Mayoral candidate Yemi Mobolade surprised everyone except himself by coming in a strong first in the April 4th initial mayor election in Colorado Springs.
The presumptive front-runner and “establishment” candidate, Colorado Springs Councilmember Wayne Williams, came in with a relatively weak second place finish. Mobolade and Williams will “runoff” against each other in the final mayoral election on May 16th.
What happened in the first-round election on April 4th was that Wayne Williams and former City Councilmember and El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark (or their supporters) spent tens of thousands of dollars on negative television ads and negative political postcards attacking each other.
Wayne Williams narrowly won this close contest for second place, thus propelling him into the May runoff with Mobolade and putting Sallie Clark out of the running. Williams and Clark are two of the better known local Republican office holders.
Elections in Colorado Springs are officially nonpartisan elections. But the reality is that Williams and Clark hammered each other with negative ads and damaged each other’s reputations in what was essentially a Republican Party primary.
Williams and Clark were fighting each other in the so-called “right lane” (conservative path), which also included several other well-known Republican conservatives and at least one Libertarian.
The negative ads hurt Williams and Clark, and Williams will be carrying those negatives into the runoff election.
With Williams and Clark fighting in the right lane, the “middle lane” (moderate path) was almost completely empty. That allowed the politically independent Yemi Mobolade to take the middle lane and cruise to victory in the first-round voting in April.
The Mobolade campaign, in the midst of so much negativity, was notably positive in character.
In the runoff election ahead in May, Williams will win most of the right lane and Mobolade will win most of the middle lane. Comparatively speaking, there is little “left lane” (liberal path) in Colorado Springs. Mobolade will win left lane voters by default.
Mobolade increased his momentum with three high profile endorsements, including that of Sallie Clark, to add to a long list of earlier endorsements.
Colorado Springs City Council President Tom Strand, who had also run in the first round for mayor and is a Republican, endorsed Mobolade. In addition, recently retired El Paso County two-term sheriff Bill Elder endorsed Mobolade.
Still, Wayne Williams is the better known and more experienced of the two candidates. He is supported by the popular retiring Mayor John Suthers (term-limited), the Colorado Springs Gazette editorial board and one of the region’s most prominent housing developers.
This is a nonpartisan election, but Republicans outnumber Democrats about two to one in Colorado Springs. Republicans tend to turn out more regularly in local elections than Democrats and unaffiliated voters. However, unaffiliated voters outnumber both Republicans and Democrats by a big margin. Mobolade is unaffiliated.
Here are the figures (rounded):
500,000 Colorado Springs residents
312,000 Registered Voters
115,000+ Approximate likely voters
57,000+ Needed to win
Mobolade won 32,429 votes in the pre-election on April 4 and Williams won 20,908.
This could be a down-to-the-wire close race. Wayne Williams is a veteran campaigner. But he has the daunting task of winning the votes of the large number of Republicans who voted for other candidates in April.
Above all he must get the votes that went to Clark, who has now endorsed Mobolade. He also needs the votes that went to former El Paso County Commissioner Daryl Glenn and to current El Paso County Commissioner Longinos Gonzales. All three are Republicans.
Yemi Mobolade has made a point of piling up endorsements. Among these are civic and business leader Kathy Loo, former Colorado Springs Fire Chief Ted Collas, former deputy CSPD Pat Rigdon, Brigadier General Elaine Knight, former Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace, former Penrose-Saint Francis hospitals President Margaret Sabin, former City Council President Richard Skorman and entrepreneurs Vance Brown and Mike Juran.
Wayne Williams also has endorsements. Two big ones are Colorado Springs Firefighters Local 5 and the Colorado Springs Police Protective Association. Former Mayor Lionel Rivera and current El Paso County Treasurer Chuck Broerman are on the Williams team, as are the Apartment Association and the Pikes Peak Association of Realtors. Jodie Richie, Sallie Clark’s campaign manager, has joined the Wayne Williams campaign as field director. Several new city council members, including David Leinweber and Lynette Crow-Iverson have announced their support for Williams.
The runoff election for Mayor on May 16th is a case of experience versus momentum, and continuity versus change. Wayne Williams has been elected and has served as El Paso County commissioner, as the Colorado Secretary of State, and as a Colorado Springs City councilmember.
Yemi Mobolade has not previously been elected to office, but he has built a strong and impressive campaign by generating popular grass roots momentum on his behalf. He also was a Chamber of Commerce executive, a senior aide to Mayor John Suthers, a pastor at First Presbyterian and a leader in several nonprofit organizations.
Williams practices law, Mobolade owns local small businesses.
Here are some questions the candidates haven’t yet been asked yet we hope these might be asked at Sunday’s El Pomar/Gazette Candidate forum:
1. What newspapers, television shows or podcasts do you regularly follow to get state and national news?
2. Where do you like to go to hike, fish, hunt, or ski in Colorado?
3. Which is your favorite Colorado professional sports team (Rockies Broncos, Nuggets, Avalanche, etc.)?
4. You both went to very religious colleges. How will that affect being mayor and your policy stands on social issues?
5. Talk about your mistakes and weaknesses?
6. Name a few of your most admired American political leaders?
7. Does Colorado Springs really need to keep annexing additional lands into our city?
8. Have either of you ever voted for a Democrat in the last several years?
9. What have you enjoyed most and least in your campaign for mayor this year?
10. What is your biggest complaint or criticism of your rival’s campaign?
Tom Cronin and Bob Loevy write regularly about Colorado and national politics.