Ant for mayor? Only in Aspen
ASPEN ” An insect has announced her candidacy for Aspen mayor, joining three other contenders who are vying for the two-year term.
A press release was issued on Monday announcing that the Red Ant, a “pesky 8-month-old solenopsis invicta,” will run against incumbent Mayor Mick Ireland, as well as candidates Andrew Kole and LJ Erspamer.
The Red Ant is the brainchild of government critic Marilyn Marks, and is the name of her, and her cohort, Elizabeth Milias’ blog. TheRedAnt.com has itched, irritated and fired up local elected leaders for the past year on a number of issues in which Marks and Milias have challenged their decisions and policies.
The Red Ant doesn’t intend to be on the ballot, but instead plans to march through the campaign, raising poignant issues and fueling a spirited debate, Marks said.
“While there is little chance the Red Ant will be listed on the official ballot due to the insurmountable requirement that she be a ‘natural person,'” she said in the press release, “if I have to prove it, so should Andrew and Mick,” referring to Kole and Ireland.
Marks said the candidacy is partly to bring some levity to local politics, which she feels has become too serious at times.
The Red Ant’s candidacy is a play on the antics of Aspen Times editorial cartoonist Chris Cassatt, who ran five times for elected office in the 1970s and early 1980s as Sal A. Mander, a character from his comic strip that poked fun at Aspen’s political life. Cassatt, who officially changed his name to Sal A. Mander, ran for Aspen mayor, local district attorney and Colorado governor.
“It is one of Aspen’s traditions,” Marks said. “It’s a rebirthing of ’70s wackiness.”
Cassatt said Ireland was his campaign manager for at least three of the races. When he ran for district attorney for the 9th Judicial District, the incumbent was running unopposed and supported undercover DEA operations in Aspen, which was not a popular notion in town.
“It was a vehicle to focus on the objection to this,” Cassatt said, adding the DA resigned and moved away a month after he won the seat. “It was a way to get the word out.”
While Cassatt said he wasn’t really serious about winning, he was on the ballot and garnered significant votes.
That’s not the case with the Red Ant, who just wants a seat at the debate table.
In the press release, the Red Ant paraphrased Stephen Colbert in his recent bid for the presidency, opining “I don’t want to be mayor; I want to run for mayor. There’s a difference.”
Marks said while the Red Ant’s candidacy “may bug the guys,” it’s a serious attempt at fully debating the issues facing Aspenites.
“We had so many people say we need to enrich the dialogue, and we thought this is one way to do it,” Marks said. “We want to get the issues on the table that would not otherwise make it there.
“We are trying to be part of the conversation, part of the debate.”
Marks said she hopes the Red Ant is included in the mayoral campaign, including press coverage, letters to the editor, her TV show on GrassRoots Television and the blog, which will appear on the website and will be sent to an electronic mailing list that has more than 1,250 names.
The Red Ant is taking monetary contributions, which will be used to further causes of voter education, civic discourse and other topics, she said.
“People kept asking us ‘How can we help?'” Marks said of her supporters and her efforts to present unbiased election information.
The Red Ant’s platform is outlined on the website, http://www.TheRedAnt.com.
Aspen’s municipal election is May 5. The mayor’s seat and two City Council seats are open.
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