By Lars Gesing
Boulderites chose three new faces and two old ones Tuesday to join four holdovers in forming the next nine-member city council.
Newcomers Mary Young, Sam Weaver and Andrew Shoemaker, along with current Boulder Mayor Matt Appelbaum and Macon Cowles all won election Tuesday night. Young, Weaver, Shoemaker and Applebaum will serve four-year terms as they finished in the top four. Because he ended up in fifth place, Cowles will have a two-year term, his third consecutive one on the board.
According to final, at this point still unofficial results announced on Wednesday, Young had gathered the most votes (13.81 percent), followed by Appelbaum with 13.39 percent, Weaver with 12.85 percent, Shoemaker (11.74 percent) and Cowles (11.32 percent). Cowles biggest contender was sixth-placed Micah Parkin with a 10.15 percent share of the overall vote. The new council will be sworn in on the morning of Nov. 19.
The Boulder County Clerk and Recorder Office had send out a total 201,654 ballots this year, of which 101,896, or 50.5 percent, returned. That number was higher than in the 2011 coordinated election, when 171,167 ballots were distributed and 82,724 (48.3 percent) came back.
Matt Appelbaum and Macon Cowles were the only two incumbents running for re-election this year, and both their campaigns were successful. Current council members Suzy Ageton, K. C. Becker and Ken Wilson all decided not to run for re-election.
Despite finishing fifth, Cowles felt reinforced in his policy approach to make this world a better place: “The vote shows that the community supports three main things I stand for: fighting climate change, 15-minute neighborhoods, and addressing the needs of the underprivileged.”
Right before the first results were announced shortly after 7 p.m. Tuesday night, his wife and campaign manager Regina Cowles was uncertain whether a robocall campaign, targeting her husband for his vote in favor of making the Palestine city of Nablus Boulder’s city sister, affected Cowles chances of re-election.
“That is just pure spite. Macon has a strong human rights record,” Regina Cowles said. The campaign had asked citizens to call Cowles directly, something that did not happen. “All we got were a whole lot of calls from friends asking us if we heard about this,” the campaign manager said.
Mary Young takes away election victory
With neither Appelbaum nor Cowles winning the election though, no representative of the political establishment took away the largest share of votes. Instead, Mary Young, who served on the city planning board for five years, was Boulder’s favorite.
“I think it was my honesty that made the difference,” Young said. “I just kept my head down and kept working hard.” She used her moment of victory to point a finger to what she identified as one of the most significant shortcomings in Boulder politics: “It is not that people don’t care. They just don’t bring issues up. That prevents those issues from being thoroughly discussed.” She said she was ready to address that problem.
Sam Weaver, who was among the favorites to win a seat on city council during the preliminary stages of the election, at least partially attributed his success to sheer luck.
“The position of your name on the ballot makes a difference,” he explained. While an alphabetical order would have favored him, he needed to rely on being lucky in the ballot slot lottery. “I ended up on the very bottom, which was good. You don’t want to be in the middle.”
But Weaver’s high vote total was not just merely luck but could much more likely be attributed to the strong stance the CEO of a Boulder-based clean energy company took on issues involving climate change and carbon emission reduction. He took the unambiguous defeat of the Xcel-supported ballot question 310 as a powerful statement.
“Xcel now needs to give some serious thought about the business model they put on the table,” Weaver said.
Appelbaum in for a final term
Mayor Appelbaum, a public servant of 32 years and also a strong advocate of having an honest debate about a municipal electric utility, said this next tenure will be his last.
“This is it,” he said. “This is my final term. I have had enough politics for two lifetimes.”
Even though Appelbaum never hid his jadedness from holding office during the months of campaigning, the results of the election seemed to re-energize him.
“It’s easy to get excited in a community like this one. They make this job fun, exciting, but also demanding.”
Young, Appelbaum, Weaver and Cowles all celebrated their victory at the Boulderado Hotel, where the New Era Colorado Foundation hosted an election night party.
The fifth soon-to-be council member, Andrew Shoemaker, watched results come in with defeated candidates Ed Byrne and Kevin Hotaling at West Flanders Brewing on Pearl Street, a stone’s throw away from Hotel Boulderado on Spruce Street.
Shoemaker spent most of his weekends during the last month knocking on more than 1,000 Boulderites’ doors.
“I learned that every neighborhood is different, people have different needs,” he said. He explained that by talking to residents, he “found out how politics affect a citizen’s daily life better than you could have found out in any city council meeting.”
Mixed reactions to race outcome
Lisa Morzel, council woman and current deputy mayor, is looking forward to welcoming the three new faces on the board. “They all have a lot of courage and a lot of experience from their time on the planning board,” she said.
Crystal Gray served on city council from 2003 to 2011. During that time, she stood up to put the vote on the 2011 ballot whether or not the city should explore options for municipalization. While celebrating the defeat of ballot question 310 on Tuesday, she was extremely pleased with the outcome of the race for city council, too.
“Four out of the five elected are very strong supporters of the municipalization,” Gray said, leaving Andrew Shoemaker out of the equation, saying “he didn’t take a clear enough stand on the issue.”
But not everyone agreed that the voter’s decisions on how to proceed with a municipal electric utility necessarily favored the outcome in the race for the five vacant seats on city council.
With an overall 8.99 percent of votes, Ed Byrne finished seventh. He said it was PLAN-Boulder’s endorsement for four of those who got elected (Young, Appelbaum, Weaver, Cowles) that made the difference.
He added that he had no idea why he wasn’t on the list of the powerful citizen organization fighting for environmental sustainability. “I felt like I had a very congruent position on many of these issues,” Byrne said.
Kevin Hotaling (4.17 percent) was also among those defeated candidates in the race. He criticized the PLAN-Boulder-endorsed quartet. “They have been working together from day one, painting a very vanilla message. You just can’t get mad with their ideas.” However, their ideas like city wide eco passes were inapplicable to reality, he said.
Hotaling added that their policy approach was only back-looking. “PLAN-Boulder did a lot of great things for this city, but for the last ten to 20 years, all they thought about was how to stop people from changing what we have. It is either time for new ideas or new organizations.”
He said he would run again in 2015 to achieve just that.
For a recap of the live coverage during Election Night, click here.
- Renewable energy groups celebrate 310′s failure (jour5511.wordpress.com)
- 2013 Voter’s guide: What your Boulder ballot really asks you to decide on (jour5511.wordpress.com)