Cripple Creek Election Ballot Finalized; Several Contenders Drop Out

A notice sign on elections or voting

Voters to Decide Fate of Mayoral and Ward 4 Seats

~ by Rick Langenberg ~


And then there were five.


The upcoming municipal election in Cripple Creek, with early pronouncements for a huge barrage of candidates, didn’t quite surface this year. Following the deadline for submitting candidate petitions with valid signatures from registered local voters, the Nov. 5 election will feature five official candidates and two competitive races.


In addition, voters will cast tallies on three city-sponsored ballot issues, capped by a  measure that could have big impacts in the future for local casinos.


That is the official tabulation of the city clerk’s office, which finalized the forthcoming election ballot last week.


The final candidate tally fell short of earlier predictions, with several contenders opting to drop out of certain races. Petitions weren’t turned in by Les Batson for Ward 5 and by Edward “Mike” Gross for mayor. And to the surprise of some insiders, no more candidate petitions were pulled in the last two weeks.


Regardless of  a lean candidate slate, the stakes are fairly high in the forthcoming election, as term limits come into play for the first time in a number of years. Both Mayor Bruce Brown and Mayor Pro Tem (and Ward 5 representative) Chris Hazlett can’t seek re-election for their seats. This will especially impact the quest for the city’s top elected seat, as Brown has served as the mayor of Cripple Creek for close to 10 years.


As a result, Cripple Creek’s main focus race will showcase a two-person mayoral square-off between Councilwoman Meghan Rozell and former council member Milford Ashworth. Both mayoral candidates are well-known figures in the community.


Rozell was elected to the council nearly two years ago and has taken a vocal stance at many meetings, especially regarding issues dealing with employee accomplishments and department standards, and maintaining a good working atmosphere at city hall.  At one time, Rozell worked for the city. Her mother, Michelle Rozell, serves as the city’s heritage tourism manager.


Meghan Rozell announced her plans to run for mayor at the end of last year , contending it was always her intentions to seek the mayoral seat. She cited the opportunities facing the town, with the pending lodging boom and the prospects of sports betting.


Ashworth also is a well-known community figure. He served on the city council for eight years, and cites the accomplishments of his previous stint as an elected leader, clearly standing behind his record. In addition, Ashworth played a key role in turning the city’s summer rodeo into a major successful event and in promoting local museums and nonprofits. He also partook in an earlier fact-finding trip to Deadwood, South Dakota, as part of an effort to gain pointers for Cripple Creek.


Deadwood is regarded as the pioneer town in the effort to bring gaming to historic mountain areas, and has been touted as a successful model for combining gambling with heritage tourism.


The Ward 4 race will feature a race between incumbent Tom Litherland and Nancy McDonald. Litherland has also been quite vocal at council meetings regarding a variety of issues, especially those dealing with how the city allocates monies. In addition, he previously served as Cripple Creek’s mayor in the late 1990s.


McDonald also is known quite well in community circles. She often attends council meetings to outline issues of concern.


The Ward 5 race is being uncontested. The sole candidate is Charles Solomone, a leader of the Cripple Creek Marksmanship & Self-Defense group, which has been quite visible in the last few months. The group, which touts their educational goals, made a recent bid to use the shooting range of the Cripple Creek Police Department on a limited basis. Solomone also was appointed recently to the Cripple Creek/Victor RE-1 District School Board.


No Shortage Of Major Issues

The forthcoming mayoral and council races aren’t devoid of major issues. Some of these include the future of local marketing and special events, in lieu of recent personnel changes; ambitious lodging expansions and destination development efforts; city expenses, gaming revenue and future casino prosperity; city employee workforce shortages and expectations; residential amenities and services; the pursuit of workforce housing; and historic preservation standards and the updating of ordinances.


In other words, whoever wins these seats won’t have a shortage of issues on their plate.


City residents also will decide the fate of three ballot issues, all of which are being sponsored by the Cripple Creek government. Two of the ballot matters deal with efforts to trim costs by reducing the expenses for publishing ordinances, resolutions and other legal material in a designated local newspaper. Under the change, the main thrust of this material would be posted on the city’s website, Facebook page and in a public area. The titles of the ordinances would still be published in a local newspaper, under this ballot proposal.


However, city officials contend that the costs would be reduced significantly.


Similar measures have been voted on by residents of other communities. Current laws don’t permit the city to make these notification changes, unless the voters give the okay.


In addition, voters will decide if they want to signal the green light for professional sports betting action at local casinos.


This is part of a state-wide issue, which would permit sports betting at licensed casinos in the mountain gaming towns of Cripple Creek, Black Hawk and Central City. More importantly, it would pave the way for restricting sports betting to only the Colorado gaming towns.


The proposed state sports betting law, which will be voted on throughout Colorado in November, would open the door for more tax revenue for certain uses, such as developing a better state water plan.


The law requires a state-wide majority support, and support by the impacted gambling towns. Cripple Creek Administrator Mark Campbell has indicated that the city may try to educate residents more on the benefits of the local sports betting measure, starting later this month. Officials view sports betting as a good future development for Cripple Creek.


Opinions, though, widely vary on the impact of sports bettering for local casinos, which could include wagers on many professional games and big showdowns, such as the Super Bowl and World Series. Sports betting action was permitted in individual states, following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2018 that ended a prohibition, only allowing this activity in Las Vegas and Nevada. The states, then, were allowed to set up their own rules.


In the last year, a big lobbying campaign was orchestrated by the state gaming association, several lawmakers and even the city of Cripple Creek to restrict this activity to the only places where legal bets are allowed, the three gaming communities.


These efforts culminated with the state and local vote, scheduled this November.