Richards wins; Tony vs. Torre for City Council | AspenTimes.com
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Richards wins; Tony vs. Torre for City Council

Brent Gardner-Smith
Aspen Times Staff Writer

It’s Tony versus Torre for the fifth seat on the Aspen City Council.

Challenger Torre and incumbent Tony Hershey garnered the second- and third-most votes, respectively, behind Rachel Richards in Tuesday’s election and will compete in the first-ever runoff between City Council candidates.

And whoever wins the runoff election on June 3 will join a council made up of Mayor Helen Klanderud, Terry Paulson, Tim Semrau and Richards.

Voters rejected incumbent Tom McCabe’s bid for a second term on council.

It was Richards’ fourth time in the winner’s circle. She served as mayor from 1999 to 2001 and was on the council from 1991 to 1999.

Richards received 862 votes, which was enough to sweep her back onto the council without a runoff vote.

“I worked my butt off,” said Richards of her campaign. She worked to register new voters in the spring, went door-to-door, sent out a targeted mailing, and her campaign team watched the polls Tuesday and then called her supporters to encourage them to vote.

Her campaign was effective as she garnered 24.5 percent of the vote in a field of seven active candidates and nine candidates on the ballot.

Torre received 566 votes, and Hershey finished with 542. Neither candidate had the 791 votes required in the election, based on the vote, to reach the council table.

A council candidate must get at least 45 percent of the vote to be elected. To determine the threshold number of votes, the city clerk halves the number of votes cast, determines what number equals 45 percent of the split, and then adds one vote. With 3,508 votes cast in this election, 791 turned out to be the threshold number.

Cliff Weiss, who campaigned for the S-curves in an election last November, got 480 votes in his first bid for a council seat. McCabe got 445 votes in his failed effort for re-election while Lisa Markalunas, in her first run for office, got 273 votes. And Pepper Gomes, who also ran two years ago, got 203 votes.

Tom Peirce, who pulled out of the race due to an illness but was still on the ballot, got 126 votes. Vitashka Kirshen, who also withdrew from the race after it was too late to remove her name from the ballot, received seven votes.

And now the two remaining candidates can begin a fresh round of campaign fund-raising.

“It should be an interesting little four weeks,” said Hershey after the election results were in. “I think voters have a pretty clear choice. It brings things into much sharper focus.”

Hershey supported a new entrance into Aspen in the latest vote on the entryway to town, while Torre was for keeping the S-curves and had the backing of a group called Citizens for a Small Town Entrance.

Hershey supports building 110 employee housing units, or more, at the Burlingame site across the highway from Buttermilk Mountain, while Torre thinks a smaller project might be better.

Torre said he favors “limited growth and careful, cautious planning.” Hershey campaigned on his respect for private property rights and has the support of some factions of the real estate and development community.

Hershey was faulted during the campaign for his sometimes acerbic way of communicating during council meetings. Torre said he would take greater care in listening to citizens and promote greater civility during council meetings.

“There’s a lot of clear differences,” Torre said.

And the candidates’ differences could help sway the next council’s position on a couple of key issues over the next two years.

Klanderud and Paulson both share a dislike with Torre for a new entrance or a super-sized Burlingame housing project.

Semrau, Richards and Hershey have both supported the straight-shot entrance in the past, although Richards campaigned this year as saying she’ll live with the voters’ decision to keep the S-curves.

And Hershey also agrees with Semrau and Richards that an extensive Burlingame project is an important part of the affordable housing strategy for Aspen.

“They swing the balance of the council for the next two years as far as I see it,” said Andrew Kole.

Kole, a local television talk-show host, came in third in his bid for mayor.

Aspen City Clerk Kathryn Koch said counting the votes Tuesday after the polls closed at 7 p.m. went smoothly and all the precincts reported in by 8 p.m.

Koch was heading out the door of city hall by 9 last night. “I can remember going home at midnight,” she said of past elections.

The city and the county now use an election system called the Accu-Voter, in which voters have to fill in a circle on a ballot with a pen to cast their vote. The voter then feeds their ballot into a machine similar to a fax machine.

Voter turnout on election day – a clear, crisp and quiet off-season day in Aspen – was 1,879, down from two years ago in May when 2,003 votes were cast.

With the runoff election set for Tuesday, June 3, the new council won’t be seated until June 9.

[Brent Gardner-Smith’s e-mail address is bgs@aspentimes.com]


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