Voters grant Torre a third and final term as Aspen mayor

Aspen Mayor Torre has a drink with his supporters during an election night party on Tuesday, March 7, 2023, at Kenichi in Aspen.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Aspen voters re-elected the incumbent Mayor Torre by a margin of 561 votes, rejecting political newcomer Tracy Sutton.

“I‘m honored, and I take it with a great deal of responsibility,” Torre said of his victory. “I’ve heard through this campaign people’s concerns, and I take them to heart. The folks that didn’t vote for me, I want to take (their concerns) with me into this new term, too.”

He garnered 1,675 votes, and Sutton won 1,114 votes. Torre gained about 60% of the vote to Sutton’s 40%, which is in line with the short-term rental excise tax Aspen voters confirmed in November.

City staff said that approximately 2,800 voters cast ballots out of 6,130 registered voters, or about 45% voter turnout — relatively high for an Aspen election. 

In the 2021 municipal election, 38% of registered voters cast a ballot. And in the 2019 election, which included the ballot measure on the 1A development, voter turnout climbed to just under 60%. Previous municipal elections ran around 40% voter turnout.

City Clerk Nicole Henning said that her office had about 20 ballots left to cure to confirm signatures. That number will not affect any of the races.

This will be Torre’s third and final consecutive term as mayor, though the city’s Home Rule Charter would allow him to run again after a two-year break. 

He ran a campaign that emphasized the council’s successes from his past four years as mayor, navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, and prioritizing affordable housing. 

Vote tallying took until about 9 p.m. with press and candidates and their posses gathered outside of the Pearl Pass Conference room on the third floor of the new City Hall building.

Voters elected in two new City Council members by voting out single-term incumbent Skippy Mesirow and filling in for Rachael Richards’ retirement, meaning Torre will navigate relationships with two new council members.

“I’m looking forward to it and this new representation, and I am looking forward to starting the job and the next two-year journey with these guys,” Torre said. “I hope that we can strive for better voter participation.

GrassrootsTV usually live-streams the municipal election results, but they were not present this evening. It was unclear why not as of Tuesday evening. 

“Of course, I’m disappointed, but it’s been a great experience, and I hope that (Torre) does better in the next couple of years,” Sutton said. “It was a terrific experience.”

She said that she absolutely would run for public office again in the future.

By her own admission, she decided to enter the race at the last minute when she learned the incumbent might run unopposed. She is a real-estate broker and owns a luxury, short-term rental company.

Aspen mayoral candidate Tracy Sutton talks with supporters during an election night watch party on Tuesday, March 7, 2023, at the Berkshire Hathaway office in downtown Aspen.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

She never participated much in local politics, but when the City Council implemented the residential and short-term rental permit moratorium in 2021, Sutton plugged in. 

After a series of meetings and an open house with council members, she — and other members of the local real-estate community — felt as if the council ignored their position on the issue. 

She ran on a platform of increasing transparency in council happenings and emphasizing public input in council decisions. On issues like housing and the Entrance to Aspen, she expressed frustration.  

And despite insisting that she did not want to get pigeon-holed into the STR issue throughout the campaign, Sutton struggled to express an equal level of knowledge and passion on other city issues, though she said she was willing to put in the work to learn. 

Torre touted accomplishments such as the open-space tax and the STR tax as points in which council championed issues important to Aspenites. He said his time with the City Council prioritized affordable housing with Burlingame Ranch and the Lumberyard projects to come, plus pointed to many businesses marketed to locals that still stand. 

Aspen first elected him as mayor in 2019, following multiple runs at the mayor’s seat and two terms as a City Council member peppered in 2003 and 2009. He works as a tennis instructor and media personality for the Aspen Daily News’ Local TV. 

The city’s Home Rule Charter would allow him to run again for mayor following a two-year break out of office.