It’s finally over. Election 2023 in Teller County wasn’t your normal off-year vote, which in the past turned into a genuine yawner of non-important votes, with possibly a 40 percent turnout, if luck prevailed.
Apathy wasn’t an issue this year, thanks to the drama over the state’s HH proposition, the Woodland Park school board showdown and mayoral contests in both Cripple Creek and Victor, not to mention a few local ballot propositions with big impacts.
So, without any further delays here are the main champs of our rather lengthy election ordeal, and some TMJ genuine takeaways from this great escapade.
Here are big winners:
*The Cripple Creek/Victor RE-1 School District. While the WP RE-2 District is in constant strife these days, CC/V is moving smoothly along. CC/V hit the jackpot with their 2A sales tax initiative, which hit a few rough spots at the beginning of the process. Proponents overcame a skeptical view initially by several members of the Cripple Creek City Council and won the night during a time when tax initiatives didn’t do well in the region and across the state. They followed the footsteps of the path taken by the Aspen Mine Center a number of years ago, and basically sold their package by outlining the specific benefits. In this case, the extra tax money was tailored to support the new RE-1 vocational and trade center, which opened last summer. The issue was promoted more as a way to generate more grant money. That strategy worked well.
*Annie Durham. This year’s mayoral race in Cripple Creek promised to be a competitive match with three contenders, all of whom had good name recognition. Many observers thought this race was going to be super tight, including yours truly, especially when Durham faced a formidable opponent from the former mayor pro tem and acting mayor for the last month, Melissa Trenary.
Annie Durham, though, developed a long-term campaign that actually began months ago with listening sessions and meet and greets. She probably orchestrated one of the more detailed and organized campaigns for a mayoral contest in Cripple Creek. Actually, this race was fairly positive with all of the candidates really stressing their own merits and strengths, with no real mud-slinging. In the end, Annie, a familiar speaker at many council meetings due to her role with the CC/V School District, won in convincing fashion.
*The Campaign Against the HH Proposition. This vote statewide emerged as a real surprise, as many pollsters, and even Cripple Creek’s head lobbyist, Solomon Malick, had this issue in the win column for state Democrats. It was even touted as a future plug for Governor Jared Polis, as part of a possible run for president.
Jared, though, underestimated the political power of local cities, counties and businesses when the act collectively against something.
Locally, area entities came out in force and made a convincing case regarding the unknowns involved with this issue. Virtually every local government approved resolutions against HH. But what really was effective was when the issue was equated to dollars and cents and how much they could lose in potential revenue, and the confusion it would create. Even opponents of TABOR weren’t enamored by the idea and thought a special session on the property tax issue would be the correct course of action.
*A Divided Community in the Woodland Park RE-2 School District. The hot races locally hinged on three elected seats for the Woodland Park RE-2 School District Board of Education. And unfortunately, the election ended with one stern conclusion: This district is split right down the middle between those who favor and oppose the current school board and a more conservative administrative direction, a trend which began two years ago, and then really escalated with the picking of a new superintendent nearly a year ago. The incumbents held onto two of three contested seats, but only by a handful of votes, out of thousands of votes cast. This doesn’t exactly set a clear pathway for sweeping changes, proposed by current superintendent Ken Witt. These divided sentiments will probably result in more heated meetings, and possibly a slew of more lawsuits. But at least now, each side has a representative at the table.
Hopefully, the current board won’t pursue anything crazy like getting rid of,or reducing current sports and activities’ programs in the district, a common rumor floating around these days. In our humble opinion, it’s time to try to move both sides together in a more positive manner than what has occurred in the last two years. Otherwise, the current majority board could win the political battle, but lose the more important war over community acceptance of their agenda, and more kids and families will leave the district. But that is just our opinion. In any case, we need to get away from these sign wars.
*In-Person Voting and Ballot-Box Outlets. Teller County Commission Chairman Erik Stone has been a big proponent of in-person voting, and this became a big trend in Election 2023.
In fact, hardly anyone these days actually uses the mail for their mail-in ballot, with growing apprehension about the postal system or their vote getting received. I know I like the ballot box outlets myself, even if I have to drive 20 minutes to drop my ballot off. According to the Teller County Clerk and Recorder’s Office, more than 10,000 voters used the local drop-box outlets or vote center in Election 2023. In fact, more than 360 electors voted in-person at the Woodland Park Public Library on the actual Nov. 7 deadline date. This is what really turned the tide in two of the contested school board elections, with the results initially and through most of the recording period, favoring the board challengers. One area newspaper even declared them as probable winners of the three races. But in-person tallies, especially those done on election day, are counted last. More than 500 folks this year partook in early voting and in-person tallies at a designated vote center. Not bad. Look for this trend to escalate during the forthcoming presidential vote.
*Voter Participation. You got it. Whatever side of the aisle you reside in, a nearly 60 percent turnout rate for active voters is a pretty impressive mark.
Unanswered Questions From Election 2023
*The fate of the Salute to American Veterans Rally with the new council in Cripple Creek. Will the event be moving back to Cripple Creek in 2004 or 2005?
*The property tax issue. With the defeat of Proposition HH, what is next legislative course of action for offering residents needed tax relief?
*Local Ambulance District. One of the preliminary losers of Election 2023 was the bid by the Ute Pass Regional Health Service District for a sales tax increase for improved services. Will they try again soon, as sometimes it takes two tries for proposed tax hikes to gain acceptance? This was what leaders from the district did a number of years ago, when they sought a revenue increase. Will they follow a familiar path to success?