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Basalt election sets records

The record turnout in April’s Basalt Town Council election was preceded by a record amount of campaign spending in the town.

The 10 candidates in the races for four seats spent a combined $4,252.93, according to campaign finance reports that were submitted to the clerk’s office earlier this month.

Clerk Pam Schilling said she was still waiting for late final reports from Glenn Rappaport, an unsuccessful candidate for mayor, and P.D. Ash, who lost in a bid for a trustee position.

Schilling said it is the most spending she is aware of in a Basalt election. She noted there were more candidates than usual.

Councilman Leroy Duroux spent the least of any candidate in a successful bid to stay in office. He spent only $90, but noted that the record spending showed some people “wanted to be elected real bad.”

“It’s really not small-town politics, as far as I’m concerned,” said Duroux.

Mayoral candidate Steve Solomon spent the most in the campaign, the records show. He spent $962.49 in his bid for mayor. He lost to incumbent Rick Stevens.

Solomon was the only candidate to accept contributions, according to the reports. He collected the bulk, $500, from one person – Barbi Sheffer of Aspen. He also raised $100 from Charlie Cole of Basalt; $100 from Mary Eshbaugh Hayes, his mother-in-law, of Aspen; $100 from Jerome Osentowski of Basalt; $50 from Valerie Harriman of Carbondale; $50 from Gordon Keating of Basalt; and $50 from Basalt trustee Chris Lane.

Solomon collected a total of $974, including $24 that didn’t have to be detailed because it was in small amounts.

The other losing candidate for mayor, Rappaport, spent $500.35, according to reports filed for the period through March 31. That figure could go up with his late final report.

Stevens spent the least while successfully defending his position. He spent $360.

In the at-large races for three trustee or council positions, incumbents Jacque Whitsitt and Anne Freedman spent almost identical amounts to retain office. They were the big spenders with $777.31 for Whitsitt and $777.09 for Freedman.

“I’d have to say the reason I’ve spent more money is I’ve done this a couple of times before and I thought there was the potential for other candidates to spend more,” said Whitsitt.

She noted that a mysterious survey was conducted during the campaign, asking people to gauge the performance of the incumbents. Whitsitt said that level of sophistication convinced her that opponents would be campaigning hard to defeat her.

Freedman said the higher spending may be due to increasing advertising rates at local newspapers. Like Whitsitt, she expected strong opposition, so she felt she needed ads stating her positions.

Jon Fox-Rubin, who was elected to his first term on the council, spent $365.

The unsuccessful challengers and their spending totals were: Ash, $135.53, with a final accounting due; Tiffany Gildred, $185.16; and Cathy Kulzer, who wrote that she hadn’t been billed yet by Roaring Fork Sunday but estimated the ad price at $100.

The election drew a record 586 voters. That means the candidates spent about $7.25 per vote cast – or the amount of a micro-brew six pack. An enterprising candidate might try handing out the beer rather than running the ads next time.


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