Mayoral mayhem: Today, it’s official |

Mayoral mayhem: Today, it’s official

ASPEN Two public relations firms, three television personalities, a politician who wears bicycle tights covered with muffin crumbs and another who drives high-performance vehicles: Say hello to Aspen’s upcoming mayoral race, which officially cranks up today. Former Pitkin County Commissioner Mick Ireland is slated to announce his candidacy at 12:30 p.m., with the help of Project West, an Aspen-based firm that specializes in PR, marketing, advertising and websites. Ireland’s announcement about his announcement came Tuesday.Not to be outdone, former Aspen City Councilman Tim Semrau’s PR and marketing firm, the Darnauer Group LLC, announced Wednesday that he will make his announcement at 5 p.m. today.That Ireland and Semrau – the two candidates the smart money says will replace term-limited Helen Klanderud as mayor – are working with two of Aspen’s biggest PR firms could be telling of this race’s direction. At least that’s how one potential candidate, who admits his chances to win are slim, sees it. “To me this says, ‘Politicians, politicians, politicians,'” said Andrew Kole, who hosts a television show on the public access station GrassRoots TV. “They claim they’re not politicians, but who hires a PR firm? Politicians.”City Councilman Torre, who said he plans to run for mayor but has yet to announce his candidacy, deadpanned: “I’m not going to hire a PR firm.”Torre, however, seemed amused by the campaign strategies of his opponents, especially Ireland, who will broadcast today’s announcement on the Internet.”I’m going to have a double-secret cyber campaign that is so high-tech that I’m going to broadcast my message on a frequency that only dogs can hear,” said Torre, a host on Plum TV. Kole, who has run unsuccessfully for Aspen mayor and City Council in the past, said he hasn’t decided whether he will run because of the health of his mother, who has suffered two strokes in recent months. But if he doesn’t jump in, he said the entertainment value to this race that can’t be disputed.”These guys, Mick and Tim, are black and white,” he said. “I would say I’m the gray one.”Kole said he won’t hire a PR person, chiefly because, he said, “I’m my own PR firm.”Another local TV personality could be joining Kole and Torre: Bonnie Behrend, the anchor and news director for TV Aspen, has been batting around the idea of a mayoral bid. She, too, said she won’t enlist any spin doctors.”I don’t need to sugarcoat anything,” Behrend said Wednesday night. “I have my own bullhorn.”She added: “I feel like I’m standing at the top of a run, trying to gauge the size of the bumps and the depth. But I care about Aspen’s past and want to help navigate her in the future.”While the three TV types have the pause buttons pressed on their mayoral desires, the contest between Ireland and Semrau officially gets going today. And the differences between Ireland and Semrau only begin with their modes of transportation – Ireland drives a beat-up Volkswagen Rabbit and rides a slick road bicycle, Semrau an antique Porsche convertible and a BMW motorcycle, among other vehicles. Their venue of choice to make their announcements also illustrates how much they don’t have in common. Ireland will go public with his bid at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, a nature preservation organization. Semrau will fire off his declaration at one of downtown’s trendiest restaurants – Jimmy’s an American Restaurant and Bar. But, Semrau the developer and Ireland the preservationist do have one thing in common: They’re confident they’ll be Aspen’s next mayor, as evidenced by the verbal swagger from their PR firms. “Tim will win,” Jeanette Darnauer, owner of Darnauer Group, said. “I’m sure when people get to know Tim they will understand him better. He can’t be pigeonholed as a developer or any one type of description. He was on City Council, and people know him from that. And he’s a citizen, not a career politician.”Margi Wilkinson of Project West expressed similar confidence.”Mick will win,” she said.Wilkinson said it was a savvy move by Darnauer to have Semrau makes his announcement just hours after Ireland makes his.”I think with a town like Aspen, with so many stakeholders, it’s important to get the message out clearly and cost effectively in these campaigns. And both of these PR firms do an excellent job of that.”Darnauer and Wilkinson said the two candidates have yet to set up a fee structure with the firms. No retainer fees have paid, and Wilkinson said that for now, she is working with Ireland on a volunteer basis. But when Project West handles certain components of his campaign – “We haven’t determined everything yet,” she said – the billable hours will begin.Both PR firms also indicated they don’t plan to expose the negatives of their opponents, and extended a peace pipe of sorts.”We’ve got two good candidates,” Darnauer said. “But I know that Tim has the ability to reach people that Mick doesn’t reach. I really like Tim’s style and leadership.””I have respect for Tim and we [Project West and Darnauer] rarely go up against each other,” Wilkinson said. “But I like Jeanette and I she think she’s talented. She’s a fellow Democrat, and I’m an Independent. In fact, she’s a very strong Democrat.”Rick Carroll can be reached at

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