Some Basalt candidates team up in campaign

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Basalt mayoral candidates Rick Stevens and Jacque Whitsitt chat Thursday night at the Brick Pony bar and restaurant. A group called the Midvalley Visionaries organized a meet-and-greet event with the candidates in the April 5 Town Council race.
Scott Condon/The Aspen Times |

Some of the stars are aligning in Basalt this campaign season.

Three candidates have hitched their wagons together in an effort to get elected. Two other candidates are less actively campaigning together but showing their support for one another.

One slate is comprised of Mayor Jacque Whitsitt and council candidates Katie Schwoerer and Jenn Riffle. The other pairing is mayoral candidate Rick Stevens and council candidate Leroy Duroux.

Duroux has a yard sign for Stevens at his residence along Willits Lane.

“We’re supporting each other. I don’t think that’s a surprise to anyone,” Duroux said.

They served together on the council from 1994 to 2004, Stevens as mayor and Duroux as a councilman. Duroux said they have similar views on spending, budget and general building issues.

Stevens said the cooperation among some of the candidates is apparent to anyone paying attention to the campaign. He said he supports Duroux because they share the same values and vision for the community. However, it’s not like they are making campaign appearances together.

“We’re not sharing money. We’re not sharing posters. We’re not going around holding hands,” Stevens said.

The campaign cooperation is more pronounced among Whitsitt, Schwoerer and Riffle. They are distributing campaign materials for one another during door-to-door visits to neighborhoods and are considering joint advertising.

Whitsitt said the three candidates quickly realized they shared positions such as purchasing the Pan and Fork site so the community could control the direction rather than a developer and that the old Clark’s Market site would be a prime place for high-density commercial and residential development. They also believe the council needs to perform a high degree of homework when large projects get reviewed, according to Whitsitt.

“If people aren’t happy with the aggressive growth that’s happening, there’s an alternative,” Whitsitt said.

Schwoerer said cooperation among slates of candidates is nothing new in Basalt. She was elected to the Town Council eight years ago while working with Whitsitt and Pete McBride. Two years prior to that, Gary Tennenbaum, Chris Seldin and Amy Capron worked together to win the election, she noted.

It’s natural to work together when candidates fall into the same place in the political spectrum, she said, so she doesn’t see a risk of working together.

“If you don’t like Jacque, you won’t vote for me,” Schwoerer said.

She said she shares visions with Whitsitt and Riffle on creating a park at the Pan and Fork site, preserving small-town character and “slow growth versus pave it and call it a day.”

Then there’s what Schwoerer called “the female thing.” The three of them have a desire to change the dynamic of the board, she said.

Whitsitt is the only woman on the seven-member council.

“The imbalance is extremely noticeable on council,” Whitsitt said.

Riffle said Schwoerer was her inspiration to run for office.

“Katie has actually been a role model for me,” she said.

She learned that her own positions were aligned with Whitsitt’s.

“We decided to work together. It’s a bit of a woman thing,” Riffle said.

As the newcomer to politics, she said she is grateful to draw on the experience of the other women in winning elections. Riffle declined to say how they are working together.

“I really don’t want Rick and Leroy to know our secret sauce,” she said.

Three council seats are up for election in the April 5 election in addition to the mayor’s position. The council race features incumbents Herschel Ross and Rob Leavitt as well as challenger Auden Schendler in addition to Duroux, Riffle and Schwoerer. The top three vote-getters will win the seats for four-year terms.

“I’m happy to run as an independent,” Schendler said. He wasn’t courted by any group and didn’t want to be part of a slate, he said. He believes he shares position with people on both sides and is “definitely in the middle.”

“I’m running on what I consider as sensible, smart growth,” Schendler said.

Stevens said he spent $28 on his campaign four years ago. He anticipates it will take considerably more this go-around. He’s put out yard signs and posters. Soon he will begin an advertising campaign.

“I’m spending more money because you have to keep up with the Joneses,” he said.


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