Skadron, Torre headed to runoff in Aspen mayor race |

Skadron, Torre headed to runoff in Aspen mayor race

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Supporters of candidates for the Aspen mayor's job wave at motorists Tuesday afternoon at the corner of Main and Mill streets. Councilman Torre is pictured (far right) next to Planning and Zoning Commissioner L.J. Erspamer (second from right). Councilman Adam Frisch's bicycle, covered with his trademark orange bags, also is pictured (left).

Councilmen Steve Skadron and Torre are headed to a runoff in the 2013 Aspen mayor’s race.

It was a tight contest. Complete but unofficial vote totals from Tuesday’s election show that Skadron finished first in the six-man field with 516 votes, or 23.2 percent of the total. Torre garnered 463 votes, or 20.9 percent.

Retired tax attorney Maurice Emmer, a relative political newcomer who gained name exposure last year by arguing against the city’s Castle Creek hydropower project, finished third with 396 votes, or 17.8 percent. Aspen’s two other councilmen, Adam Frisch and Derek Johnson, weren’t far behind Emmer, pulling 369 and 346 votes respectively, or 16.6 and 15.6 percent.

Aspen Planning and Zoning Commissioner L.J. Erspamer ran last with 131 votes, or 5.9 percent. Turnout in the mayoral race was deemed by many longtime election watchers as high — 2,221 votes were cast from a pool of 4,432 active voters, meaning slightly more than half of the electorate participated.

Skadron was at City Hall from the time the polls closed at 7 p.m. until the final votes were tallied around 9:15 p.m. He appeared tired — having started his election day campaigning before 7:30 a.m. near the S-curves, waving at motorists — but was all smiles.

He mentioned that the experience was new to him. Skadron is midway through his second council term and has never run for mayor before.

“I’m thrilled that the people put their trust in me, and I’m looking forward to the runoff against Torre,” he said. “I was expecting to be there. I’m surprised that Torre will be joining me because we share the same philosophical and ideological positions.”

But Skadron added that he’s reassured by the way the vote came out.

“The community put both of us there because we share those positions,” he said. “It reassures me that some of the tough stances I’ve taken on things like building heights or environmental issues are supported by the community.”

Meanwhile, Torre was celebrating with friends at Jimmy’s restaurant. For most of Tuesday afternoon, Torre and some of his most ardent supporters, including his father, held campaign signs at the corner of Main and Mill streets, as did some of the other candidates.

“It went very well, and I’m glad to be in a runoff,” Torre said. “I’m very proud of my team and my campaign. I’m a little surprised that it’s Steve that it’ll be a runoff with. But I’m looking forward to that, and I’m looking forward to speaking with him soon to talk about that and the possibilities that are out there.”

Torre disagreed with an assessment that he and Skadron have few differences in terms of political philosophy. Collectively, they have been considered the candidates of the left, compared with Frisch, Johnson and Emmer, the three candidates on the right, to varying degrees.

“Steve and I were together on a lot of votes, but you only have to go back two weeks to find a vote that we disagreed on,” Torre said, referring to Mayor Mick Ireland’s call for campaign-finance transparency of donations less than $20. Torre supported an amended version of the ordinance, while Skadron voted against it, saying he wanted to wait until after the election to address the issue.

During the campaign, both candidates spoke of their commitment to keeping development in check. Torre pointed to his lone vote against the Aspen Valley Hospital project when it came up for conceptual approval four years ago. Skadron noted that he was the lone vote against the Aspen Art Museum project in 2010.

“I think that right now, the two of us should talk about moving into the future together instead of alone,” Torre said, adding that he didn’t want to get into the specifics of what he wants to discuss with Skadron, who still has two years left on his council term. Torre’s second council term ends in June.

The basement of City Hall — where the votes from five precincts and absentee ballots were tallied and examined by City Clerk Kathryn Koch, election consultant Dwight Shellman III and others — was the scene of frenzy on Tuesday night. Candidates, supporters and observers poured in steadily as rain came down outside.

Ireland, who could not run for re-election because of term limits, took on the role of elder statesman, speaking to the GrassRoots TV network and others about how the race evolved. Ireland endorsed Skadron in the first week of April after deciding not to run for City Council.

“There wasn’t a strong ideological or issue-bent theme in the campaign,” Ireland said. “Emmer did well, and his advantage was that he had a clear-cut position, having fought the hydropower project. That helped because everybody else had a lot of nuances. Everybody was cutting the cake in so many different ways, there wasn’t a clear pattern.”

Frisch was upbeat despite the loss, saying he felt he might have fared much better in the race had he not been “tea partied” by Emmer, a Republican.

The runoff will take place June 4.