Aurora election: Coffman, GOP-affiliated candidates poised to defend council majority
‘Strong mayor’ proposal could reemerge
Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman attends a No on Proposition HH watch party in Aurora, Nov. 7, 2023. (Kevin Mohatt for Colorado Newsline)
Republican Mike Coffman appeared to have extended his long career in Colorado politics by another four years on Tuesday night, as voters in Aurora reelected the incumbent mayor and preserved a conservative majority on City Council, according to unofficial results.
Coffman led challenger Juan Marcano by more than 9,000 votes out of more than 50,000 ballots cast citywide as of Wednesday morning. Coffman declared victory at an election-night watch party, while Marcano expressed hope that late returns could help him overcome a “big gulf,” the Aurora Sentinel reported.
Aurora’s elections are officially nonpartisan. But Coffman, a former GOP congressman who was first elected mayor in 2019, has presided over a Republican-affiliated majority on City Council, while Marcano, who currently represents Ward IV, led a slate of challengers backed by liberals and progressives hoping to regain power in the diverse, Democratic-leaning city.
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Aurora is the third of Colorado’s three largest cities by population to hold a municipal election in 2023. Voters in Denver elected former Democratic state senator Mike Johnston as their new mayor in June, while unaffiliated candidate Yemi Mobolade won a historic victory in traditionally Republican-leaning Colorado Springs in May.
For now, Coffman’s powers as Aurora mayor are largely ceremonial. Unlike Denver and Colorado Springs, Aurora has a council-manager form of government, meaning its mayor serves as one of its 11 voting council members, while executive authority is delegated to a city manager appointed by the council.
But Coffman’s reelection would likely mean the return of a proposal to establish a “strong mayor” system in Aurora, giving the position the power to set municipal budgets, hire key personnel, veto City Council ordinances and more. Coffman and a Republican dark-money group backed an initiative that would have asked voters to approve such a change this year, but it failed to make the 2023 ballot after proponents missed a signature-gathering deadline.
With several key victories in the 2021 municipal election, Coffman and his GOP allies captured a solid 6-to-4 advantage on City Council, with unaffiliated council member Angela Lawson often representing a swing vote. Under Coffman’s leadership council members have enacted policies like an urban camping ban and minimum jail sentences for auto theft in a series of contentious votes.
Efforts by Democrats and progressives to flip the council majority appeared likely to come up short, though ballots were still being counted Wednesday.
In addition to the mayor’s race, four candidates vied for two at-large seats on City Council. Early results showed Alison Coombs, a Democrat and current Ward V council member, and Curtis Gardner, a Republican and incumbent at-large member, ahead in that race.
In Ward IV, Stephanie Hancock, a small business owner endorsed by Coffman, led Democrat Jonathan Gray by more than 800 votes out of nearly 10,000 ballots cast.
Lawson, who opted to run for the Ward V seat rather than seek reelection as an at-large member, led opponent Chris Rhodes, a labor advocate, by 2,720 votes in that race.
Incumbent Ward VI council member Françoise Bergan, a retired management consultant, led challenger Brian Matise by a similarly wide margin.
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