Election 2023 Final Decision Day Right Around the Corner for Teller Voters

Rick Langenberg

After months of speculation, the big decision day is right around the corner, with the Nov. 7 election deadline looming.

And so much for an uneventful off-year election, the normal course for these types of votes, occurring a year prior to the presidential contest.  Based on past precedents, these off-year elections have usually amounted to total yawners, with few if any contested races.

But Election 2023 has represented a different and much tenser climate entirely (from past off-year elections), which has now got more confusing with the initial mail-out of erroneous ballots (to most voters) due to a vendor error (see related story). This miscue just added another chapter to the November election saga that has not been lacking in daily drama.

However, the final voter decisions are only days away, a verdict that will play a huge role in determining the future direction of the Woodland Park RE-2 School District, the Cripple Creek City Council and the fiscal plight of a new CC/V vocational/trade school. In addition, the vote will play a huge role in deciding the fate of future ambulance and emergency services throughout much of Teller County.

And then there is a pending decision on one of the more contested state ballot issues in years, which could determine your property tax bill for the next five or so years; and whether local entities will have to take a leaner approach; and whether your TABOR (Taxpayer Bill of Rights) refunds will amount to much.

These are the highlights of Election 2023, which will come to a conclusion next Tuesday (Nov. 7) night. If you haven’t returned your ballot, officials are pleading with you to do so, to lessen the burden on the clerk and recorder’s office. Officials are expecting bustling activity in the final days of Election 2023. With concerns mounting over the mail-in process, more voters are using the drop-off outlets, or are returning their ballots or casting tallies in person. The drop dead, final deadline is 7 p.m. on Nov. 7, with residents having the option of using several drop-off box outlets or voting in-person at the Woodland Park Public Library.

Details are outlined on the Teller County Clerk and Recorder’s website.

The main race commanding center stage is the decision over three board seats on the RE- District Board of Education, a battle that has attracted local, state and even national attention.  Incumbent office-holders David Illingworth II, Mick Bates and Cassie Kimbrell are seeking to retain their seats. But they face stern challenges from challengers Keegan Barkley, Seth Bryant and Mike Knott.

The school board showdown will have a big impact on the direction the district undergoes.  Already, many changes have occurred since a new superintendent, Ken Witt, was hired and awarded a contract.

The school board races were highlighted by forums for the various candidates.  Tensions have ignited in the school district, since the elections of 2021, when a vastly more conservative board was selected.  Some of the main issues have centered around the controversial use of the American Birthright curriculum, concerns involving mental health services for students and relations between the school board/administration and district employees and teachers.

Other Races and Key Issues

 The other big local race will hinge on the selection of a new mayor for Cripple Creek, a contest that has generated much competition, with three candidates vying for the head leadership post. Voters will decide among the candidacies of Melissa Trenary, the current acting mayor, Annie Durham, who works with the CC/V RE-1 School District, and Les Batson, a long-time resident and former council contender. All three candidates are well-known in the local community. There is no shortage of issues in Cripple Creek, with the community facing big challenges in the areas of housing, infrastructure, historic preservation and special events and marketing. The town also could experience unprecedented activity this winter, with the arrival of the Ice Castles attraction.

Voters will also decide on two other council positions, but these don’t involve any contested races.

In Victor, voters will decide between Autumn Wallace and Barbara Manning for the two-year mayoral spot.

A few seats in southern Teller don’t have any contenders, other than write-in candidates.

Ballot issues are hot subjects on the election radar, with voters in southern Teller casting tallies on a one percent sales tax initiative in Cripple Creek, which could provide a boost for programs and projects for a new vocational, trade and construction center that opened last summer.

Voters in the northern and central parts of the county will decide on a sale tax plan too, aimed at offering more ambulance and emergency services for the Ute Pass Regional Health Service District (see related story).

And Teller voters will decide if they want to approve state Proposition HH, aimed at providing tax relief for property owners, in lieu of escalating value hikes.  However, the plan has encountered major opposition by a slew of local entities, which favor a competition legislative effort backed by the county commissioners (see related story).

In addition, TMJ News has offered its position on the state and local ballot issues facing the voters (see related election column).

A big turnout is expected due to the interest in several key races and in the ballot propositions.