The most expensive City Council race in Lakewood history ended with a resounding defeat for the establishment candidates. In Ward 4 David Skilling was elected with nearly 53% of the vote which almost matched the 54% achieved by his predecessor David Wiechman against Betty Boyd in 2015. Mayor Adam Paul’s selected candidate LaDawn Sperling came in third with 21% of the Ward 4 vote. In second place was the Democratic candidate Bill Furman garnering 26% of the vote.
In Ward 3, the establishment candidate Michael Gifford received a little over 47 ½% of the vote to local attorney Mike Bieda who won with nearly 52 ½%. Although Gifford did better than the 2015 establishment candidate Gary Harty who only garnered less than 41% of the vote against Pete Roybal, the CEO of the Colorado Contractors Association spend the largest amount of money ever spent on a Lakewood City Council race.
In Ward 1, the establishment’s attempt to dislodge Ramey Johnson went down in defeat with the veteran councilor winning 52% of the vote against her progressive Democratic challenger Kyra DeGruy. The inexperienced newcomer raised twice as much as the incumbent and was aided by an independent expenditure committee created by the mayor’s allies which raised thousands of additional dollars.
Although the establishment was able to hold on to the Ward 5 seat held by incumbent Karen Harrison, the opposition scored a moral win. Harrison’s vote total of 53 ½% was down nearly 14 points from her win in 2013 of nearly 67%. This narrow win came despite Harrison spending over twice as much as her challenger, Nancy Pallozzi. In addition to Harrison’s war chest a second establishment independent expenditure committee raised tens of thousands of dollars to support Harrison, Gifford and Sperling. Despite being buried under an avalanche of special interest cash, Pallozzi’s made a remarkably strong showing in this traditionally establishment stronghold with 46 ½% of the vote.
When the final campaign finance disclosure forms are filed in December we will find out how much the special interests poured into this race. Even at this stage it is already well in excess of any previous records. In addition to being a clear rejection of the pro-development record of Mayor Paul and his Council allies the election results were also a firm rejection of the attempt to replace the grassroots form of campaigning Lakewood traditionally relies upon with a Washington D.C. – style professional PR type of campaigning. In addition to the huge amounts of money for fancy mailers, the establishment candidates also spent large sums on internet advertising and failed Ward 4 candidate Ladawn Sperling even had TV ads. In the end, the voters said their votes were NOT FOR SALE.
The electorate was not only angry with the establishment’s development policies but were also upset with their legal maneuvering designed to keep the citizens’ slow growth initiative off this year’s ballot. The proposal is still in Jeffco District Court awaiting the developers’ appeal of the City’s decision that the initiative is legal and proper.