Colorado Springs city election heads for the finish after sparring matches

A dark money piece in District 5.

After a nasty local campaign, marked by anonymous donors and negative mailers, voters will choose representatives for six of the nine City Council seats on April 4.

Josh Dunn, professor and Political Science Department chair at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, says that while he doesn’t find the ugliness that unusual, the $300,000-plus contributed so far suggests donors “think the stakes are high enough to put some muscle behind it.” He also notes that it’s “not too common” to see campaign ads give rise to a criminal complaint alleging false information, as happened on March 24.

This election will install a majority on Council, meaning stakes are high for those interested in upcoming Council actions. Among them: composition of the Colorado Springs Utilities Board, now composed of Council but subject to conversion to an appointed board; imposing a stormwater fee on citizens to relieve the city’s general fund of a 20-year, $460 million commitment to Pueblo County enacted in 2016; use of public money to develop land around the U.S. Olympic Museum; and easing infrastructure requirements for developers of the Banning Lewis Ranch on the city’s east side.

Big donors include the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs, which gave $43,000 to its chosen slate, the same people backed by business-minded political group Colorado Springs Forward, which gave $26,000. Those two groups (along with the Gazette) support incumbent Andy Pico and newcomers Greg Basham, Chuck Fowler, Deborah Hendrix and Lynette Crow-Iverson. Police, who added $4,000, back the same slate, minus Pico. Firefighters gave $8,250 and support Richard Skorman and incumbents Jill Gaebler and Don Knight. (The Independent endorsed those and Yolanda Avila, Pico and David Geislinger.)

None of those groups disclose donor names, but their interests seem obvious. Less transparent are motives of the biggest donor of all: Colorado Citizens Protecting our Constitution, a shadowy group run by Republican functionaries that’s spent about $73,000. (The last campaign report before April 4 was due March 31, after the Indy’s deadline.)

Negative ads and mailers have targeted Gaebler, who opposed the city’s land swap of Strawberry Fields open space to The Broadmoor, which is owned by Gazette owner Philip Anschutz, and Skorman, who previously led an opposition group that sued the city over the swap.

Here are some other recent election-related developments:

• Gaebler filed a criminal complaint on March 24 with the District Attorney’s Office against her opponent, Crow-Iverson, for making false statements in mailers. Crow-Iverson’s campaign claimed Gaebler voted with the Colorado Municipal League board against a bill that would have made local officials liable to anyone hurt by an undocumented worker in a “sanctuary city.” Gaebler was absent from the CML meeting and didn’t vote. In addition, state Rep. Dave Williams followed the mailer with two email blasts saying Gaebler “supported lawless politicians and their sanctuary cities.”

CCPOC labeled Gaebler a “politician” who’s “liberal,” while calling Crow-Iverson conservative. The Gazette has written several editorials against Gaebler. In an email blast, Gaebler accused the daily and “special interest groups” of “viciously attacking me and misrepresenting me for their own gain.”

• Skorman has been the target of multiple scathing, misleading editorials in the Gazette and ads from CCPOC. Nevertheless, a poll conducted by Luce Research on March 14, 15 and 16 found Skorman leading with 41 percent over his opponent, Fowler, who had 25 percent. Another 33 percent were undecided. Skorman released the results on March 25.