Ireland narrowly avoids runoff in Aspen mayoral election
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
ASPEN – It wasn’t a mandate, but Aspen voters decided to give Mick Ireland another two years in office as the veteran local politician garnered slightly more than 50 percent of votes cast in Tuesday’s mayoral election.
In fact, it was a squeaker, in terms of the question of whether Ireland, 61, would avoid a runoff. He did, by a mere 23 votes. An undetermined small number of provisional ballots have yet to be counted and verified, but officials said it was extremely unlikely that the outcome of the race would be affected.
Complete but unofficial results show Ireland with 892 votes in the three-candidate race, good enough for 50.7 percent of the 1,761 votes cast in the election. Meanwhile, interim Councilwoman Ruth Kruger, a commercial real estate broker, ran second with 719 votes, or 40.8 percent. Former radio and TV talk-show host Andrew Kole pulled 150 votes, or 8.5 percent.
Voter turnout was 29.5 percent, considerably lighter than in the 2007 and 2009 elections, officials said. The final results were not ready until approximately 8:45 p.m. – nearly two hours after the polls closed.
Ireland needed 50 percent plus one vote to avoid the June 7 runoff. After the results were tallied at Aspen City Hall, he said he had a feeling the election would be close in terms of whether he would be forced into a runoff, and worked extra hard in recent days to reach out to voters.
Ireland also pointed out that he had to contend with negative attacks – a reference to the Sick of Mick political committee that was operated by Elizabeth Milias, an outspoken critic – as well as campaign forums dominated by a pro-business line of questioning.
“One thing that is clear in the literature and research is that negativity doesn’t persuade people to change their minds, it makes them less likely to vote,” Ireland said. “We saw the [Sick of Mick] yard signs and the website. It didn’t work, the voters rejected that approach and I hope it would be a lesson to the purveyors of incivility to cease and desist.”
Ireland said he knocked on more than 3,000 doors during the recent campaign season, with much of that activity conducted in inclement weather.
“I spent the last week walking in the snow, going door-to-door, and it takes a lot of work. It means time off from recreation, time off from my other jobs, but I think that’s the obligation, especially when you don’t have as much money as the opposition,” he said.
But Ireland said he’s pleased with the final result.
“I think if there had been a runoff, I would have won that as well,” he said. “It might have been a little closer, maybe most of Andrew’s votes would have gone to Ruth. But she wasn’t going to get 90 percent of them.”
Ireland added that he ran a positive campaign.
“In every forum we had, I was under attack, and I’m proud of the fact that neither me nor anyone in my campaign ever had a negative word, and I think that’s a good thing,” he said.
Kruger appeared slightly dejected after the votes were counted, despite a solid showing in her first race for mayor.
“I had no expectations whatsoever,” she said about her thoughts going into the election.
Kruger seemed to be having a good time on Election Day, waving at cars and holding campaign signs at the corner of Mill and Main streets late Tuesday afternoon. At one point just before the polls closed at 7 p.m., the 59-year-old was skipping part of the way back to her commercial real estate office.
“This has been a really, really good experience,” she said. “No matter what happens I feel like a winner because I’ve met new people, I made good friends, and I did something I never anticipated I would do.”
Kruger joined the race in mid-March, two weeks after being appointed by Ireland and the City Council to serve the remaining months of a council term vacated by Dwayne Romero. She was criticized for running for mayor given that she had said she would not seek a permanent seat on the council, but maintained that she never said she wouldn’t run for mayor.
Despite his poor showing, Kole laughed and joked with the commentators on the local cable channel Grass Roots TV, and even joined them in their analysis.
“Mick is the next mayor of Aspen by eight to 12 votes,” Kole said, deftly turning from candidate to commentator, a role he has formerly held with local radio and TV outlets.
Ireland, a former Pitkin County commissioner, is barred from running in 2013 because of term limits.
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