripple Creek/Victor School District Board, while two are available for the RE-2 Woodland Park School District Board.

Special District Elections

For special district elections, much attention will focus on the Cascade Metropolitan District, with five open board seats. Cascade has struggled with major water and flooding woes in the last few years.

And the Ute Pass Regional Ambulance District, which serves a good portion of Teller County, has announced intentions to submit a ballot proposition. The language hasn’t been finalized, but most likely the question will deal with some type of fiscal bid for the district. The ambulance district has faced many challenges associated with the changing dynamics of the health insurance market with the Affordable Health Care Act.

According to election officials, off-year elections typically don’t attract as many voters. And few observers expect the political fireworks to rival that of the 2014 Teller sheriff showdown between Mike Ensminger and Mark Manriquez.

But for the southern Teller area, these elections have played a key role in determining the district’s future.