Mayoral race heading to runoff |

Mayoral race heading to runoff

Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

ASPEN Political foes Mick Ireland and Tim Semrau will continue to fight for Aspen’s top elected post for the next 28 days.The two candidates were the top vote-getters in Tuesday’s mayoral election. Ireland came in with 1,036 votes (48 percent), and Semrau with 747 (34 percent). All it would have taken for Ireland to win the mayoral seat was 57 more votes. In order to win the mayoral race in Aspen, a candidate must get 50 percent, plus one vote, according to the city charter. Instead, runoff election will take place June 5. The vote eliminated Torre, who earned 370 votes, or 17 percent, to finish third; and Bonnie Behrend, who received 30 votes, or 1 percent.Don’t expect Semrau, 53, and Ireland, 56, to hit the campaign trail Wednesday, though. Ireland will be in Denver Wednesday to discuss transportation with the governor’s task force, and Semrau is on his way to New Mexico to watch his son, Erik, graduate with a degree in psychology.”I think that everybody needs a rest,” Semrau said, adding that he’ll analyze the numbers and precinct voting over the next few days before resuming his campaign.One thing is for certain: Both candidates will fight for Torre’s voter base. Ireland said he believes his ideals are more in line with Torre’s campaign, which was largely issue-based: slow growth, affordable housing, the environment and transportation.”We have a strong appeal to Torre’s voters,” Ireland said in City Council chambers shortly after the announcement of the election results. “It’s a natural constituency for us.”Torre, 37, a current city councilman, shrugs off the notion that he caused a runoff by taking the votes away from the two top vote-getters. He did say, however, that he was surprised at the low amount he received.

“The low voter turnout definitely hurt me,” Torre said, adding that the low voter turnout was “ridiculous.” A total of 2,207 people went to the polls in this election, out of 4,990 registered voters.

“I knew a runoff was likely, and I was really hoping I was in it,” he said. “A runoff is great. … Ireland and Semrau need to be put to the test more.”Behrend, 52, a television journalist who resigned to run for mayor, said she too was surprised at her low percentage since she went through town asking for people’s votes and they said yes. Based on that, she said she should have gotten more than 30 votes.”That’s political science – this is about context, not numbers. … Mick and Tim are about numbers,” she said, adding that it’s difficult to determine whether not raising any money had an effect on her campaign. “If I had known in advance the PR game, I would have gotten my message out sooner.”In an interview with GrassRoots TV, Torre said he supports election reform in Aspen, particularly with campaign spending. Torre raised a little more than $8,000, while his opponents raised nearly $30,000 each.”It seems to be getting more and more necessary,” he said.

The only two candidates celebrating Tuesday night were Semrau and Ireland. Semrau, a developer, spent the evening at The Wild Fig drinking champagne. Ireland, a lawyer and former Pitkin County commissioner, spent most of the evening at his house, since many establishments are closed for the offseason.”I didn’t come into town until [after the election results] because there was no bar to gather at,” he said. “That’s the problem – this town has dried up.” Ireland also lamented that because the airport is closed, many of his supporters are gone.Torre, a tennis pro and local television host, said he will still be involved in city politics.”I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire,” he said. “I’ll be bitching at these guys just like people have been bitching at me.”

Torre said he’s just not sure what he’ll do next, except watch “Monday Night Football” and play softball on Tuesdays – the days City Council meets. Torre said his running for City Council again depends on what issues are at stake at the time.”I still think I am the best candidate for the job,” he said. He refrained from endorsing either Ireland or Semrau, saying he’ll support the candidate who is for mass transit, against growth and development, and will “rule with an open ear and an open mind.” The mayor, who holds a two-year term, is a largely ceremonial position in that it doesn’t carry any veto power. The primary responsibility of the mayor is to set the City Council’s agenda and run the public meetings. Perhaps the largest role the mayor plays is serving as an ambassador for Aspen locally, nationally and internationally. The newly elected leaders will be sworn in June 11. Either Ireland or Semrau will replace Mayor Helen Klanderud, who must leave office because of term limits. Ireland, who had served on the Pitkin County Board of Commissioners since 1993, had to relinquish his seat in January because of term limits.Carolyn Sackariason’s e-mail address is

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