With more than a year until Colorado Springs voters will select their next mayor, three candidates have thrown their hats in the ring so far.
Darryl Glenn, Wayne Williams, and Longinos Gonzalez Jr., three Republicans who have held various political offices in Colorado, have already announced their respective campaigns to be the city’s next mayor.
The current Colorado Springs mayor, John Suthers, was elected in 2015 and is term-limited.
Glenn is a veteran of the United States Air Force and was the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in 2016. He served eight years as Colorado Springs councilmember representing the 2nd District and eight years as El Paso County commissioner.
“There are a lot of things that are happening right now, when you’re looking at globally, the issues we are encountering,” Glenn said. “I believe Colorado Springs has a special anointing. When we’re looking at the challenges. … There are a lot of people who are asleep and don’t believe there is a sense of urgency. I do.”
Williams has served eight years as El Paso County Commissioner, four years as El Paso County Clerk and Recorder and four years as Colorado Secretary of State. He is currently in his third year as a Colorado Springs City Councilmember.
Williams said he takes pride in the tangible progress he has made during his political career, pointing to projects like his work with the Colorado Springs Housing Authority, Pikes Peak Regional Transit Authority, and his ability to work with people on either side of the aisle as his strongest qualification for running.
“One of the things I want to continue to do is provide those results that we can see and we can enjoy,” Williams said. “I want to continue that progress. That’s what motivates me. This is my home. I want to be the best place it can possibly be.”
Gonzalez currently serves as the District 4 El Paso County Commissioner and is an Air Force veteran. Gonzalez has experience working as a professor and a teacher as well as in real estate.
“I want to make sure we have our great essential services, and we provide the adequate funding for them and do so in a way that does not raise taxes locally and takes care of our community in a way that represents all of our community well,” Gonzalez said.
Glenn announced his candidacy in January, hoping to set the tone early for which issues are brought to the forefront of the race.
Glenn said the federal and state mandates for masks and vaccines created a “two-class system” that violated personal freedom. While both types of mandates are being phased out nationwide, Glenn acknowledged there will be more such issues the mayor will need to address going forward. Glenn promised that, if he were elected, the city attorney’s office would be busy trying to “unwind” contracts that would compel the city to follow government mandates intended to be consistent with the platform laid out with regard to the spread of the virus.
Williams once again pointed to the city’s collective effort in staying open throughout the pandemic as a reflection of how he feels matters of managing the virus should be handled locally.
“We continued to operate the city throughout the pandemic,” Williams said. “As a city, we’ve resisted both extremes as we try to navigate how to respond and how to provide support for folks.” Williams noted that the city does not require individuals to be vaccinated to enter buildings, for example; however he believes it is important the city acts as a model for how people should act, noting he has been vaccinated himself.
Gonzalez announced his candidacy March 3. In regard to the pandemic response, Gonzalez believes it will be important for the next mayor to maintain a strong relationship with the local health department and county partners.
“The things we did in the past two years that I am very proud of as a county commissioner is that we wanted to make sure we helped our economy and our families and our small business owners recover quickly,” Gonzalez said. He believes the end of the pandemic is in sight but added that the office of emergency management needs to continue to be prepared for any new surge or similar situation happening again.
Though the race is nonpartisan, partisan groups have been involved with finding candidates to support in the race as well.
John Mikos, chair of the El Paso County Democratic Party, acknowledged some potential candidates have reached out to gauge the organization’s support in running for both mayor and city council, however he declined to reveal any names out of respect for those who have yet to announce their candidacy.
Mikos instead laid out some key issues he expected progressive-leaning candidates to focus their campaigns on in the race. Mikos mentioned bolstering the city’s parks and open spaces, transitioning the city’s power plants away from coal, and supporting affordable housing endeavors as three areas he expected progressive candidates to make central to their campaigns.
Mikos said the organization’s role in municipal elections is to guide those who wish to support a campaign to the candidate who most closely aligns with the party’s values.
Mikos said that since the municipal special election will be held in an off-year, the voter turnout will undoubtedly be lower than if it were in a mid-term or general election year, making the El Paso County Democratic Party’s effort to encourage voters to get to the polls more significant.
“What I think we have to do throughout the Colorado Springs metro area and El Paso County, we have to recognize we have to think about development that is smart and environmentally sustainable, build infrastructure appropriately, and make those investments that need to be made.”
The special election is scheduled for April 4, 2023. Candidate filing packets will be made available next January.
A common theme among the candidates and those watching the race from the outside is the need for Colorado Springs to remain a sustainable place to live amid its rapid growth.
“As our state continues to grow and the west continues to grow,” Mikos said, “Colorado Springs will be the proof point on whether or not we can grow our communities in sustainable ways or we’re going to grow ourselves into some kind of box that’s not good for everyone.”