Bell is rung in round two in fight for Aspen mayor seat

Round two of the 2019 city of Aspen municipal election is underway with 26 days to go for voters to decide who will be the next mayor.

Deputy City Clerk Nicole Henning said Aspen voters should have ballots in their mailboxes next week for the April 2 runoff election between Torre and Ann Mullins.

They both failed to reach 50 percent of the vote plus one in Tuesday’s general election. City charter requires the majority vote.

Results of Tuesday’s election will be certified Friday. Henning said the runoff ballot will be finalized by the end of the week and sent to the printer. The goal is to mail the ballots at the beginning of next week, Henning said.

Mullins, 70, is halfway through her second term as a City Council member. If elected mayor, council will appoint someone to serve out Mullins’ last two years.

Torre, who has unsuccessfully run for mayor five times and was elected twice to serve on council, beat Mullins in Tuesday’s election by 341 votes.

That is the widest margin Torre has had going into a runoff; he has participated in three since 2003 and won one of them.

His first runoff was for a City Council seat against Tony Hershey. He went into it 24 votes ahead from the general election and then won by a 2-1 margin.

In his 2013 mayoral bid, Torre went into a runoff with current Mayor Steve Skadron 45 votes behind. He lost by 87 votes.

And in 2017, Torre went head to head with Ward Hauenstein in a runoff for a council seat. Torre was ahead by 78 votes from the general election but lost by 27 in the runoff.

Torre, 49, acknowledged on Tuesday night that the biggest challenge in this runoff will be getting people to the polls.

The past three municipal elections have seen runoffs and turnout was between 21 percent and 24 percent lower than the general election, or around 550 votes.

“This is all about get out the vote,” said City Attorney Jim True, regarding this month’s runoff campaign.

Other observers predict half of the record number of voters who showed up for Tuesday’s election will participate in next month’s runoff.

It remains to be seen if the lead-up to the runoff generates more interest from local voters because it’s still ski season and they are in town, as opposed to May leading up to the traditional June runoff when offseason is in full swing.

Whether it was because the election dates were changed from May to March and June to April, or because there was a controversial development proposal for the base of Aspen Mountain, there was a 20 percent increase in voter turnout from 2017; 3,220 people cast votes this year.

Torre took 1,281 of those votes, and Mullins garnered 980.

The big question for the runoff is where Councilman Adam Frisch’s 838 votes fall to. The two-term, term-limited councilman Frisch came in third in the four-person mayoral race. Political newcomer Cale Mitchell received 83 votes.

As two sitting council members, Mullins and Frisch were seen in the race as actively campaigning against each other and trying to differentiate themselves.

Frisch said he didn’t spend a lot of time talking about one candidate or another and focused on his attributes in his campaign.

When asked where he thinks his base will put its support, Frisch said he will be campaigning for Mullins.

Torre said he knows he will have to work harder than in previous runoff elections to earn people’s votes.

Just like he did in the general election, Torre plans to do more outreach online and door to door.

“I’m basically following through on much of the same,” he said, adding that he will intensify the messaging. “I’m excited. We get to talk about the issues, so this next month keeps those issues in front of the community.”

When told Frisch was supporting his opponent, Torre said he will continue with the message that voting for him represents change from the status quo.

Mullins did not return a phone message seeking comment.

Because City Clerk Linda Manning ran for City Council in the election, she stepped aside from managing the election, a role that city clerk traditionally plays.

Henning took over the general election and will manage the runoff as well, according to True. Assistant City Attorney Andrea Bryan also will oversee the election.

Manning can assist but it’s cleaner to keep the line of responsibility the same, True noted.

“Just for continuity it makes sense for Linda and Andrea to stay in their positions,” he said.


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