Jan 26, 2023 - News

Aurora Democrats prepare to challenge conservative majority this fall

Members of the Aurora City Council, with Mayor Mike Coffman in the middle, during their weekly meeting on Dec. 5, 2022. Photo: Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Aurora Democrats are coordinating an effort to regain control of the City Council two years after Republicans gained a 6-4 majority.

Why it matters: Aurora's conservative-controlled council runs counter to what had been an increasingly left-leaning city — Colorado's third largest — and remains one of few Republican-led institutions in the area, the Sentinel reports.

  • In 2017, Aurora voters elected three self-described progressive candidates, according to the Sentinel. In 2019, they voted in two more.

Yes, but: In 2021, voters moved in the opposite direction. Some political observers say the city's political shift was a response to rising crime amid the "defund the police" movement following the 2020 murder of George Floyd.

  • Conservative candidates "had a very clear message about public safety," JulieMarie Shepherd Macklin, a political science instructor at the University of Colorado at Boulder and an Aurora native, told the Denver Post after the election.

Driving the news: The conservative overhaul faces a referendum in November as the campaigning for the election gets started earlier than usual. Five city council seats — and the mayorship — are up for re-election this fall, and a half-dozen Democrats have already announced they'll be running for the open seats.

  • Aurora council member Juan Marcano — a Democratic Socialist of America and frequent critic of Mayor Mike Coffman — is challenging him for the office.
  • In a joint announcement with Marcano last week, five others declared bids for council seats: Incumbent Alison Coombs, pastor Thomas Mayes, anti-gang activist Jason McBride, attorney Brian Matise and community organizer Chris Rhodes.

What they're saying: "What pains me is we have so much potential as a city but it is being squandered by shortsighted folks who are more interested in playing politics than actually serving our community," Marcano said during a news briefing last week, according to the Denver Gazette.

Catch up quick: Aurora conservatives have plowed ahead on their agenda since the power shift in 2021.

  • Aurora's right wing has passed a homeless camping ban, rejected a Native American land acknowledgment and successfully lobbied for the firing of reform-focused police chief Vanessa Wilson.

What we're watching: Coffman hasn't officially announced his plans seeking another term, the Sentinel reports. But he told Fox31 in December he's "going to run again."

  • Coffman did not immediately respond to Axios Denver's request for comment.
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