Election details (for political junkies only)
April 17, 2003
If it seems like there are a lot of candidates for this spring’s Aspen City Council race, well, there are.
And it is not that unusual.
It is true that the field of nine council candidates is the largest group since the council shrank from seven members to five in 1981. But it’s only up by one person.
This year, having 12 people on the ballot – the nine council candidates and three mayoral candidates – brings the field up to the same level as May 2001, when there were 8 council candidates and four mayoral candidates.
There were also 11 names on the city ballot for either council or mayor in 1987, 1989 and 1995.
And those lengthy ballots may explains why city voters approved a runoff provision in November 2000 to help winnow the field of both council and mayoral candidates.
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In the mayor’s race, a candidate must get at least 50 percent plus one vote of the votes cast to take office. The first mayoral runoff in Aspen’s history happened in the spring of 2001, when four people were running for mayor.
Helen Klanderud received 850 votes, Rachel Richards 658 votes, Charlie Tarver 360 votes, and Torre finished with 117 votes. No one was crowned mayor at that point, because the minimum necessary to win was 993 votes.
So, a runoff election was held between Klanderud and Richards a month later, on the first Tuesday in June. Klanderud won by 49 votes.
A runoff election has never been held in a council race. If one were to be held, it would work a bit differently, as the candidates are vying to fill two seats.
To be elected to council from a crowded field, the top two candidates have to win at least 45 percent (plus one) of all votes cast to take their seats.
In 2001, 3,588 votes were cast for council. The city clerk then divided that number by two, which was 1,794 votes. Then the clerk looked to see if anyone got 45 percent of the 1,794 votes, plus one, which the clerk determined was 808.
In the election, Tim Semrau got 851 votes and Terry Paulson got 1,127 votes, so no runoff was needed.
In a council race, if only one candidate gets 45 percent of the vote, then the candidates who came in second and third have a runoff in June.
If no candidates clear the 45 percent hurdle, then the top four candidates have a runoff.
So it is possible that city voters could cast votes for the total field of 12 candidates in May, and then be asked to vote again for as many as six candidates – two in a mayoral runoff and either two or four in a council runoff.
In addition to the runoff provision in the city charter, there is also a term-limit provision, which was approved by voters in November 1994. Mayors are restricted to three two-year terms and council members are restricted to two four-year terms.
If re-elected, Mayor Klanderud would be serving her second term.
Paulson is in his third four-year term on council; he was serving his first term in office when term limits were enacted. If he is not elected in his bid for mayor this spring, he will be able to serve for two more years on the council.
If he is elected mayor, he may be able to serve a total of another six years – presuming he is elected two more times.
Voters may also be interested to know that if they return the two incumbent council members in this election, those two will enjoy a $5,600 raise.
Currently, the mayor of Aspen is paid $27,900 a year plus a stipend of about $250 a month to cover health insurance.
Two current members of the council, Paulson and Semrau, make $20,000 a year plus the insurance stipend.
Councilmen Tom McCabe and Tony Hershey, who are seeking re-election next month, both currently are paid $14,400 because they were elected before the last pay increase was approved.
Still interested in voting? Well, the election is May 6.
If you are leaving town, you can cast an early vote beginning Monday, April 21, in the clerk’s office at City Hall or you can cast an absentee ballot, which can be mailed to you. See the city clerk’s office for details.